Saturday, 14 April 2012

Cattlemen's Young Leaders Spring Forum Day Two

Today was a whirl wind of a day. It went by so fast, and I hope I can re-account for most of our conversations.....

First of all, today was incredible in the regards to meeting so many passionate youth within agriculture. Everyone that I had the chance to talk with had great ideas on how we can improve our ever changing industry. The flow of conversation never ended, it was much more laid back then I thought it would be. I was nervous for nothing, I felt like I was just sitting and having coffee with my fellow farmers, which essentially was all that we were doing. Discussing pivotal points within the cattle industry. Oh, and I guess we were being judged too.

The format was simple, with 6 questions and 6 rotations. Allowing for groups of 4 candidates to circle around the room and discuss key issues to the industry. 

My first table was a discussion on how we can ensure a sustainable and profitable future for the Canadian beef industry. Some of the concerns shared were how to feed animals more efficiently so we can provide more meat to our ever expanding export markets, and how to correct the traceability program so that there is more farm involvement. These were just two of the issues raised at a table of four candidates with a facilitator in a matter of 20-25 minutes. I am sure that if given more time to talk, we could have come up with more areas of focus.

The next round lead me in a discussion that if accepted to the program, what type of mentor I would be interested in having, as well as how I could become a leader for the Canadian cattle industry. My ideal mentor would be someone who plays a large part in the marketing and communications sector of the industry. I am leaning towards this area because I believe there is a huge disconnect between the average joe and the ag industry. Not too many years ago there was a time when everybody knew someone from the farm, and now we are reaching a point where people believe an egg comes from the store. I believe it is our job to promote the industry and promote the education about the industry. This is why I would enjoy having a mentor within communications so I can learn how to tell agriculture's story in a better way. I believe I could become a leader in the Canadian cattle industry by doing just that, telling agriculture's story and ensuring a sustainable industry through the consumer and make sure they are comfortable buying our products.

My third round table discussion was about the tools needed for young producers to financially succeed in today's agricultural environment. Some thoughts brought to the table where grant programs, incentives for education as well as being aware of the cost of doing business. Grant programs where an individual must create a farm on paper, in detail, and include start up costs, cash flow projections and other pieces of information to present to the sponsor and have them asses your plan and reward you with grant dollars. I think that this would be a great step in helping young people start from square one, if they are not fortunate enough to inherit a farm from their parents. Incentives for education will help young farmers want to go to school with a focus in agriculture, and help them come out with smaller loans. As it is a struggle many students face is whether or not they can afford to start a farm right out of school, or if they need to work for a while to lessen the financial debt and then be able to start a farm. Another important piece of the financial stability of an operation is knowing where you stand financially. If dad is always doing this piece of the business, and he is suddenly unable to do so, there will be deep trouble ahead. It is vital that everyone involved in the operations is aware of what is happening, so that they can deal with the paying of bills and other vital links in the operation so it can remain intact.

There was a quick health break and then we started our fourth round table discussion. The topic for this table was farm succession planning. This can be a very scary subject to a lot of people, lets face it, who wants to talk about their own death? However, I believe it is very important for the long term planning of an operation. If something were to happen to the main decision maker on the farm, what would happen to the family? I am sure we all know of people who are no longer speaking to their brothers and sisters for this very reason, that mom and dad left no plan and they were forced to fight over everything. It is much better to start the plans early, as you never know what is going to happen. It is vital to gain input from every child, regardless of whether or not they want to be involved in the hands on part of the farm. This seems to be the pinpoint of many family arguments, is that this is the legacy left by your parents, and you should be able to be involved even if it means not having the hands on aspect of the operation. Another point brought up was that what happens when there is no family to leave the farm to? People also need to be aware of this and ensure there is a will to identify someone as the executor of the estate so they can make the decisions regarding the operation.

The next discussion focused on how we can have a positive influence on consumer demand for Canadian beef and what tools we could utilize in doing so. Our table focused on educating the consumer, and ensuring they are aware of how we as an industry care about issues such as animal welfare. We need to ensure we are spreading positive news, so that the negative news can be drowned out of the media. In addition, there needs to be communication with other beef industries, including the US and Mexico. There is a lot of discussion with these countries, however it tends to be on a competitive nature. We need to work with them, and share ideas of how we tackled an issue, as well as learn from their best practises list. As we are a global agricultural industry, and at the end of the day we all have the same goal, so we need to ensure we are presenting a united front.

