Ag and Jerry Maguire?

Grads (and their parents and grandparents), earlier this week we gave you some ideas for the what and where of post graduation options in agriculture. Today, we want to talk about the WHY?

WHY AG?

Ag is big business - so, as Jerry Maguire shouted back in 1996, “Show me the money!” (language warning)

In actuality, there is a great possibility that you will not make pro-athlete type money in agriculture.

Most of the people who work in agriculture will tell you that they do it to honor family legacy, to work for something greater than themselves or to feed people. The WHY is feeling proud of contributing to something more. Something lasting. Something important for all of humanity.

So, whether you play a role as a primary producer or as a supporting function in an ag-adjacent industry, being part of the global food system is important work. It is hard to measure the job satisfaction of being able to say that you help to feed the world. #zerohunger

Ag In the Classroom

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Agriculture In the Classroom (AITC) is a national organization designed to promote all types of agriculture through hands on, interactive learning experiences. This year’s Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM) topic was excellent (How did that get in my lunchbox?)! Students really connected with the idea of finding out where their food came from before it got to the store. I was able to participate with students in grades 1 through 3 and their observations and questions were amazing!

  • Where do seeds come from?

  • Sunflowers move to follow the sun.

  • How long does it take seeds to grow?

  • Look - I have clementines in my lunch bag!

  • My Dad helps make fertilizer which helps plants to grow.

And, possibly my favorite too… Can we put our hands in the seeds again?

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If you haven’t experienced and Ag In The Classroom event, it worth checking out the opportunities - as a classroom teacher, farmer or ag-related industry representative.

Read more about one of my classroom visits at the teacher’s blog page: https://mskajatisclassroom.weebly.com/blog

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Prep Week: Are you from around here?

Documentation isn’t glamorous. I get that. But, it is important. So, here we are on post #3 about documentation.

Many farms depend on non-family employees to run their operations. Our farm uses International Rural Exchange Canada to help us find trainees who live with us, work with us and become part of our family farming operation each year. (Want to know what this looks like? ) For us, having an orientation binder has been a helpful tool in preparing trainees for their work on our farm and role in our farm family.

Of course, there are training documents beyond an orientation binder; things like equipment manuals and emergency procedures protocols. However, the orientation package is a first point of reference for questions about “how we do things” on our farm. There are a number of great, and very extensive safety planning tools and human resource manuals available… this is not that. Our orientation binder is a sprinkling of information to get our trainees started on the right foot. Coming to a new farm, in a new country, and living with a new family is overwhelming. Our hope is that the orientation binder provides some information, some reassurances and a promise of more information to come.

If you are an International Rural Exchange host family, a host of trainees through any organization OR just interested in seeing what our orientation binder includes, drop us an email at teresa@farmfemmes.com, comment or direct message us and we will be happy to share our template.

Intentional Learning

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Winter is learning time for farmers - there are seminars, conferences and sessions every week. What you should attend depends on your farm goals and priorities. But, no matter what you focus on in 2019 it should include learning. Sometimes this means learning something new, while other times it means learning how to put a familiar idea into action. Here are some events that are on our radar for the first few months of 2019.

If you know of a great learning opportunity - please comment below so that we can find out more!

Open Farm Day - Manitoba

Yesterday farms and agricultural venues across Manitoba opened their doors to the public for Open Farm Day. This is a great opportunity for everyone to learn and explore agriculture. No matter if you live on a farm or have never visited a farm, there is something for you to enjoy! This year we explored the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Center, just south of Winnipeg. This was an amazing venue, that I didn’t even know existed, and I would highly recommend a visit. We were able to interact with activities related to beef, dairy, poultry and hogs as well as grain farming and food production. There were activities for kids of all ages, and displays for adults too. I enjoyed the virtual reality feedlot tour, the girls put the milking machine on Matilda at least 10 times each and Marcel enjoyed letting the girls push every button in a cab that wasn’t his!

Day old piglets, milling flour, collecting eggs and the milking machine, plus much more!

If you missed it this year, put the Open Farm Day on your calendar for next year, and get a close up look at agriculture. With venues across the province and featuring all different types of experiences you are sure to find something to interest you.

