Expand Your Reach – And Your Sphere of Influence

2186. It’s not the latest GPS screen from John Deere.

2186 is the year that women will finally achieve wage parity, according to the World Economic Forum report released in the fall.

“When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.”

So, it’s not really surprising the United Nations chose the theme “Be Bold For Change” for International Women’s Day earlier this month. Indeed, bold actions are needed to end the injustice women face in the world. Even in our country and industry, where women are granted equal rights, there is a very real gender wage gap and women are still expected to do the majority of the unpaid housework and child rearing.

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Bold actions look different for everyone. What is “bold” for me may be no big deal for you and terrifying still for someone else. What is important is we are consciously making the decision to step out of our comfort zone, even if it’s just to question the unacceptable “acceptable” sexism which exists in our society.

 

That was the message from Claire Cowan, one of the speaker’s at this week’s AWN event, held in conjunction with the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association.

IMG_2731Cowan described the spheres of influence we each have and how we need focus first on ourselves, then slowly move outwards to change our behaviour and eventually, hopefully, attitudes around us will also change.

“Get comfortable with your awkwardness,” she suggested, offering tips for how to react (or not react) when you face an inappropriate comment in the workplace or industry.

Addressing Your Spheres of Influence:

  • Recognize your own biases in the thoughts that enter your head or words and phrases you use.
  • Point out to your colleagues (especially men) when you witness sexism. They may not realize its happening.
  • Have a conversation with them about what they can do to support you and stand up against this behaviour.
  • Ask. Ask if your company has done a gender wage study and what they are doing with the results. Ask your commodity board the same question. Ask if they have a strategy to engage more diverse voices on the board.
  • Make it happen. I see many women leave the corporate world to run a business on their own. Whether you’re a farm or providing ag services, make sure your biases aren’t creating an unfair gender balance.

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Step Up, Speak Up, Get Social

Even still, standing up to speak in a meeting or putting our ideas out there is intimidating. I still get nervous and often miss the opportunity to ask a question in a forum, because I’m too scared to step to the mic.

If we get over this though, we can “expand our reach” even further, because as Christina Crowley-Arklie shared;

“Everyone can be good at communication. It doesn’t cost anything or require formal education.”

Christina may have been born a public speaker, but having personally witnessed shy 4-H members develop the confidence and skill to speak in front of an audience, I believe she is right.

Knowing your audience and how to catch their attention is key. Christina cited the U.S. election as an example of where this strategy was employed with incredible precision and great success.

Once you’ve prepped, Christina offered the following  tips on delivering a good presentation.

Tips For Delivering A Good Presentation

  • Warm up by saying the phrase, “Tip of the Tongue, the Teeth, the Lips”. It’s a tongue twister and will get you prepped to speak clearly when you take the mic.
  • Dress for success. If you look your best, you will also feel your best.
  • Get in your comfort zone. Arrive early and make sure all the technology works and you’re comfortable with it.
  • Have your necessary props. If all you need is a “clicker” and you plan to do more speaking or run future events, consider buying one and bring it along with spare batteries.
  • Eyes on the sky. If making eye contact freaks you out, scan the room looking just over people’s heads.

Finally, with social media providing us with an opportunity to share our message with lots of people, it is still very hard to create the personal impact and connection that a well-delivered presentation or speech can have. The best way to practice is by doing, so when you’re ready to reach that next sphere of influence, put yourself out there and be heard!

Follow Christina on Twitter  and check out her blog, The Passionate Voice. for more about public speaking, personal branding and social media.

Follow Claire on Twitter.

Special thanks to the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association and all the sponsors whose generous support made this event possible. 

A New Approach to a Vintage Forum

Ag Women’s Network prides itself on having both an online and in-person community for members to network and learn from each other.  We have members from across Canada, from diverse backgrounds and locations and it’s always an ongoing challenge to develop new ways to help connect everyone.  

Virtual events like AWN’s Winter Warm-up have been successful in facilitating discussions and we are always looking at new technology as potential aids in communication but as is the case in many situations, sometimes the best ideas come not when you look at the future, but seeing what worked well in the past.

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Image Source: National Farm Radio Forum Blog

Vintage chic.
Vintage tractors.
Vintage shoes.
Vintage virtual events.

There is a lot of fascination with all things vintage these days. As Canada celebrates 150 years of Confederation, there will be many opportunities to hear stories of dancing while wearing Mary Janes’, horses pulling single-furrow plows and family meals around chrome & vinyl kitchen sets.