My last discussion was on the topic of encouraging innovation to advance the competitiveness of the sector. This discussion also landed on the same basis of global communication. As well as national and provincial communication within other sectors of the agriculture industry. Each sector can learn from other areas, including poultry, swine, grain as well as other pieces of the industry.

The judges and facilitators then deliberated and decided which 16 of the 25 candidates will be chosen to participate in the program. Discussing these topics with the other candidates amazed me, how many youth have such a strong grasp on many aspects of the industry. This made me extremely nervous, as well as commending the judges for the hard job they have to do, who will get this opportunity of a lifetime? Of course, as with anything they put off the announcement and kept us in suspense for a long time. Unfortunately, I was not chosen as one of the 16 participants for the CYL program. However, I am not discouraged, as the people chosen definitely deserve it. They are very knowledgeable in their interests, as well as very strong leaders. I am fortunate to have been able to participate in this forum, as I have walked away with many ideas and new thoughts to put into the industry. There are not many other opportunities to sit and have a lengthy discussion with the CCA president, or be able to share stories with the founder of AdFarm. This has been a great experience, and I will apply to attend again next year.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Cattlemen's Young Leaders Spring Forum Day One

Cue Corb Lund's Long Gone to Saskatchewan, as this depicts my morning perfectly. I travelled from Vermilion to Saskatoon this morning for the Cattlemens Young Leaders (CYL)  Spring Forum.

The CYL program is run under the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA). The purpose of the program is to provide industry specific leadership and mentor ships to young people in the cattle industry. Launched in Alberta in 2010, the program has now grown to include all of Canada's youth cattle leaders.

Throughout the mentor ship, the mentee is provided with a variety of formal and non-formal opportunities to learn and grow their knowledge of the agriculture industry. Young producers between the ages of 18 and 35 years have a chance to participate in high level discussions that define the direction and future of the Canadian cattle & beef industry. The program provides a chance to explore careers, and to make connections within the industry.

Today marked the end of the program for the 16 participants for 2011-2012, with a banquet supper recognizing them as graduates of the CYL program. Today also marks the start of the journey for the 25 candidates for 2012-2013. I have been given the privilege of attending this years Spring Forum as a semi-finalist.

The program for today started with a brief and casual meet and greet with the graduates, mentors, candidates, facilitators and judges. We then moved to an industry panel where we got to ask some pivotal questions facing the industry, and try our hardest to stump the panel. Our panelist consisted of; Martin Unrau CCA President, Jeff Bilow of UFA, John McKinnon a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Scott Wright from the Government of Canada, and Sandy Russel of Spring Creek Land & Cattle Consulting. The panel was able to provide insights into various issues in the industry, from consumer concerns to where the beef industry will be in 5 years.

We then were able to listen to one of the top 50 influential people of Alberta, Brenda Schoepp. The main theme from her speech was that we need to focus on what the consumer wants. The average Canadian has 1.3 kids and 2.2 dogs. This speaks to who we need to cater to with our marketing strategies. The typical Canadian family is not what is used to be. We need to ask our consumers, "What is it that you want?"  The driver of the upcoming consumer is different as well. Less then 1% of kids get information from a book, the rest search the internet and use social media. We need to tell our stories in these formats to get our word to the consumer.

We also need to connect the dots in the industry. Brenda shared that when she visited Europe, she met a farmer who a portion of everything that was used in producing his pigs. From the land used to grow the feed, to the trucks used to transport them, to the processor used to cut the meat. Which I find interesting, as this is where you will make the most money. She also added that every farm had a social room and invited their customers to come and see the farm. This is vital to the relationships being built between the farm and the plate.

Brenda is a 2012 Nuffield Scholar. Her proposal to make a mentor ship program for women in agriculture could not be ignored by the Nuffield panel. as 53% of the worlds agriculture workforce is made of women, as well as 29% of Canada's. This is vital to the international cattle industry to have her working on a mentor ship program to help teach women to become more involved in agriculture.

One last thing Brenda added was that "You need a priest, and a policeman once a day. Three times a day you need a farmer." I think that was a fantastic closing remark as it builds on how vital our industry is.

Following Brenda was a break before the banquet that signified the graduation of the CYL 2011-2012 group. We were able to some intensive networking with mentors, facilitators, and judges.  Even if I am not chosen to do the complete program, having the opportunity to have these connections and have great conversations with these people is phenomenal. Not many places could you sit down with the founder of AdFarm Kim McConnell and the President of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association Martin Unrau to have a casual discussion about everything agriculture.

