In November, I attended the Agriculture Excellence Conference in Winnipeg, MB as a guest of Farm Management Canada. I was one of three winners of the “Y We Farm” video contest. I received email updates from Farm Management Canada, and the video contest kept coming across my inbox. As always I procrastinated, because I couldn’t think of a good response to the question “What does the future of Canadian Agriculture look like to you?”
On October 17, I received an email that said, “One Week Left—WIN Your way to the Agriculture Excellence Conference!” I kept looking at the agenda and there were quite a few speakers I have wanted to see, but I had already budgeted my conference funds elsewhere. That afternoon, while my son and daughter were helping us with chores, the answer to “What does the future of Canadian Agriculture look like to you” came to me; it is not technology, but our children! I finally decided to enter the contest. I always wanted to make a short video about our farm because I feel it is an easy way to convey my passion about agriculture and farm life to others. I had started numerous videos before and was never happy about them because they had no direction. The “Y We Farm” title really hit home for me. One, I always get asked the question, “Why would two young people with University degrees want to farm?” Second, my husband and I are the fifth generation to farm on his family’s farm. My answer to the future of Canadian ag question a good reason to show others why I’m so passionate about farming, I now had great direction to make a video.
When I arrived at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg for the Agriculture Excellence Conference (AgEx for short), I was immediately blown away. There was a tracked John Deere tractor greeting us outside the hotel downtown and a John Deere Gator in the hotel lobby! What a neat first impression! I have been to a few conferences in hotels, but none have had the exterior presence of agriculture, like AgEx did.
Initially, when I looked at the agenda, I was a bit surprised that they had an economist kick off the conference. I honestly was a little skeptical, and will admit, economic outlooks can sometimes come off a bit dry. Oh wow, was I wrong! J.P. Gervais, Chief Economist for Farm Credit Canada had my attention the entire time he was on stage. He gave more of a “Cole’s Notes” version about the current economic status of agriculture and even included livestock. From his presentation, I learned that Canada is the largest agriculture importer and exporter in the world on a per capita base. I also liked how he encouraged all of us to “Think global and act local,” and reminded us that “Consumers rule; be receptive to what consumers want.”
Also on the first day, Earl Geddes presented to the group on Global Market Outlook and Opportunity. This was a very well delivered presentation with the use of lots of photos from his trips around the world following Canadian grains to the end user. I learned so much about the global market that I did not know or realize . A few key points I learned:
*In developing countries, as income increases, they shift their diet from rice to wheat.
*Japan pays the most for food.
*Italy has the smallest population growth in the world.
*Nigeria has the largest flour mill in the world.
*Baking with pulse flour is the up and coming trend.
Earl also encouraged farmers to travel internationally to see where the products they raise end up. He also urged us that knowing and understanding your potential consumers’ needs are crucial.
The second and third days focused on business management. This has always been a topic that I have never felt applicable to our farm, being relatively small. After this conference, however, business management is an area in which our farm could use a bit more focus . The speakers really drove home to me how important it is to have a written farm business plan. All the speakers during these two days were excellent, but I especially enjoyed Elaine Froese. I might be a bit biased as I follow her columns in the Grainews and Alberta Farmer Express, but I really enjoyed the fact that the audience could text her questions during her talk and she answered them immediately. She was also a very approachable person and I was fortunate to be sitting near her and visited with her during a coffee break.
Networking during the conference was very easy. There was a lot of time for interacting amongst other conference participants with the roundtable discussions and farm management initiatives showcase sessions. I found it very neat to be at a conference that focused on farm management, not just livestock or crop issues. Throughout the conference, I sat with dairy, poultry, egg, potato, vegetable, and fruit farmers, as well as various industry representatives. That was a first for me and a very memorable experience.
The AgEx Conference was presented by Farm Management Canada (FMC). According to their website, “Farm Management Canada is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to providing leading edge resources to enable Canadian farmers to make sound management decisions.” This statement was definitely reinforced at the AgEx Conference. FMC is an excellent resource for all producers, whether they are just starting out or have been in agriculture for a while. They provide them with webinars and tools online to start, better and further their farm business. FMC is an organization that serves as a liaison, connecting and providing information for people in the agriculture industry.
Disclosure: As part of my prize, I was asked to write a piece about my impressions of the AgEx Conference. All opinions on this blog are my own.