I remember walking into my first Cattlemen’s meeting when I was a young woman. I was one of a very few ladies. Straight off the farm, I was not only unsure but politically uneducated and felt somewhat vulnerable. As the years rolled into decades the fear was replaced with confidence and my network grew to include hundreds of fellow cattlemen and women in the industry. Now when I walk into that room it is like going into a large farm kitchen, filled with old friends, some foes and new acquaintances.
In August at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference it was a thrill to not know everyone on a first-name basis. The atmosphere has changed and the farm kitchen has expanded to many new faces. The dynamic included the energy of young men and women who dominated the conversation. They were relaxed, informed, confident and ready for leadership roles. The regenerative spirit was palpable.
This is in part due to the work of women like Jill Harvie who developed the Cattlemen Young Leaders Program and opened the doors to youth. Her commitment can be measured. A mentorship is a great experience and the outcome of the last five years was evident by those mentees who now were in leadership positions.
In the crowd was a good friend of mine whom had sent me a note a few years ago reminding me “that this industry has been good to us.” That came from the dynamic Anne Wasko who has never failed to light up a room with her smile and deeply impress with her wisdom. Anne knows how to stay true to her style, say it like it is, care deeply and she knows the value of commitment. She has had an impact on generations of men and women who strive for excellence and given them confidence to ask the questions they need to ask.
Canadians attended from every province who were also part of the Canadian Young Farmers Forum, Farm Management Canada, breed associations, service providers and more. Not only did several Canadian Nuffield Scholars attend (I am a recipient) but one presented and two arrived for the conference from Australia, all evidence that our young global family is growing.
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The energy in this beef family is also due in part to the way we communicate as an industry and the strong impact of social media. When I first started feeding cattle we did not have cell phones, email, Internet or any instant messaging services. Telephone companies charged for long distance and we received our information by fax or mail! Now it all seems like a dark page in communication history when you compare it to the capabilities of today.
During the meeting the conference hashtag became the most used in Canada. That means that folks followed from around the country and the globe. It was a reflection of how youth communicates — in those amazing short and sweet messages that convey feeling and opinion. Just like the past elections, the beef industry has become a social media platform. If you want folks to come — you catch them on their cell phone and invite them in. The vibrant nature of social media allows for meetings to be fun and comments to be shared on the spot.
Communication comes in many different forms from the beautiful spoken word to what you read on these pages. In writing there is an opportunity to compliment, create dialogue and to take readers to a new plane of thought. It is a creative exercise that challenges the writer to be accurate, engaging and inspiring, and layer in messages that have impact.
It is by writing on these pages that I have received my greatest blessings — the men and women who have sent their thoughts on a wide range of topics by email, Twitter or Facebook, the encouragement they shared and the spoken compliments so kind that it makes my heart blush. This is a very special family.
I have sold my ranch and am now one step removed from the active duty that was the foundation of my living for 40 years. My writing will likely change a little and sometimes, as readers noted last month, I will take a break to ponder carefully the message that I feel needs to be shared. As we move through the pyramid of life from survival to success and finally to significance, our lens takes in many colours and we strive to share them in meaningful dialogue.
This is also an invitation for those vibrant young men and women in industry to consider moving onto these pages. There is no shortage of mentors, myself included, to help get you into the rhythm of this great magazine. Our legacy is not dependent on our accomplishments but by the talent we have nurtured in those around us. In the beef industry we have this fantastic dynamic that is not reflected in other areas of agriculture. We have engaged youth — young men and women who are committed and totally capable because of the leadership of women like Jill and Anne, the young executives and the young farmers and ranchers in Canada who live their core values. We are a family inspiring each other.
My family has grown to be international in scope and includes all walks of agriculture. I have been surrounded by the young and transformed into the realm of the possible. Each day is an exciting opportunity to learn and to share that experience. In the future, I look forward to walking into that giant industry kitchen and to be introduced to the person in the industry who competently will take my place at the table.