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!

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