Good morning and Happy Easter!
I hope you all spent time surrounded by loved ones and had some yummy Easter treats. Mother Nature played a mean April Fool’s Day joke yesterday by dumping some more snow across Southern Alberta. I think she forgot it is Spring!
Despite the snow, it has been a busy couple of months for the Farmer and I. We have been busy planning for our 2018 growing season as well as a few new initiatives for our farm. We have also spent some time off the farm attending a few conferences!
Organic Alberta 2018 Conference – Red Deer, AB
The first conference that we attended was the Organic Alberta conference in Red Deer, AB. Going in to this conference I was nervous. This being my first agriculture conference I didn’t know what to expect. My anxiety was in overdrive as I stepped into a room full of producers talking about concepts I didn’t understand, equipment that I’ve never heard of, and about people I didn’t know. I honestly felt like they were all speaking a different language and this was all in the first 20 minutes before the conference had even started!
The Farmer and I found a table to sit at and the first presenter came on stage. She presented on consumer demand for organics (sounds exciting right?). Well it actually was! She was speaking about numbers and percentages of people consuming organic in Canada, North America, and beyond. For me, this presentation was relatable coming from my previous line of work from a marketing perspective. In other words. she was speaking my language! I soaked up all the information she provided us and absorbed some of her confidence she exuded on stage and used that to fuel the rest of my two days at the conference. My logical thinking kicked in and said ‘Listen, Anxiety? We got this. We are here to learn and we have no room at the table for you here. See you later!’. I enjoyed the rest of my time at the conference listening to the presenters and meeting new people. The biggest highlight of the whole conference, for me, was when the Farmer did his presentations. I only wished I had a t-shirt or a sign made saying ‘PROUD WIFEY’ or something. He was on producer panels speaking about how to reduce tillage in organic production and soil health. Now if you know my Farmer, then you know he is a man of very few words. This is true until you get him talking about his true passions, agriculture and dirt biking. Bring up soil health or a epic dirt bike trail – Look out! He will talk your ear off.
The Organic Alberta 2018 Conference was not only a great agricultural learning experience for me, but also a personal learning experience. I found I needed to let go of my insecurities of not knowing enough about a topic, situation, etc. and just listen, learn, and grow.
Prairie Organic’s: Think Whole Farm – Brandon, MB
Next up we had the Prairie Organic’s: Think Whole Farm Conference in Brandon, MB. I was excited for this one as I had never been to Manitoba before! We flew out of Calgary, AB on our tiny WestJet propeller plane across the prairies to Manitoba. When we arrived we were greeted by the organizers of the conference who then took us on our pre conference tours of the Assiniboine College’s greenhouse project and Shape Food’s processing plant.
The following two days were jam packed with speakers from around North America speaking about soil fertility, weed management, livestock operations, and much much more. One of the highlights for me was Sheila Hamilton from Sunworks Farms, located near Armena, AB, telling us how they got started. I think there is something so valuable about hearing how a successful operation got their start. She was so vulnerable sharing her story about their struggles along the way but always sticking to their core values. The Farmer’s highlight had to be seeing Jonathan Lundgren present on putting diversity back into organic. As he puts it, ‘He is a rock star in soil health’. In my words, I think the Farmer was ‘Fan Girling’ just a little 😉
But let’s not forget one of the biggest highlights of the trip. If you follow along on my Instagram Stories, you would maybe remember the little mix up we had with our hotel room. The mix up being the Farmer forgot to book our room when he registered us for the conference. We had a room for our first and last night, but the second night we were on a wait list for a room. Luckily a room became available and the hotel staff very graciously moved our belongings into our new room. Our room happened to be a double bunk bed Winnie the Pooh themed suite… Needless to say we had a good laugh and enjoyed our evening in the 100 Acre Woods located in Brandon, MB
Advancing Women in Agriculture West Conference 2018 – Calgary, AB
The most recent conference I attended was the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference in Calgary, AB. As you can guess by the name, the Farmer did not attend this one with me. I was flying solo!
This conference overwhelmed me in a different way then the first one did. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride for women in agriculture. There were women from all areas including ag business, ag banking, ag education, producers, farmwives, and so many more. The topics discussed were so diverse but all had a similar message of personal development. I could probably go on and on about every single presenter, but I will save to you rambling and list my top three:
- Focus on the 90%: Daci Lang, Motivational Speaker and Author of Focus on the 90%, kicked off our conference with an inspiring message of focusing on the positive. In a world where it seems like we are always running on empty and struggling to see the good, Darci gave us the tools to focus on the things in life that actually matter. I am looking forward to reading her book and learning more from this wonderful soul.
- Mental Health – Let’s talk: If you have been following my blog then you can guess why this one hit close to home for me. Karen MacNeill, Psychologist from Copeman Healthcare Centre in Calgary, AB, spoke about mental health in agriculture. The statistics of people suffering in silence from mental illness in the agriculture community was alarming. She gave us advice on how to recognize and respond to mental health issue close to home or in our communities. She also spoke about the work of the Do More Ag organization whose main focus is to focus on mental health in agriculture across Canada. Please visit their website to find out more about this important initiative.
- Women Talk – Ready, Set, Change!: This was the final presentation of the conference and I don’t think they could have ended it in a better way. This was a panel of women from all areas in agriculture. A weather forecaster turned bee-keeping-buisness-owner, a city kid turned large animal veterinarian, an all encompassing #BossBabe nurseries owner (who grows more than just flowers), and a cubicle dweller turned farmwife-photographer-author all stood up and told us their unconventional journey into the world of Ag. Each one of their stories I found myself relating to it in some way. One of the speakers in particular that resonated with me the most was Billi Miller. From a 9-5 Government worker to living on a farm in the middle of the Canadian Prairies (sound familiar?), has published two books sharing the stories of the traditional farmwife to the next-generation of farmwives. I had followed Billi on Instagram before the conference so I knew a little about her work. After seeing her on stage sharing her story I became her self-proclaimed #1 fan. Check out Billi’s books Farmwives in Profile: 17 Women, 17 Candid Questions about their Lives, Photos & Recipes and Farmwives 2.
If you are a women in Ag I would definitely recommend you attend an Advancing Women in Agriculture conference in the future! I left feeling so inspired and excited to continue my journey into the ever changing world of agriculture.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my conference experiences of 2018. Please please PLEASE reach out to me if you have any questions at all. I love connecting with you!