At the moment of writing 2018 is well underway and we are over halfway with the AdvancingAg program. It has been quite an eventful summer, fall and winter for me with lots of opportunities thanks to this mentorship program.
One of my main objectives for this program is to establish a network in the agricultural industry in Western Canada, as that takes a bit of extra effort being an international student, as well as figuring out how I can give back to the agricultural sector in Canada once school is finished. The AdvancingAg mentorship program has been really helpful in this, and I was able to have different conversations about agriculture in general and what it takes to be in different roles within the agricultural industry. I really enjoyed the several coffees that I shared with employees of many financial and agribusiness organizations such as AFSC, MNP and many others, and am thankful for the many insights in agribusiness in Western Canada. I am hoping to continue these conversations with a focus on learning more about farm management practices on the Prairies.
Some of the highlights of the past couple of months are that Holly and I got the opportunity to teach grade 4 and 5 about wheat in Stony Plain in September, it was amazing to see how enthusiastic the kids were to learn about the process from wheat grains to bread and other meals. In November I went to Saskatoon for a meeting with the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) where we talked about farm succession. Besides meeting over 100 farm advisors ranging from bankers to lawyers to crop advisors, we heard personal stories where a succession plan was not into place and a key family member unexpectedly passed away, as well as what is necessary to consider when talking about succession planning. Examples include wills, insurance policies, expectations for the farm, signing authorities, estate litigation and communication strategies. Enough reasons for the farm advisors to encourage their clients to start talking about succession planning!
At the end of February, I was back in Saskatoon but this time to attend the Canadian Young Farmers Forum (CYFF) annual conference, which has been the biggest highlight so far of the AdvancingAg program. Over 180 young farmers from all over Canada came to reconnect with each other, make new friends, share stories from the past year, learn about developments in agricultural markets and to take a break from the farm. Topics of sessions were how to speak up for agriculture, stress management and mental health on the farm, virtual farm tours from all Canadian provinces, lending basics, farm safety, succession planning, tax planning, leadership, livestock production efficiencies, and how to work with different personalities. Of course we also had lots of social time for networking, exploring Saskatoon, team building activities, and even got a performance of country stars and farm brothers the Hunter Brothers! I have never been to a conference before that is so diverse in its activities and topics, is so practical and hands-on, while the attendees are so close like a big family and share the good and bad things of life.
The next (and last) couple of months of the AdvancingAg program will consist of finishing the leadership course that we take as mentees together, as well as more discussions about agriculture and farm financial management, and building more connections within the agriculture industry.