But what about “vintage” virtual events?  Are there any stories that include mass communication, specific themes, information, socializing, and results that brought change?  For sure there are!  Let’s talk Canadian National Farm Radio Forum.

In 1954, N.M Morrison of the CBC wrote “National Farm Radio Forum was promoted as an educational program, but there was no doubt in our minds that it was education for action to improve the economic and social lives of rural people.” R.W. Sandwell, 2012, stated “Its purpose was to provide the communication infrastructure needed for rural education and social activism by exploiting the democratic potential of the new media-the radio.”

“Its purpose was to provide the communication infrastructure needed for rural education and social activism by exploiting the democratic potential of the new media-the radio.”

Canadian National Farm Radio Forum began in January of 1941.  Three newly-formed organizations partnered up to create this program for rural Canadians.  The Canadian Association for Adult Education, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture created a movement that lasted 25 years. The media was the radio. The audience was rural. The organizers were detailed and dedicated. The system was finely tuned.  The influence was long-reaching. The resulting actions brought change.

On April 7th, we are inviting members of our AWN community to open their homes to their friends and neighbours for an informal evening of discussions and fellowship as we all discuss the topic of ‘community’.

Like the Canadian National Farm Radio Forum the small in-person groups will discuss the same questions, and instead of a mail-in survey, we will be using SurveyMonkey to tabulate data on what AWN members have discussed.  For those who are unable to attend an in-person event, we will also be running the questions on our Facebook Group so that everyone has an opportunity to participate.

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Peel Township women gather together for a National Farm Radio Forum broadcast. Photo courtesy of Mapleton Historical Society. Photo credit: “The Community News”.

In order for this trial event to work, we are looking for hosts!  All you need is some space in your home, or a restaurant, that has internet access and be able to coordinate getting a few friends/neighbours together for an evening of discussions.  If you are interested in hosting please reach out to Joan Craig or Mary Ann Doré through facebook or email info@agwomensnetwork.com .  It’s your opportunity to be part of an exciting new AWN virtual and in-person venture!

The history of the weekly Farm Radio Forum is fascinating.  It tells a story of how rural Canadians used their current technology (the radio) to meet both face to face and virtually as they dealt with situations and created change. Over the next few weeks we will be featuring several posts about Farm Radio Forum as we lead up to our event on April 7th.  

Even if you are not into vintage – we think you’ll enjoy this feature about rural Canada and it’s people.

  • Joan Craig & Mary Ann Doré

 

Source –  ‘Read, Listen, Discuss, Act’ : Adult Education, Rural Citizenship and the Canadian National Farm Radio Forum 1941-1965 (R.W. Sandwell, 2012)

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Join us for #AWNChat during Advancing Women’s Conference

We’re excited to let you know that we will be hosting #AWN Chat throughout the Advancing Women Conference in Toronto.  There will be live tweeting about the event, comments by AWN members attending and some questions/comments that we would like to present as discussion items.  We want you to be involved! We will be hosting this through Twitter and it will be active from mid-morning Monday, October 3rd to mid-afternoon Tuesday, October 4th.  Join in whenever it suits your schedule!!! 

twitter-awnFor our members who are not on Twitter, we will be posting some of the #AWNChat content on our Facebook Group page.  We want to give as many women as possible the opportunity to virtually join the AWCeast2016.  We hope you understand that it is difficult to attend a conference like this AND keep up a conversation on both Twitter and Facebook.  So, this time the main focus is Twitter but there will be lots to follow on Facebook as well.

For those of you who are attending the Advancing Women Conference, we are looking forward to connecting with you there.  You can find us at the CAHRC booth as they kindly offered to share their space with us.  We will be handing out AWN stickers for people to place on their nametags.  This will make a great way to connect with other AWN members or to tell conference attendees about AWN. 

If you are attending, we have a unique way for you to participate in the #AWNChat.  Our “AWN Roving Reporter” will be approaching AWN members to give comments, if they wish, that can be used as tweets. She might even ask for a photo or two.  Our goal is to CONNECT and to be VIRTUALLY YOURS!

Celebrating Canadian Agriculture at the Calgary Stampede – Erin Stuart

Living in downtown Calgary directly across from Stampede grounds, I look forward to the ten days of Stampede every year – it’s a fantastic kick-off to summer.

This year was no different, I enjoyed corporate events, the rodeo, a pancake breakfast or two, the fireworks and time with friends and family.

image1 (1).jpegTo celebrate the event and the ag women involved in it, I spoke with Erin Stuart, Past Chair of the Beef Cattle Committee, to hear her perspective on Stampede and her advice for others in the industry. Erin’s been a CS volunteer since May 2012. Thanks for your input, Erin!

 1) What’s your favourite part of Stampede/What does Stampede mean to you?

My first stampede memories were of showing my first cutting horse Doctana at the CS Youth Cutting competition in the Big Top when I was nine years old (I’m now 31!!).

When I finished my Masters of Science and moved home from Lincoln, Nebraska I joined the Beef Cattle Committee. It is a relatively small committee but it is made up of such a wonderful group of people. Some of us have Ag backgrounds and some of us don’t- but everyone brings their best. The variety of skill sets and backgrounds the group has creates an excellent experience for our guests and makes being a volunteer a lot of fun. I have made some wonderful friends who share a passion for the organization and giving back to the committee.

My Dad, Byron Hussey, was a Stampede Volunteer for a number of years and recently completed his tenth year as a member of the Calgary Stampede Board of Directors. My Mom, Pat Hussey has supported him during all of those years and has a birthday that falls during Stampede. We have a wonderful tradition of going for dinner and watching the Chuckwagon Races and Grandstand Show as a family on her birthday. My younger sister, Kiersten, has worked at the Lazy S for a number of years. That being said, the Stampede has very much been a part of our family for twenty years. We all have our individual Stampede commitments year round and daily activities on park during the ten day festivities but make time to get together as a family and enjoy ourselves.

The family time we get to share on park, the friends I have made, and the opportunity to give back to the community are some of my favourite things about Stampede.

 2) Why do you volunteer with Stampede?

Growing up in rural Alberta and studying science and agriculture in university fostered a passion for agriculture and all of the great things that the industry does to ensure that our food is safe. Farmers and ranchers utilize good production practices that ensure animals are raised humanely, the environment is respected, and resources are used efficiently. The Stampede does an excellent job of sharing this information with park guests year round and during the ten day festivities and I am very proud to be able to contribute my time and knowledge.

3) Advice for other women wanting to get involved in industry events?

Get involved!! We all have knowledge and skills to contribute and it is very rewarding to participate in and contribute to industry events. You’ll meet people and establish friendships with people that you may not have met otherwise.

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Contributed by Krista Goranson
Interview content by Erin Stuart

Krista works in business and agriculture and lives in downtown Calgary. Follow Krista on Twitter @kristagg1.

 

 

 

Speed Mentoring Excellent to Inspire & Motivate

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Mary Ann Dore & Megan VanSchaik greet guests as they arrive.

Mentorship. It can be an intimidating word for some and it evokes a pile of questions for many. What is a mentor? Do I need a mentor? How do I find a mentor? Can I be a mentor? What do I ask a mentor?

It was some of these questions the Ag Women’s Network sought to answer and hopefully also bring some clarity too at the recent speed-mentoring event.

“I do think the word, ‘mentor’ is intimidating to some people,” said Mary Ann Dore, one of the AWN Leadership Team members and organizers of the event. “People may feel they are too old for a mentor or too young to be a mentor. In reality, anyone can be a mentor or be mentored.”

Indeed, mentorship is often cited by leaders as one of the most important assets they had in their career. Mentorship was also identified by the Canadian Agricultural HR Council (CAHRC) recently as a means to prepare more women to enter leadership positions.

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Katie Cheesmond speaks with a group about her career.

Mentorship itself can also take on many different forms. Katie Cheesmond, Director of Business Development at RLB, opened the evening by sharing how mentors, coaches and sponsors all play different roles in our careers. She challenged the group to consider these roles and how each of us may be able to play them at one time or another.

Often when we think of mentors, many of us think of the longer-term relationships with those who inspire us to be our best selves. Our parents may come to mind as the first mentors in our lives but as we progress in our careers, it’s helpful to have a few people you can seek out to help navigate the tough decisions.

Less talked about, but perhaps as important, are coaches and sponsors. Coaches often provide support specific to a skill or outcome we’re trying to achieve, like negotiating a deal or public speaking. Sponsors are like your champion or advocate. They may recommend you for a role in your company or a position on a board or focus group.

Whereas coaches can provide help with one phone call, mentorship and sponsorship both require some level of relationship to be effective. The mentor need not be in the same sector, or even industry, so long as there is a level of trust and comfort to discuss matters openly.

