Our world has been turned upside down by COVID. Everything changed for most people in March 2020. It didn’t affect my life that much back then. I was just finishing my winter conference season and the rest of 2020 was quite normal for me for the most part. As an introvert, I quite enjoy my time alone riding around checking pastures. I was social distancing on the farm long before social distancing was cool.
It wasn’t until November 2020 when COVID changed my life. I realized our conference season was cancelled. For the past 20 years, conferences and seminars have been my main education. Not only from the speakers but also from the networking sessions during, in between and after the event. Networking with the other producers was half my education.
I decided right away that no biological organism was going to stop our networking this winter. I contacted the Gateway Research Organization (GRO) and we started up a weekly networking session. We called it Wednesday Night Networking (WNN) and we ran it every week from mid-December right up until April. There were no presentations. It was almost all networking. Every week we would have a different guest speaker and a different topic. After a brief intro and a two-minute introduction of the guest and the topic, it was entirely a Q & A session.
All I have to say is “Wow.” It was far more successful than I ever imagined. We had between 100 to 250 participants at the Zoom meeting every Wednesday night. It was amazing to see the different perspectives, not just from Alberta producers but from all over the world. Not only were the Q & A sessions busy, but the chatbox lit up with conversations. (And I know for a fact that there were lots of private chats heating up in the background.) We would keep the official WNN open from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., but then... the real fun began. The After Networking Networking began at 7:30. We would just leave the Zoom meeting open for discussions all evening. Usually, we still had people deep in discussions well past 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
We had some amazing conversations, and it was so great to be a part of this amazing group of people. If you missed it, I have good news. We recorded the main sessions and saved them as podcasts. If you missed the After Networking Networking, sorry, you are out of luck. They were great. Here is the link to the podcasts. You can also subscribe through your podcast app.
I thoroughly enjoyed every session. I will admit, we set the bar pretty high for next winter. We had some amazing guests. Jump in, put your seatbelt on and I’ll take you for a ride through this amazing trip we had. We kicked off with a bang in December with Nicole Masters and we had a great discussion on soil biology. Bale grazing was our next topic and Arron Nerbas gave us some great ideas. We then met Kelly Olson and tackled the issue of winter electric fencing. Tom Krawiec was up next and we discussed “How to ranch like a 12-year-old.” December was very powerful and we had some incredible numbers already. We had to “up” our Zoom account just so we could handle all the participants.
January rolled around and the momentum just kept growing. The regenerative mindset was first up as “Dr. Matt” Van Steelandt heated up the conversation. We were then wowed by one of my greatest mentors. Joel Salatin joined us as we discussed the different schools of thought within regenerative grazing. We then talked about the cattle cycle, buying and selling cows and the tax implications that go along with it. We had Chris Finch and Sheila Guy from FBC join us to help explain the tax side. The last night in January exploded the internet with one of the biggest rock stars of regenerative agriculture today. Gabe Brown joined us to talk about the importance of a polyculture of root systems for soil health. January was incredible.
February started by talking about dung. Dr. Kevin Floate joined us to talk about parasite control and how it affects the life within and around a dung pat. Next was Kevin Elmy and we mixed it up by chatting about cover crop concoctions all night. Carbon is such a big topic so we brought in two guest speakers to tackle it. Seth Itzkan and Kim Cornish joined us to dig deep into the soil carbon questions. We ended February with an amazing discussion on economics with Dallas Mount. The numbers just kept adding up. I still can’t believe the calibre of guests we were able to get.
Hold on tight, we are not done yet. March did not fade away. Our email list was growing exponentially. Bluesette Campbell started us off with a talk about the most important part of farming — the people side. Next, we took a look at regenerative agriculture on the cropping side with Brendon Rocky as our guest. Kelly Sidoryk then took us back to human resources with a discussion on succession planning. We ended March with two more rock stars of regenerative agriculture. Jim Gerrish amazed us with some grazing expertise and then Dr. Kris Nichols helped us under- stand the importance of soil health and how to manage for it.
What a ride. A huge shout out to all the special guests that took the time to join us. To all the participants, thank you so much for attending. Regenerative agriculture is GROing and networking is one of our greatest tools to help spread the word. Join us again next winter as we are sure to start up the WNN sessions again. A big thank you to GRO for helping set this all up.