In the “Spirit” of Continuing Education & Advancement

panelists-discuss-education-and-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?

How to Choose Ag Education – Introducing our Kitchen Table Speakers

Graduation-day

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

Education:
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

Education:
– 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

Education:
– 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

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