AWN’s Get on Board! Feb 29- March 4

Search Google images for pictures of ‘Board of Directors’ and what do you find? Chances are that the even the most progressive picture will only have 1/3 of the members will be rocking long hair and a solid pantsuit. If you look at pictures of Agriculture board in Canada, the results are eerily similar. Whether you want to be on a board or think that quotas are the way to achieve it, we can all agreed that it is important for the agriculture  to increase gender diversity on Board of Directors in our industry.

Part of AWN’s mandate is to provide women with the skills they need to exceed and help contribute to this awesome industry. We would like to provide women with the expertise and knowledge to eventually achieve gender equality on Board of Directors by providing resources to women who have an interest in volunteering.

From February 29th to March 4th, AWN will be discussion the experience of Board of Directors and providing resources to educate women in the hope of inspiring more women to participate. We have several blog posts and stories to share over the course of the week written by members of our leadership team and we will also be sharing articles throughout the week with the hashtag #AWNGetOnBoard. We welcome you to share your own articles or stories of your own experiences!

-AWN’s Leadership Team

What makes you a leader?

‘People don’t know they are leaders’

Where does leadership come from? That is the question leadership guru Seth Godin put forward to participants of a three hour intense online workshop on leadership.  Jen Christie and I participated February 18th, and it was a fascinating experience. There were  771 participants from nineteen different time zones, in varied industries and leadership levels.

attachmentWhat made this workshop truly unique was it was run through a program called Slack.  Slack is an online program that is built for teams to share information and communicate easier. It allowed the organizers to post videos and the participants to be split into small groups and use a discussion board to discuss our answers.  They were describing it in the lead-up as a sprint, and it was intense.  Sharing ideas and experiences with our group of ten people reinforced the idea that leadership skills begins with a choice to be a leader, and how important it is to paint a picture of your vision so that everyone in the organization can see it and enable their skills to help you all get there.  Seth said that “selling the dream, starts with telling the dream”.  Learning from other participants and their experiences of that dream being blocked in corporate culture, examples in agriculture came to mind as well.  We were able to share our examples of AWN and how fortunate the group is to have so many incredibly talented women who are already leaders in different contexts, and all see the dream too.

What really resonated with us was how similar this workshop was to our online AWN event. This workshop was a way for participants from remote locations to get together and get to know each other and allow self exploration through focused questions, sounds familiar!

The workshop has left me a deeper appreciation of what makes a leader, and makes me really excited for future AWN events!

– Mary Ann Doré

F.Y.I.  Seth Godin is continuing workshops in a less intense format with a leadership ‘course’ with 29 lectures and 2 hours of content.  The course is $89.  *Ask me (Mary Ann Doré) if you are signing up as her coupon code may work for you and it would be $71.

Winter is here… and so is Meeting Season!

Its that time of year again, a time I look forward to every year; meeting season.  Its a time when all of the industry groups say ‘farmers are not busy now, lets pack as many events into the next three months as we can’.  I enjoy it because its an excuse to get off farm and socialize with other like minded farmers, and hopefully learn something to bring back to our farm.  A cheap entry fee and the inclusion of a hot lunch makes it easier to decide which one to attend.

Between my husband, brother and myself we generally have varied interests and it’s easy to decide who goes to what meeting.  I am fortunate to have two people to rotate chores with so I could attend these meetings even when my daughter was young.  I find myself to be one of a few women in the crowd, but this year at our veterinarians producer day something exciting happened; I had to wait in line for the bathroom.  That has never happened to me before at a producer meeting.  Why is that? What obstacles are holding women back from attending these meetings, or being on a board of directors is a reoccurring topic at the Ag Womens Network.  And that got me to thinking about why I do or don’t go to meetings myself.  Child care is a huge obstacle,  my work schedule is so spread out and inconsistent that daycare doesn’t suit.  Working is the next thing keeping me from being able to attend meetings.  Mid day meetings are great, but there is such a long list of variables that can change my planned schedule that often its not worth signing up when I’m unsure on how often I can be there.

