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!
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