In the “Spirit” of Continuing Education & Advancement

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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?

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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!

-Joan