I would love to hear from you on what your favourite meetings to attend are, any upcoming conferences you are looking forward to and what you do to make attending those events possible.  If you are unable to attend meetings because of distance or time restraints I’d love to discuss that too.

AWN is hosting ‘AWN Winter WarmUP ’ this weekend, January 15, 16 and 17. The AWN Winter WarmUP is an online forum hoping to get around most of the traditional obstacles of distance, time and child care by being an open, flexible forum to share ideas, experiences and network with everyone in our group.  I’m looking forward to it and I hope to see you online!

-Mary Ann Doré

AWN Winter WarmUP Agenda

 Here it is ……our AWN Winter WarmUP Weekend Agenda!  It’s like a sneak peek for our first online forum. There is a team of people working to bring you this event and we are getting very excited.
                        Ag Women's Network Agenda.png We want you to know that –
  •  The actual content (videos, articles, questions) will be posted on Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend.
  • Participants will be able to check content at the times listed on the agenda or when it works for them.
  • The Twitter Chat event takes place at 11:00 a.m. (EST) on Saturday, Jan 16th – hashtag is  #AWNChat

If you have questions – please ask!

On Twitter –  ask via @agwomensnetwork  or @CCrowleyArklie  @WalshRobyn @SavvyFarmgirl @JoLCraig

On Facebook – ask via the Ag Women’s Network FB page

We do have one unique request!  In order to keep the event as straightforward as possible, we are asking people to refrain from making posts on the FB page that are not related to the weekend event.  This will make it easier for participants to follow along.  Thanks!

Warming Up to the Idea

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Happy New Year! It will take me a couple more weeks before I’m fluent at writing 2016. I’ve never been really good at transitions. I like to cherish things and moments and emotions. Mostly, I like to cherish the people who accompany them. I think it makes it easier to take next steps. But once I am ready to move on, then, a million ideas pop into my head and I am gangbusters on how to accomplish tasks.

When the Events Committee first talked about an online event for Ag Women’s Network, I had my usual “what if” list. But, I knew it was an important step for the Network. We wanted to have an event that is accessible to all members without major hesitations around time, distance, cost, availability and diverse interests.

We started out with the idea of a “Tweet Chat” to give AWN members an opportunity to connect in a casual forum on a variety of topics. A “Tweet Chat” is where a group of Twitter users meet online at a pre-determined time to discuss a certain topic and all connect by using a specific hashtag. Hosts pose questions to prompt responses and encourage interaction. (We will post more specific details prior to the event)

But, we know many of you prefer Facebook and others like to connect through email notices. More content got added and now we are offering a weekend event…….the AWN Winter WarmUP Weekend!

“Warm-up” works well as a theme. It indicates preparing for an activity/event like warming up muscles, or a tractor engine, or a crowd. It’s a term we use when referring to how a group of people are connecting or warming up to each other. And of course, January’s cold temperatures give us an appreciation of the comfort and refreshment of simply warming up.

So, our goal for this event is to provide easy access for all members of the AWN. Our hope is that this format will result in high participation and a valuable experience for members. We are building an agenda around the words “Prepare-Connect-Get Refreshed” as we move to a new year and an energized focus. And maybe most importantly…….we want everyone to have some fun as we try out this online format!

Online Event Details

Twitter –  #AWNWarmUP  @agwomensnetwork
Facebook – Ag Women’s Network group page
Website –

Starts: Friday, Jan 15th at 7:00 p.m. (EST)
Ends: Sunday, Jan. 17th at 2:00 p.m. (EST)

Content: Agenda will be posted here on Monday, January 11, 2016. Be prepared for video viewing, article reading, a photo share and the Tweet Chat.

Hashtag: We’ll be sharing this with the Agenda

Participants are welcome to participate throughout the weekend when and how it works for them. We realize that some people like to get involved in discussions and some people will be happiest to only follow the conversation. All are welcome!

Please note – this is our first event of this type and there may be some glitches to work through. We will do our best to make it as straightforward as possible and appreciate your positive involvement. Contact names will be included with the Agenda.

