A tale of two future ag leaders

VERMILION & SEDGEWCK, Alta. — Cultivating crops of young leaders and advocating for agriculture are the goals of two growing programs.

Lacey McCrae, 27, a semi-finalist with the Canadian Cattlemen Association’s Young Leaders program, and Kelsey Fenton in the Alberta Barley and Alberta Wheat Commission’s AdvancingAg program are among those participating.

“For anything to progress, there needs to be leaders,” said McCrae, who this 30 C day was volunteering at the Vermilion Fair.

Using the Alberta fair as an example, she said the 111-year-old event exists because of a team of people.

“Without hundreds of volunteer hours, it wouldn’t go,” she said.

“A lot comes from people stepping up.”

McCrae likes to be “a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Originally from a farm near Prince George, B.C., she raises Black Angus cattle and crops with her husband near Vermilion.

Trained at the city’s Lakeland College, McCrae said her career included horse training and agronomy before she settled into full-time farming.

She looks forward to meeting and creating networks with like-minded people at the Canadian Beef Industry conference in Calgary Aug. 15-17.

If she is one of the nine chosen for a nine-month mentorship, she hopes to work with a mentor to learn more about nutrition for her cow-calf herd.

Her other involvements include the Alberta Young Farmers and Ranchers, for which she writes articles and blogs showcasing what farmers do and why.

“I see advocating as a very necessary part of going forward in agriculture,” said McCrae.

“It seems we have an urban culture that is aggressive and we need to work harder at sharing our personal stories, make our ranch have a personal face.”

McCrae cited her own experience with cattle in distress.

“I wish we could get this message out about how much we deeply care about our animals,” she said.

“I’m willing to be half submerged in a watering bowl in -35 C with a howling wind just to try to save the life of one of my animals.”

Fenton, 28, disseminates valuable information to farmers and others through her extension work as an Alberta Service Board fieldman in the County of Flagstaff.

Fenton, one of eight in a year-long mentorship, is working with Brennan Turner of Farm Lead, hoping to acquire more knowledge about grain marketing for the family farm she and her husband will take over in the near future.

“It’s a different way to keep growing with our own knowledge of agriculture and to promote agriculture and get more advocacy,” she said. “It’s eye opening. It makes you more aware of what’s going on around you.”

Since graduating from the University of Saskatchewan’s agriculture college, she has worked for the county monitoring noxious weeds, insects and beaver dams and running events for farmers on concerns such as clubroot.

During her mentorship, Fenton will track grain prices at different elevators and attend re-lated conferences with the help of up to $4,000 available for such travel.

She will also write blogs, work on improving her public speaking, enlarge her social media presence through outlets such as Twitter and follow influential marketers online.

“I need to get an ag advocacy presence,” she said.

She doesn’t mind the extra work.

“I like to get out of the box, push myself to do a little bit more,” said Fenton, who played hockey for the university team and now enjoys fastball.

The program, which is available for those aged 18 to 35, is intended to inspire through a mentorship and leadership experience.

It’s the first year for the program, which could grow to 15 participants next year.

Kevin Bender of Sylvan Lake, Alta., a director and vice-chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission and member of the AdvancingAg selection committee, said the goal is to train future leaders.

“It pairs up those who want to learn with those who are already doing it,” he said.

“It’s a worthwhile endeavour to help and educate those who want to learn a little more in agriculture and attract more interest into the field.”

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