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Steve McCabe shares his experience with AWN member Megan Hutchison.

As a result, the speed-mentoring event provided people with an opportunity to get to know a diverse group of leaders from across the industry through roundtable sessions. Mentors shared their stories and offered encouragement to attendees to seek out what they love, stick to their values and build their network. The goal was as much about networking as mentoring, and most people took advantage of the time afterwards to talk further.

Although not decided if or when another speed-mentoring event will be held, the feedback has been very good thus far. One attendee described it as an “excellent networking event to inspire and motivate you to be your best self!”

The Ag Women’s Network thanks RLB for hosting this event and everyone who participated, especially the mentors.

Thank-you-to-our-mentors

LtoR: Ann Godkin, Stewart Skinner, Steve McCabe, Elgin Craig, Joan Craig, Brad Adams, Denise Zaborowski, Kelly Ward, Kathleen Shore

Meet your Mentors – AWN Speed Mentoring June 16th

Come and join the AWN for our first speed mentoring event in Guelph June 16th.
Networking, food, drinks and of course the chance to set down with industry leaders and gain insight and perspective into their career paths.

REGISTER NOW TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT

Evening Details:
19+ EVENT
Event fee: $20 which includes two drink tickets and light snacks
Location : RLB LLP 197 Hanlon Creek Boulevard Unit 103, Guelph Ontario

RSVP deadline June 14th

SPEED MENTORINGJune 16th 6-15 pm

Kathleen Shore, Ruminant Nutritionist, New-Life Mills

Kathleen graduated from University of Guelph with a B.Sc. (Agr) majoring in animal science and then an M.Sc. in Ruminant Nutrition.  Kathleen spent several years working as a hired hand on dairy farms and then a few years in the fitness industry while her kids were small.  Kathleen worked for Grober Nutrition for 7 years, a role that focused on young ruminant nutrition but also entailed managing the HACCP and Quality Assurance program.  During her time at Grober, Kathleen became manager of the Nutrition Department, leading a team of staff for the department and overseeing all activities relating to nutrition, research and development, quality assurance, and HACCP.  Kathleen has worked for New-Life Mills for the past 3 years in the role of Ruminant Nutritionist where she oversees ruminant nutrition programs in Ontario and Saskatchewan.  She has served on several provincial and national boards/committees within the feed industry, including the Ontario Agri-Business Association Nutrition Committee.  Kathleen has also been involved in the Leadership Group for the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada Nutrition Committee where, amongst other roles, she served as chairperson.  Within these roles, Kathleen has helped organize several industry conferences.

Brad Adams, Semex @badams392

Brad Adams is currently Global Training Manager at Semex. Brad has over 18 years of experience in sales, marketing and training and development in the agriculture industry. After graduating from the University of Guelph with a diploma in agriculture business, Brad began his work in the nutrition industry as a Formulation Analyst at United Cooperatives of Ontario. In 1994 he joined GROWMARK, an Ontario farm supply and grain marketing cooperative as a Feed Systems Coordinator/Manager. He quickly worked his way up to Human Resources and Sales Administrative Manager where he implemented training and development programs. Prior to joining Semex, Brad served as the National Director of Marketing and National Division Manager for Masterfeeds Animal Health of London, Ontario. Brad is also a Trustee on the Canadian 4-H Foundation and Vice-Chair of the Toronto Stockyards Land Development Corporation. Brad resides near Brantford with his wife and four daughters.

Katie Cheesmond, Director of Business Development, RLB @katiecheesmond

As director of Business Development for RLB, Katie actively engages employees of one of the regional largest accounting and business advisory firms in business development, forging a business development culture within the firm and providing the tools for success through marketing.

Spending 10 years in finance, Katie developed an understanding of the needs and requirements of family business to have support and advice through change; growth, diversification, ownership change, divorce to name but a few. Coming from a farming family, she understands the challenges especially presented with the transfer of physical and emotional assets through sucession.

Kaite has a strong background in the Dairy Industry and a passion for both agriculture and rural development. She is a keen supporter of rural youth with almost 20 years experience in competitive public speaking. As an immigrant to Canada (12 years from UK), she has an understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by starting a new life in foreign country.

Stewart Skinner, Owner, Imani Farms @modernfarmer

Stewart was raised on a pig farm near Listowel and after a meandering path, returned to a full time farming career this year.  Along with his wife Jessica Kelly, they Imani Farms in 2015 and today it is a diverse farm business that is comprised of 3 segments, a commercial sow herd, a niche market production system, and swine management services.