In the “Spirit” of Continuing Education & Advancement


On Thursday December 3rd, we hosted one of our largest events to date at Dixon’s distillery in Guelph, Ontario.

In spite of being only one of six microbreweries in Ontario, and only a year and a half old, Dixon’s owners Vicki, JC and Kevin offered a wealth of knowledge and expertise on their business and their industry. The distillery has long been a dream of the owners. The trio has spent the last three years building and renovating the building by hand, only contracting out pipefitters for the most major equipment installation. All three maintain full-time employment outside of the distillery and spend evenings and weekends renovating and trying new recipes.

We were first taken on a tour of their impressive facility and given an in-depth description into how spirits are made. Dixon’s were very happy to share with the group that their grains are all locally sourced from the Guelph-Wellington County area.

We were also given the opportunity to taste a variety of the different spirits. Dixon’s currently makes gin, moonshine, vodka and a variety of flavoured liquors that range from chocolate tea, pumpkin, and spicy Caesars which are all made in small batches to highlight their uniqueness.

Following the tour, our awesome panelists answered a variety of questions from our moderator and audience.

The discussions surrounded the synonymous nature of education and advancement.

The panelists came from a variety of backgrounds and educations and had a wide breadth of knowledge to share with the group, which also consisted of a variety of backgrounds and experience. Education, especially in the agriculture, creates a very important knowledge base. However, the panelists could all agree that continued pursuit of new knowledge and skills has also been a driving force in their careers.

The women wove through a variety of topics that ranged from taking professional designation courses, to certificates, one time classes and even the importance of mentorship in education. Heather Hargrave, Industry and Member Relations Coordinator for Farm and Food Care spoke of the unintended consequences of education, such as networking and building friendships.

“There are many different types of mentors – family, personal, work and peers. You always get more out of your education and experiences than you think”, said Hargrave who was recently in the wedding party of a friend she met through AALP.

It should be noted that if you had asked 2 of the 3 panelist where they intended to be when they started school, they would be miles away from where they are now. Stephanie Craig, grew up on a farm, but started her education at Ryerson in an attempt to get as far away from the farm as possible. Mel Curtis, didn’t really have any intention of school, and only really wanted to go back to the farm. Starting in marketing with an animal science background, she now leverages her additional education for promotions within the marketing and communications industry. Working for an AG PR firm, she has also started her own business as an animal photographer. These women have found careers outside of their original designation by leveraging their continued education.

Moderator Kathryn Doan also brought words from Allison West regarding leveraging educations to make pivots in your career.

“Figure out what you want to be doing right before you retire and figure out a way to get there” said West, “Don’t let the pivot get chosen for you.”

The group was left with lasting words of encouragement from the panel and from within the audience. Education will always give you the confidence and perspective to pick your path and make those positive pivots in your career and life.

As always, we would like to thank our panelists: Stephanie Craig, Mel Curtis, Heather Hargrave, and our moderate Kathryn Doan.

We would love more feedback! What great AG continuing education opportunities have YOU heard of or participated in which were valuable to you?

What’s Your Advancing Story?


What was the environment these Ontario farm women faced when they returned from the Royal to their rural communities  in 1932?

The Advancing Women Conference in October was exciting and thought-provoking, promoting an environment of interaction and determination.  Returning to everyday life was challenging, but, it is here that the advancing of women in agriculture will really happen.  One opportunity leads to the next and we learn to maximize each opportunity.

It has never been easy to sustain inspiration when resuming daily routines.  Rural women of the past, who had limited opportunities for advancement, must have faced overwhelming challenges when they returned to their more sheltered home lives. I was given a family photograph, taken in 1932 beside the familiar walls of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, featuring 105 young women gathered as guests of the Ontario Department of Agriculture. Their pride and timid excitement is evident even in sepia. What are their stories of advancement?

The RAWF has been advancing the community of agriculture for over 90 years. Those familiar walls could tell a unique story of the heritage, heartbreak and happiness of rural life.  The archways and stall boards have seen generations proudly prepare and present exhibits and then deal with the thrill or the disappointment of competition.  My 2015 visit to The Royal proved again that, while steeped in tradition, this annual celebration continues to provide vital opportunities for advancing young and old, rural and urban, male and female.