I am very nervous for the round table discussions tomorrow which will be on;  What are the key issues facing farms in terms of succession planning and implementation?  How can you as a leader in the Canadian Beef industry have positive influence on global consumer demand for beef and more specifically Canadian Beef? What tools might you use to help address this? How can the cattle industry encourage more innovation to advance the competitiveness of the sector? What is needed for young producers to financially succeed in today’s agricultural environment? How do we ensure a sustainable and profitable future for the Canadian beef industry? What are you looking to learn about in your potential mentor ship? What would be your main interest area?

Hopefully everything will flow and my brain will be in full working mode!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Where Lakeland College can take you

 After my excitment of getting accepted to Lakeland College in the Animal Science Technology (AST) diploma, I had many people asking me, "Well what kind of career can you get with this education?" Many people were under the impression that this was a school to make a farmer, but it is much more than that. 

In order to truly tell you what you can do with a diploma in Animal Science, I have asked five of my thirty six classmates three questions; give me a bit of background and why you chose Lakeland, what is your favorite aspect of the AST program, and what are your future plans.

Brianna Baghsaw came from the very very small town of Birsay, SK. (Don't feel bad if you need to google map it to find out where it is, I did). She is a 5th generation mixed operation farmer, including grain and cattle. Brianna chose Lakeland because a friend from 4-H attended and absolutely loved her time there. She was able to convince Brianna to attend. The small class sizes made the decision final for Brianna, as it was an easy step from her small high school. Her favourite part of the AST program is all the hands on experience. "It's not all book work, you get to learn to do by doing, not just watching or reading about it!"

Brianna's summer will involve lots of fleece at the Elbow Multi Species project at Elbow,Sk. Her duties will include moving sheep and goats with her dog, Lacey, and horses during the grazing season. She will also be doing some fencing and kidding the goats. Brianna plans to stay involved in agriculture for the rest of her life. 

Brianna and Lacey

Brooke Lowes came from a large cow-calf operation of approximately 1700 head and 3000 acres at McAuley, MB.  She chose Lakeland because she wanted to do something with agriculture, and the university that she was attending did not offer an ag program. Brooke also liked that Lakeland also offers the hands on aspect in the Student Managed Farm, which isn't offered anywhere else.

"I enjoy how the teachers that teach you aren't just people who don't care to get to know your name or treat you as a number. They all have left industry jobs to come and teach the younger generations. They all have great passion for what they have done in industry which allows you as students to also develop passion as well as great industry contacts."

This summer Brooke will be returning home to the farm, where she will be calving the cows, artificially inseminating approximately 400 heifers and helping with their custom silage operation. In September, Brooke will be returning to school at either University of Manitoba or University of Saskatchewan to work towards her Bachelors in Animal Science.

Brooke roping calves at home.

Riley Isaacson came from a mixed farming operation near Viscount, SK. He chose Lakeland because of recommendations from friends who have attended. His favorite aspect was the environment created by people that go to school here and the fun that happens in addition to all the learning. This summer Riley will be working at a community pasture along the Montana border in Saskatchewan. His duties will include working on a 108 section, or 432 quarters, pasture with 5 horses. Riley will ride to rotate cows and rope sick cattle to treat them, as well as check fences. This position is part of the PFRA program.

Riley analyzing  pasture land.

Carolynne Vallee grew up in small oil town Bonnyville, AB. Her love for horses, animals and the outdoors contributes immensely to who she is and what she does. Carolynne chose Lakeland College because it was a school where she has the opportunity to work hands on with livestock and meet people from the agriculture industry.

Her favorite aspect of the Lakeland College AST program is how much hands on experience there is to gain and how tight-knit all the ag students are. Carolynne added that moving away from home for the first time is pretty intimidating. However, being a student in the AST program is like being part of a family. She also enjoys the small class sizes and the close student-teacher relationships.

This summer Carolynne will be working at the Lakeland Agricultural Research Association in Bonnyville. Aside from working, she will also be coaching the advanced drill team in her home town. In the fall Carolynne will be transferring to University of Alberta to finish her degree in Animal Science as well as complete her pre-requisites for vet school. Her long term plan is to get accepted to veterinary medicine where she plans on specializing in large animal practices and focus on equine medicine. Carolynne's dream is to own a practice in a rural area and make a career out of working with large animals.

Carolynne with her two favorite animals.

James Harbers traveled all the way from Iroquois, ON to attend Lakeland College. The reasoning behind this was to gain as much hands on experience he could in the agriculture industry. James grew up on his family's dairy farm, and became the President for the Lakeland College Dairy Club this past year. James found himself a part time job while in Vermilion, working for a grain farmer. James stayed in town this last summer to work at this farm, and he will be staying until Christmas this year to help out before returning to Ontario. 

