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 – www.agwomensnetwork.com

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.

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!


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