Stewart graduated from the Ontario Agriculture College with a B. Comm in 2007.  Following his undergrad, he worked as a commodity trader for FS Partners.  He returned to Guelph and in 2010, received a M. Sc. in Agricultural Economics.  His research focused on the economic impacts of Ethanol by-products in pig feed.

Stewart started working for his family’s business, Stonaleen Farms in 2010.  In 2012, he developed and launched an expansion project that would serve a niche market opportunity in the GTA.  This project was not successful however it taught him many valuable lessons. Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” and while he doesn’t plan on quite that many mistakes, I try to internalize that thought process when working through setbacks.

In 2013, Stewart took a leap and went to Kenya to work with Wesley Korir, a Boston Marathon Champion and candidate in Kenya’s national election. He worked with farmers in his area and became very involved with Wesley’s political campaign.  That experience inspired him to get involved in politics here at home.  In 2014, Stewart was a candidate in the provincial election and for the last 2 years he worked at Queen’s Park as a policy adviser for the Hon. Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

This spring, Stewart and Kelly welcome their son Bryce and he knew before he was born that spending a couple days a week in Toronto was not what he wanted to be doing.  Jess and Stewart worked together to make a plan for our farm that would allow him to farm full time and this spring they started raising pigs for niche market in New York.  Stewart’s responsibilities centre on data management and production oversight.

Steve McCabe, Manager, Member Relations @shadowless73

Steve joined Grain Farmers of Ontario in December as manager of member relations.

In this role, he is responsible for connecting with farmer-members, helping with district meetings and events, and running member programs such as Grains in Action. Having been involved in the agriculture industry for well over a decade, he is excited to engage with farmers across Ontario to work on addressing their concerns and the issues they face.

McCabe was raised on a beef farm in Kenilworth, Ontario. He attended Ryerson University and Athabasca University to study public administration and obtained a political science degree. He worked with the labour department of the federal government for three years before pursuing a career change and moving on to the Western Producer, where he worked in national advertising sales. For the past six years, McCabe worked at Top Crop as their national sales manager.

Outside of work hours, Steve is in his second year of a four-year term with the Council of the Township of Wellington North. He also enjoys fly fishing, farming, and following Canadian and global politics.

Joan and Elgin Craig – E&J Craig Farms Inc. @craigcrest

Elgin and Joan farm together north of Arthur.  2014 was a year of change for Elgin and Joan as they dispersed the “Craigcrest” Holstein herd (three time Master Breeder Award winner) and Joan retired after a 30 year career as an elementary school teacher. Currently, they are establishing both a purebred and commercial Speckle Park and Angus beef herd. New interests include grazing and pasture management and using social media to connect with people within and beyond the agriculture industry. They are excited to bring a farm-team and producer perspective to the AWN Speed Mentoring event. Elgin and Joan appreciate the guidance received from others throughout their careers and believe strongly in the benefits of mentoring.

Elgin (OAC 76A) has judged dairy shows both nationally and internationally.  He was a member of the Board of Directors for both Eastgen(Gencor) and the Semex Alliance.  He served as President of both boards.

Joan (BA Waterloo, B Ed Western) is a Past-President of Drayton Festival Theatre and served in several work-related and community leadership roles.  Currently, she is a member of the Leadership Team for Ag Women’s Network.

Kelly Ward, Supervisor of Brand Services for Foodland Ontario

Kelly Ward is the Supervisor of Brand Services for Foodland Ontario and is the face behind their social media channels where she manages interaction with over 198,000 Ontarians daily. She has been with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for 16 years working in program delivery in crop technology and economic development.  Now, she’s involved with social media strategy development, web user experience design, ad placement and consumer behaviour research. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph majoring in Agronomy and a Masters in Digital Media Experience Innovation from the University of Waterloo in Stratford. Kelly lives in Palmerston where she volunteers as an executive director for North Wellington Healthcare and Groves Memorial Community Hospital and as the media coordinator for the 2016 International Plowing Match in Minto.

 

 

 

Ann Godkin, Cattle Health Vet/Disease Prevention Veterinarian, OMAFRA @godkinag

Current Ann is  involved consultation with veterinarians, industry reps and producers to trouble-shoot on-farm health and welfare problems in dairy, beef and calf operations.  She also advise government on health, productivity and safety issues on farms and with animal health.

She is the current secretary of provincial bovine veterinary organization (OABP), with a mission to strengthen veterinary practices, and thru vets and their staff, to improve cattle health and welfare. She is also an adjunct faculty at OVC, involved with graduate students working on a number of applied research projects around cattle health, vet training and welfare practices.

Ann graduated BSc, DVM (1982), DVSc (1989) all from U of G.  Previous to her employment with OMAFRA as the Cattle Health Vet/Disease Prevention Veterinarian 1990 to present, she was employed in private veterinary practice and by OVC in Ruminant Vet Practice.

 

Denise Zaborowski, Manager of OMAFRA’s Domestic Marketing’s Foodland Ontario program.

She is a local food advocate who encourages the public to ask for, purchase and care about all of the “good things that grow in Ontario”.  She is also active in industry development and was the recipient of a Visionary Award from the American Agri-Women Association for leadership and a Friendship Award from the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario.  The Foodland Ontario program has also been a recent recipient of a Ministry Innovation Award for Social Media, and a North American Agricultural Marketing Excellence Award.  Denise has been in the Ontario Public Service for almost 15 years and has held a number of roles including Client Services Officer, Executive Assistant, Food Services Supervisor and Healthy Eating Team Lead.  Denise also has experience in leading marketing communications in the food industry with M&M Meat Shops, Canada’s largest specialty frozen food retailer and Weston Bakeries, a large commercial bakery operation.  Denise holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Marketing Management from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree from Guelph in Consumer Studies.  She also volunteers on the Campaign Cabinet for the Guelph Wellington United Way.  Denise is the proud mom of three awesome children and enjoys juggling multiple priorities with optimistic enthusiasm.

 

Cravings Sold Separately – Local Food Week and Women

Warning, by reading this blog I claim no responsibility for the cravings your feel or the money you may spend at a local market this week. Topic may be sensitive to some readers and cause hunger pangs or drooling.

It’s local food week! So what? Why should we care? Many reasons! When I think local food, my brain jumps to sense filled thoughts of walking into a farmer’s market with all the fresh aromatic strawberries and the rich, bright colours of the vegetable cooler. It’s a superb time to celebrate the fantastic foods grown nearby.

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Cambridge Farmers Market

Women play a large role in local food. As shared in the Ontario Farmer last week by Alex Binkley, horticulture has the largest agricultural sector of female managers at 25%. This doesn’t account for the numbers of women who share management duties. I realize horticulture is NOT the only provider of local food, but let’s help them out and support! When food is purchased from a market or direct from the farm, a larger portion of the profits go directly to the farmer. Local food travels less distance, often removing middle people, therefore increasing profit potential for growers and local sellers. So let’s aim to bump that 25% female managers to 50%! By purchasing local food, you are supporting your own, local economy. When you put into the local economy, we usually get back. We all do better when the economies in our local communities are strong. Women make up the majority of small-scale farms in the world, but have a much smaller portion of the wealth or land ownership. When purchasing or buying locally, you allow smaller farmers to reinvest, grow, or diversify, further stabilizing their business. 

Have you every participated in a berry U-pick? Or consumed food that was harvested earlier that day? Its undeniable, it just tastes better. One of my first jobs was picking peas and berries for my aunt and uncle’s local farm and market. Perhaps it was the reward that accompanied the job, but those small harvests’ tasted the best. Later, in my university years, I spent a summer helping to conduct research for berry genetics for blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. It was near impossible to resist “tasting the research” when harvesting, measuring, weighing, and counting the berries. Local food means its not long harvested or packaged and will be full of maximum deliciousness.

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Downtown Windsor Farmers Market

Probably the coolest benefit of local food, is the sense of community created between growers, sellers, and consumers. Once I tried asking a grocery store employee what a durian fruit tastes like. His response, ” I know it smells like sh**.” This response is less likely when you purchase local food. At farmer’s markets, you can ask the butcher which particular cuts of pork pair well with other foods and how to prepare them. By nurturing the relationship between producer and consumer, we are ultimately improving the sense of community for everyone. Consumers like to know how produce is grown and raised and are more likely to trust someone they can discuss face to face with. Producers and sellers are able to interact and get feedback and concerns directly from the consumer. Eaters gain insight about the land, what is in season and their food.  Women play have a vast role through communicating, networking, and contextualizing these relationships as the main grocery purchasers and a growing population female farmers.

  • Robyn Walsh @walshrobyn