Each of us needs to seek out opportunities to advance ourselves and to advance others.  Words inspire but actions make change. Opportunities is a noun. Keep it plural! Advancing is an adjective & a verb. Doubly important!


How to Choose Ag Education – Introducing our Kitchen Table Speakers


Upon deciding to do the Ivey Business School’s EMBA, my dad asked why and I recall telling him,”if I’m not moving forward, I’m moving backward.” Truly, this answer was linked more to my desire to learn and increase my own business knowledge than it was specific to the MBA. I had looked at a variety of opportunities which would strengthen my leadership skills and enhance my knowledge of business and agriculture.

Among our Ag Women’s Network executive, we believe the desire to learn is more important than the actual “how” you go about it. There are many routes available to broaden your knowledge base, strengthen your skills and enhance your resume. Your personal learning style and knowing what you want to get out of higher education will help determine what route is best for you.

In addition to the institutional options, like post-grad certificates and Masters degrees, the agriculture industry is rich with programs geared towards hands-on learning of leadership and personal development. Many industry leaders have participated in AALP and CTEAM, to name a few local to Ontario. There is also the opportunity for self-directed learning, like through Nuffield.

This is the route Cheryl Hazenburg chose to pursue. “I saw the opportunity to learn about agriculture in many different parts of the world and jumped on it.”  She describes Nuffield as “an opportunity for agricultural professionals, mid career to step back from their operation or job, to see a bigger picture”.  She writes on her blog that the greatest benefit to Nuffield is you are visiting and learning from people as a friend, rather than a tourist, and it was this experience that led Cheryl to the realization she wanted to be a primary producer again.

“It was a big reason why I moved back to Ontario to start the transition of taking over my family farm. ” Says Cheryl. She offers this advice to anyone considering further education: “opportunities present themselves in many shapes and forms, seize all that you can, you never know which ones will change your life.”

Seizing opportunities is what we’re all about, but with so many great ones how do you decide which is best for you?

Not surprisingly, I think it’s always worthwhile to talk to people who have done the program that interests you. Hear why they chose the route they did and ask questions about their journey. That’s exactly why we’ve assembled a group of women together for our next event to talk about their learning paths. If you’re considering pursuing further education, you won’t want to miss this event! RSVP here.

Ultimately, I decided to go the MBA route. Working in a global corporation, a former manager suggested an MBA would be recognized no matter where I traveled within the company. It also allowed me to take advantage of our tuition-assistance program.  Mostly, I really wanted to learn from others’ experiences and while other opportunities would allow this, Ivey’s approach to teaching with case studies was intriguing because it combined the formal, classroom learning with participant sharing.

-Jen C.

Kitchen Table  Discussion – Featured Women:

Mel Curtis
Current role:Mel-Curtis-Barn-Girls-Photography
Co-owner, Barn Girls Photography
Account Manager, 31st Line Communications

Variety of photography courses and summer group study courses
– Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, University of Guelph (2008)

Stephanie Craig
Current role: Communications Manager, Stephanie-CraigOntario Agricultural College Dean’s Office, University of Guelph

– Web Design and Production Certificate, Humber College (2012)

– Bachelor of Design – Fashion Communication, Ryerson University (2008)


Heather HargraveHeather-Hargrave
Current role:
Industry & Member Relations Coordinator, Farm & Food Care Ontario

– Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP) Class 15 (2015)
– Bachelor of Commerce in Ag. Business, University of Guelph (2007)

Alison WestAlison-West
Current role:
Dairy Brand Manager, 
Elanco Animal Health Canada

– MBA, Wilfrid Laurier University (2012)
– Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, University of Guelph (2007)

Advancing Women in Ag Wrap-up

This blog post was written by Anna Roberts, who won a free registration to the Advancing Women in Ag conference with her entry about why women need a voice in agriculture.