Pam Part Two

Pam Bailey is the first woman on the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) board of directors.  We got the chance to chat with Pam about MCGA, advice to other Farm Femmes and what else she has on the go.

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Q. What was it about the canola growers that made you want to invest your time and energies there?

A. Prior to engaging in the nomination process, Pam started to monitor the MCGA publications more intentionally and she was impressed with the organizations consistent messaging and branding.  Pam said “One of the key indicators of a healthy organization is their ability to articulate what they are doing, and why.”  Pam also spoke extensively about the value, and importance, of systems crafted in the right way, in order to protect the best interests of the individual board members and the organization.  After speaking to a number of different producers, she was satisfied that the organization had robust processes and the right people, so she filled out the nomination papers.

Q. What advice would you give to other Farm Femmes considering leadership positions?

A. Investigate and ask questions.  We can all contribute to the community; it is just a matter of finding the right fit.  Some of the questions to ask are:

  • What are the possible ways to be involved?

  • What are varying commitments and what do they look like?

 

During our conversation, I learned that Pam is not only dedicating her time, energies and talents to the Canola Growers.  In fact, she is the co-founder of Ag Women Manitoba.  This up-start, non-profit began in December 2017 as an extension of the work that Pam was doing with a mentorship program at the University of Manitoba.  Look for more about Ag Women Manitoba in an upcoming post.

Seeds!

A seeder is a big deal!  The seeder gives you all of the potential you will ever have to produce a great crop.  This spring we invested in a new-to-us seeder, which means there is a learning curve as we get the seeding tool set up to work with our tractor and seed cart.  Since every farm is unique, our seeder needed some changes to adapt it to our farming practices.  For instance, we changed out the granular fertilizer set up to a liquid fertilizer set up.  There were also some logistical changes required, like the length of hydraulic hoses necessary to make all of the connections.

After about a week of making changes, and then changes to the changes, the completed seeding train has been hooked together and tested.  Of course, the true test comes when we pull into our first field and start putting seeds in the ground.  To a certain extent, farmers feel that buzz and anticipation every year.  However, having a different seeding tool adds another dimension to the anticipation.  We know how much is at stake, so we want to be sure that we get things right – the seeder is where it all starts.

Various Vallotton Farms seeding combinations 2010-Present

Happy seeding.

More new farm technologies

Several hundred people took in the Ag PhD New Technologies Clinic in Baltic SD last week – our parents included.  Karen and I asked for their top three take-aways.  Although they tried really hard, they only narrowed it down to four!  In no specific order, here are the four things that stood out for our parents:

1.       Drones – uses and accuracy

Drones could be used to help agronomy through use with satellite imagery.  However, drones could also be deployed for other tasks like delivering parts, or even meals, to the field.  (I would like to think that my presence is also a nice touch when I bring meals to the field, but I guess time will tell!  If the drone makes the meal too, then I'm sold!)

2.       Sensor technology – in ground moisture reading/irrigation water quality

Interestingly, both Marcel and our parents identified sensor technology as a place for major opportunity for advancements.  Each sighted different examples, and each acknowledging that this is the tip of the iceberg of examples.  SmartFirmer  Camso Smart Track

3.       Autonomous technology

Autonomous technology could have a huge impact on semi-trailers, but also on in-field applications for tractors.  Although the technology is not perfect, yet, it will soon outperform humans and is a technology that is set up to be scalable.

4.       Soil testing/tissue testing

Technology will only help farmers advance the use of soil and tissue testing, as the tests can be more timely and results more able to help farmers adapt what they are doing in the now.  This would allow farmers to make growing-season decisions and adaptations, rather than waiting until harvest data is collected to make predictions and decisions for the next growing season.

 

When talking to Marcel and our parents and reading the booklet from the clinic, there were a few things that stood out:

  • The focus is moving from the general to the specific (field level to plant level; from all growers to specific growers).  Technology will be able to help us move from average to individual. 
  • Farmers are innovators and there is an excitement in the air when we think about ways to continue to make advances in agriculture.
  • Continuing to learn and grow in one area of our lives helps us to be more open to learning and growing in other areas too!