by Cale Staden, Staden Farms – Vermilion, Alberta
What I took away from the first Alberta Canola Leaders Conference
When I was first asked if I would like to attend this conference that the Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) was putting on for young farmers in mid March, I had the reaction that most farmers likely have: I instantly started thinking of reasons for why I could not attend. How we will be in the heat of calving during the conference, how I was taking off on a backpack trip across Vietnam and Cambodia for the entire month of January, and of all the jobs at the farm I would not complete because of my time away from our operation. Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that this is what I have been looking for since I decided to leave the corporate business world, and return to my family farm in North Eastern Alberta, full time about a year ago.
This is what it’s all about! The chance to network with some incredibly intelligent young farmers from around the province while also learning directly from the people who have shaped and worked so hard to make our agriculture industry what it is today.
The event started with us learning from an incredible speaker, Bob Treadway, about long term strategic planning and thinking – not just for the industry but for our own businesses as well. We moved on to learning what corporate governance actually is, and what it means to actually be a part of a professional, governing board.
We also completed a workshop where we had to lobby government officials (in a mock meeting) on a real life agricultural scenario. We got to work side by side with people who have actually done it in the real world, and learn what it takes to get those high level government decisions that affect our ag industry passed through our Canadian political system.
The next exercise was on telling our story. We learned directly from a nationally recognized journalist about the importance of having our voices heard in the media, and how to correctly work with that media. Whether it’s getting our message out there, or sometimes having to defend/explain the ag industry and our farm practices; we as producers have a job to do in informing the general public about our way of life.
We even had the chance to embrace a little bit of culture at this event (which for me, ‘culture’ usually entails the finer points of pulling calves or unplugging the combine). We got to experience formal dining etiquette training from the great and very entertaining, Jodie Beach. She definitely had her work cut out for her, trying to teach 20 farm kids the finer details of silverware placement and proper napkin etiquette but we all took away skills that will help us represent ourselves well in professional settings.
Hands down the best part of this whole event, was having the opportunity to meet and work with some pretty incredible young farmers from all over the province. If these are the people who are going to be joining the future boards, councils and committees to lead our industry: sign me up, because we will be in some good hands. The opportunity to learn from their diverse experiences and their many different cutting edge farming practices will shape the way I see farming going into the future. I can only hope I had half the impact on others attending as they did on me.
The first sign that this conference was a success, in my eyes anyway, was that as soon as it was over, I could not wait to start telling people about all this new found knowledge I had accumulated. The ACPC did a great job at organizing this event; they lined up great speakers who were not only informative, but also very entertaining and a lot of fun to learn from, even on some very professional topics. This was their pilot project for the Canola Leaders series, and I believe they hit a home run. They have realized what our industry needs: the time to start grooming your future industry leaders is well in advance of needing them to engage, allowing us young producers to learn not only more and more everyday from our own operations, but also getting early exposure to what it means to be a board member, an ambassador, and ultimately, a leader for our industry.
Our way of life is challenged everyday from those who do not understand what it means to farm, and it is up to each and every one of us to inform and educate the public on this lifestyle and business we have all chosen. But now, thanks to this Canola Leaders program, I feel a lot more prepared in doing so!
Thank you again to the ACPC for inviting me and putting on such a great event! I hope this isn’t the last chance I have to learn on how to become a great industry leader – I am already looking forward to follow up events. And to all the other young farmers who attended, keep up the good work! Until we meet again.
Alberta Canola Connects is your window into the activities of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission as we work both locally and globally to make Alberta canola producers more profitable.