A brief prologue;

Hi, my name is Anna. I am an Ontarian, a parent, and an avid ‘let’s try this’-er. I am also a farmer.
Oh…and I’m a woman!

A few weeks ago I had the extreme privilege to be invited to attend the Advancing Women in Ag Eastern Conference in Toronto, and was included within an inspiring group of 450 women who are also involved in agriculture.


It was such diverse group of ladies, from those who still remember the smell of ‘purple paper’; who can tell a bull calf from 50ft. away, or recite today’s market prices off the top of their head, to those of us who’s dreams of lush green pastures and 20-hour days are just beginning to unfold.

But the best part… how each woman had her own story.

Bonnie Schmidt reflected on how life is a contact sport; it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you can do. Jeff Leal reminded us that each challenge is an opportunity, while Cheryl Fullerton encouraged us to be purposeful, embrace (our) ambition, be proud and believe (in ourselves). Dr. Marla Shapiro pointed out that our core values do not change, our priorities do, so that we may always know the difference when trying to find balance in our lives. Susan Blair mentioned that perfection is subjective and noted how we must expand our thinking and allow ourselves to view things differently if we wish to grow. Finally, Kathleen Wynne urged that strength is intellect. It is education. It is creativity, and that, as women in agriculture, we must be strong.

Premier Wynne and Anna Roberts

Premier Wynne and Anna Roberts

Jennifer Christe (AWN Lead) and Anna Roberts

Jennifer Christe (AWN Lead) and Anna Roberts

Looking back; after days of chores, hours of school work, time spent trying to save a sick calf, fix mixers, stay awake during over-nights at the dryer, and finally making it home only to reheat left-overs before I head back out for the morning milking… the message is clear:

Do what you love. Follow your passion. Embrace your ambition.

Never apologize for who you are.

Lessons that may apply to anyone, yet, provide a special significance to those women working within our male-dominated agricultural industry. Lessons encouraging us to embrace our differences as women, and lessons that I may not have taken to heart had I not been given this chance to peek inside the hearts & souls of these speakers.

I will always look with admiration to those who have followed their passions, admitted their weakness, shown their strength, & celebrated their uniqueness as women – who continue to give me hope that it is because I am a woman, that I will go on to move mountains.


Celebrating Ontario Agriculture Week

Mary Ann is a co-owner/operator of her family's dairy farm.

Mary Ann is a co-owner/operator of her family’s dairy farm.

What a great time of year to celebrate Ontario Agriculture. Many people may be unaware that October 5-11, 2015 is Ontario Agriculture Week but I can guarantee that they are celebrating in their day-to-day lives. Grocery stores are full of local Ontario produce, drive through the country and you can see the crops being harvested, and local fall fairs are in full-swing celebrating all that agriculture has to offer.

Fall is my favourite time of year. Working the fields at harvest time brings a deep sense of contentment with a job well done.

At our farm today, a custom operator is combining soybeans. He doesn’t need our help this year as a retired transport driver is working for free because he misses working the harvest. With our new-found free time, we are busy putting away field equipment for the winter. Across the road I can hear the hum of a combine taking off a neighbour’s grain corn. For lunch we enjoyed local vegetables from our latest grocery trip where we always look for Ontario products. And our families are exchanging emails planning meals and pumpkin carving for Thanksgiving. I can smell harvest in the air.

Fall is also a time for reflection as we see the finished product after worrying about the crops all summer. The new hay field that was once bare on the hill, scorched from sun and drought, is now thriving after growing under its cover crop of oats. And the corn that was hit by drought, frost and torrential rain, all in a short period of time this spring, was taller than the tractor at harvest. My dad’s soybeans came in first place at his local fair, but the less we say about the barley field the better; at least it’s off the field and we don’t have to look at it anymore. Optimism and hope for the future is necessary in this world, and I am filled with both when I think about the direction Ontario Agriculture is going.

I encourage you to take a moment to reflect while you are out in the fields, or give a farmer a big wave and a thumbs up when you drive by. It’s time to celebrate.

– Mary Anne Doré