James testing some college feed with fellow students. 
As you can see, the AST program at  Lakeland College can take you many places, including further education opportunities, working in government research stations or even just going back to the family farm. Lakeland College provides its graduates with great hands on experience that lets them live the learning, as well as providing excellent industry professionals to help the learning process. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Alberta Elections

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Western Producer about the upcoming Alberta election. The questions revolved around what young people in agriculture are looking for in the candidates.

I will not be using this blog post to tell you how I will vote, this will be more of a thought process of what I, a young person in agriculture as well as a student, am looking for in this election.

For those of you who are unfimilar with the Alberta election process, here is a little background.

Eligible voters must be 18 years of age at the time of voting, as well as be an Alberta resident for the last 6 months and be a Canadian citizen. For more information on how to register to vote please visit the Alberta Elections website.

The political parties include the Progressive Conservatives, Alberta Liberals, Wildrose, Alberta New Demoractic Party(NDP), and the Alberta Party are the only parties that have been represented in the legislative assembly. For a full listing of political parties please visit Wikipedia.

Best picture I could find to show the constituencies in Alberta.
Shout out to
My constituency is Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. My candidates are Spencer Dunn from the Liberal party, Shannon Stubbs from the Wildrose Party, Chris Fulmer of the NDP, and Jacquie Fenske from the PC party.

Who has the best promises to sustain agriculture?
It is vital to Alberta that our government supports farmers.   Everyone eats everyday, and farmers put the food on the table. If our government does not support the farmers in the province, it will hurt every single Albertan. Long term farming and sustainability is important to ensure not only we have food on the table, but so do our upcoming genrerations.

Is there help to promote youth being involved in agriculture?
 Many family farms were sold after the BSE outbreak.  A lot of youth who grew up on these farms are now seeing that agriculture is becoming a large industry again, with rising market prices. This is encouraging to have them go to school and start their own farm. Promotion for this generation is not just agricultural youth programing like 4-H, but to help them get their foot in the door. This could be achieved by providing grants or low-interest loans for new and upcoming farms.

What help is being proposed to post-secondary students?
 With rising costs of living comes rising tuition costs. Sitting on the Students' Executive Council at Lakeland College opened my eyes to the fact that tuition increase is allowed if the cost of living increases, not necessarily because the cost of education is rising. This is not helpful to students who have little support from outside sources. This is a huge deterrent for  youth in Alberta to want to further their education. Why would they PAY money to go to school for 4 years and gain massive loads of debt, when they can get PAID to work and make good money right now?  Tuition costs and extra fees freezing would help keep these costs minimal, or have a forgiveness program for student loans. If a student can guarantee they will stay in Alberta for 5 years and keep a job in the field they studied, maybe payback if not all, at least a portion of their tuition fees?

Are there proposals for help with child care?
I had never thought of this until the Western Producer interviewer asked me, "You are around child bearing age, do you have concerns regarding childcare fees?" I had never considered myself to be of this age, however, I will become this age while this elected government is in office. This is something people my age should consider, in 3-5 years, where will I be in my life? Should I look into additional proposals in case I have children while this government is still in session? Somethings to consider with this side of the platform is if there will be funding provided to low income families seeking child care, or if there will be incentives for youth to go into the child care sector.

What promotion is being made to get youth to vote?
 Talking to many other students at my school, they are not concerned with voting in this election. This kind of scared me, to think that they do not care how our province will be run. This is vital as each age category has different views and needs they are looking for in the election. For example, someone who is 50 years old is looking for solutions regard electricity lines and oil pipelines being run through the province, or what proposals are being made for the Canadian Pension Plan. This can cause a government to come into session that is focused on these issues, and not at all concerned with issues relevant to our generation.

Is it important to have younger people in office?
Yes and no. Yes it is important to have young people representing us in office to help provide a new fresh prospective in the "old mans" club. However, what age is the best? Anything younger then 25 may not be suitable. They make lack the experience in the government world that would help them become contributing members of the assembly. Especially if they are still attending school would make me wonder if they  have the time to commit to the job. I do agree it is great to have younger people within government, but too young can be an issue. It would be great for them to be a page or some other job within the assembly first to help them gain experience.

I hope that this blog post have helped some other youth become involved in the elections in Alberta, and want to vote. As soon as the interview with the Western Producer is published, I will post the link. :)


The story has been published: