Lucky me! I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Young Farmers Forum held in Ottawa this year. The conference moves across the country annually, but I walked away from this one with a very bittersweet feeling. It was hard to leave, as much as I love home, I still had feelings uprising inside me as I was walking to the parking garage. I had met and/or reconnected with all these amazing individuals and then just like that, after four days, they are gone…only to hopefully see them next year when we celebrate agriculture and put our minds together all over again at the next CYFF.
Young farmers from one side of Canada to the other have the opportunity to network, learn and communicate. It is such a comfortable, fun environment and being a teacher I know that it is easiest for anyone to learn when they are in a comfortable environment. Often I am a very introverted person and am afraid to speak up and share my thoughts, but everyone was in the same position as me, having gaps in knowledge and expertise in one commodity or topic over another. That supportive environment and the quality of presenters is what did it for me. The quality is outstanding and even when we are tired from late nights and early mornings, we still watch with intensity because it is genuinely interesting what these presenters have to share with us young farmers. The topics truly do leave us feeling inspired and motivated. I take the most away from the virtual farm tours and family farm presentations. I think it is really touching to see each farmer talk about their journey and often hear a tremble in their voice as they talk about it, partly because of their passion and slightly because they are not professional speakers who get up in front of a large audience all the time. It is very real and when something is very real it is believable and inspiring. It is rewarding to see those individuals from different educational backgrounds take a leap of faith and combine it with education and a well thought business management plan. Some change their careers entirely and pursue farming. Farming becomes their way of life and their fear of the unknown becomes a wee bit smaller as their knowledge expands and trial and error sets in.
Confident Conversations was a topic that caught my eye on the agenda. Having confidence when speaking about agriculture and how to do it in a non-defensive manner is really important. Anyone can respond to a comment, but not everyone can respond in a professional manner. We need to represent agriculture in a professional manner all the time and that point was stressed in a positive way. It was also very interesting to hear about how relationships affect your business. Farmers generally work with their families, as many farms are passed on from generation to generation and a family business can be very trying at times. The way we react to situations can affect an outcome in succession planning or just the way you leave someone feeling and we were reminded to be mindful of everything we do and say. I cannot possibly touch on all the topics presented, but lastly I wanted to emphasize the push for social media. Several presenters expressed their passion for agriculture through social media tools and outlined strategies to use. Tweet about it, brand yourself and your business, write articles, blog it, facebook page it…most importantly share and educate in any form you can because there is a huge disconnect between agriculture and most of the general public population.
I got in my car and felt a few tears fall down my cheeks. I laughed at myself and drove off, pondering why I was feeling so nostalgic. I drove home for four hours and little of that time was spent thinking of anything else. Get a life, right? That is how I felt, but that is the impact that all these delegates and speakers left on me. They left me wanting more and created in me a very sentimental feeling that makes me want to do more, be as successful as I can in life and in agriculture and come back next year to share my successes with them and actively listen to theirs! I told myself I was being irrational, but that nostalgic feeling hit me with urgency. I already missed the conference before I turned left out of the parking garage. I already missed the friends I made and was reiterating interesting and fun conversations we had, just like someone might miss a part of their childhood that brought them comfort or seek memories of enjoyable times gone by. It is incredible that a conference can hold such an impact on an individual. If every person at the event walked away feeling the way I feel, CYFF did their job and impacted the minds of today’s young farmers. The conference has already become another sweet memory.
Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario