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)

Member Profile: Emma Harris

A quick introduction: My name is Stephanie Craig and I a 29-year-old communications professional currently working for the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph. I’ve been thinking about mentorship through the sharing of experiences for a while now, ever since I read a book called “The Mom Shift” by Reva Seth. It explored the professional successes of women after they became mothers and is filled with case study-styled stories about women and their personal and professional journeys. I want try to produce something similar for the Ag Women’s Network (AWN). I believe that by sharing the experiences of the AWN members, we can all learn, be inspired and encourage one another. The focus of the profiles I will be submitting to the blog will be on women who primarily work off of the farm, although many will also be primary producers.

If you know of a woman whom you think would be a great person to profile, please send your suggestions my way via email (contact.scraig@gmail.com).
For my first profile, I’m thrilled to introduce the AWN to Emma Harris. Emma is an Aggie at the University of Guelph. A more correct label would be calling her a “Suburban Aggie”, which is also the name of her personal blog (https://suburbanaggie.wordpress.com/). In agriculture we often talk about communicating with the urban population, but for Emma that’s what she does in her everyday life. She was raised in suburban Oakville, ON, but is in fierce pursuit of agriculture knowledge. If you’re interested in connecting with Emma after reading her profile, contact her via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/emma.j.harris) or through email (eharri08@mail.uoguelph.ca).

Emma Harris, OAC StudentTo start off, please tell the Ag Women’s Network more about yourself.
I’m a fourth year agriculture science student at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) of the University of Guelph. I’m 21 years old and just dipping my toes in the agricultural world. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood, in the middle of Oakville, ON. I was very interested in environmental science and studies since I was a little kid. Those interests eventually led me to studying agriculture at university! It’s been a fun adventure so far, and I learn more every day.

Right now you are studying at the University of Guelph. Tell us more about your program.
My degree is a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in Honours Agriculture. This means that I take a core set of agriculture-related courses, including plant and animal ag, but I also have the freedom to take electives in any area of interest I wish! I’m choosing to take a lot of economics, communications, and policy courses, which all have an agriculture focus. I’ve chosen this path for school because I want to influence education policy concerning agriculture and environment, and these courses can help me develop my skills and knowledge even before I graduate. I was originally studying environmental management at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, but didn’t like the options that program would have given me. Many of my friends were studying agriculture at Ridgetown. It seemed like a new and exciting field of study for me, so I made the switch after one year!

What are your career aspirations and how do you plan on getting there?
I want to work in education, though I’m not quite decided on which facet. I’d like to either write school curriculum that includes agriculture and food literacy at all levels, or open up an educational farm that will bring kids outside to learn about agriculture hands-on. Or, maybe I could do both! My first step is finishing my degree at Guelph. After that, teacher’s college is definitely on the horizon. Along the way, I’ve met a few people who do what I want to do, so I’d like to reach out to them for some work experience to help me on my journey.

What’s the most burning question for you right now in your career?
At the moment, the biggest question is, “How do I get started?”. I have an end goal in my head of starting my own hobby farm that would hopefully turn into a teaching farm for classrooms. Does anybody have any advice on using their farm as a teaching tool? Do you change your practices to accommodate for classroom groups to come visit?

Professionally, we are often seeking success. How do you define personal success?
To me, personal success is being happy with your life and the goals you’ve set for yourself. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve always been one to set big goals and work toward them in small steps. Each time I complete one of these steps, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Right now, my big goal is to move out East, go to teacher’s college, and establish a small hobby farm. Every time I do something to reach this goal, I feel a little bit closer to my dream life. This idea of personal success is what I keep striving for.

Emma HarrisLearning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. Can you tell us about a professional mistake you made and what you learned?
In terms of agriculture and my education, the biggest mistake I think I’ve made was holding back. When I was studying environmental management at Ridgetown Campus, I was scared to be involved in agriculture because of what it might say about me; back then, I had no idea about the wonders of agriculture! I hesitated to switch into agriculture science. Looking back, I can see all the opportunities I missed out on. I now know that getting involved and putting yourself out there is important in agriculture. That’s how valuable connections are made. Now, when the opportunity for me to get involved and learn comes up, I don’t hesitate. I take every chance to be a part of the agriculture community.

Who would say is your biggest influencer/mentor?
It would be too difficult to pick one single person. The short answer would be that my biggest influencers (and mentors!) are my classmates. The OAC is filled with young people who have grown up in agriculture. Each day, I get to learn from people my age about the industry. The biggest thing I’ve learned from my classmates is that youth can make an impact – many of my friends and classmates are the main operators of their farms, and have strong voices in the public through their local fairs. It’s inspiring to know that the foundation of the agricultural sector is made up of people my age.

Why are you interested in being a part of the Ag Women’s Network?
For me, the AWN is an invaluable resource. Women from across Ontario and Canada, each with their own experiences, are able to share their knowledge with others in their sector. It’s an incredibly supportive place. It’s nice to have a group like this to support each other, where I am able to learn from others who share the same interests as me.

How do you define agriculture?
To me, agriculture is a lifestyle. Agriculture is something that you pour your heart and soul into, whether it be in production, business, research, or another area of the industry. Agriculture is a unique industry because the people who work in it, live it. Especially when it comes to producers, agriculture is not something you put down at quitting time. It’s a passion.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?
I think agriculture has gained a lot of ground in the eyes of the public in the past few years. It seems that the negative stigma that traditionally surrounds agriculture has started to ease up, and more people are accepting agriculture as a positive part of our country. I think that should be our focus moving forward as an industry. There will always be the odd few that try to fight against agriculture, but I believe that we can, and will, continue to shed positive light on our industry. Using tools such as Facebook and Twitter, we can connect with the public and show them what farming is really like.