Sask. girl gets taste of farming in Mattel mentorship program

MOSSBANK, Sask. — If Jillian Fehr had any doubt that girls could be anything they want to be, that was put to rest last week during a dream day on the Nagel farm near Mossbank.

The seven year old, who lives with parents, Mitch and Jolene, and her older brothers on an acreage near Assiniboia, Sask., wants to be a farmer.

“Because I can grow my own food,” she said when asked why.

The family runs a meat business, and has backyard chickens and a garden, but doesn’t farm.

When Jolene saw a Facebook link to enter the You Can Be Anything mentorship program, sponsored by Barbie, she knew Jillian had to enter.

“She loves watching things grow,” Jolene said.

The opportunity was open to Saskatchewan girls and featured a one-day farming experience with Cherilyn Nagel, a farmer and member of the Global Farmer Network.

To the Fehrs’ surprise, Jillian was selected.

The day included being followed and interviewed by a film crew and several media outlets. The You Can Be Anything program, sponsored by Mattel, will eventually post a YouTube video of Jillian and Cherilyn’s adventure.

Nagel showed Jillian what comes from the crops her family grows. Canola seed eventually becomes canola oil. Lentils make good chili and delicious brownies.

“I got a call in spring inquiring about the program,” Nagel explained. “This is really special for me because I have two daughters.”

They certainly know that women can be farmers and showcasing that possibility to another young girl was important to her.

Nagel said even in an agricultural province, there are many young children who don’t have the chance to experience farming even though it might be a career they’d pursue.

It’s a complex industry with many facets and opportunities, she said.

“It’s difficult to explain agriculture to people in Toronto but it’s equally difficult to take the time to explain it to people who are local,” she said.

“Sometimes we take for granted here that everyone knows what we do.”

During the busy harvest time, accommodating Jillian’s first-ever ride in a combine took some co-ordination but her mile-wide smile after riding with Natalie Nagel, Cherilyn’s sister-in-law, and combining canola said it all.

“I was really excited,” Jillian said of learning she had won an experience she would treasure.

She also received a package of Barbie products, including Farmer Barbie, which comes dressed in a plaid shirt, jeans and boots and is accompanied by a chicken.

“The idea they would now have a farmer Barbie is about as cool as it gets,” Nagel said, who added she remembers letting her imagination run when she played with Barbies as a child.

Jillian already knows a bit about her chosen profession. She receives a paycheque from her brother for helping with his 100 chickens and is saving her money.

“She’s already got the work ethic and a savings account,” Nagel noted.

Jillian also spent time with Nagel’s daughters, Claire and Addison. Addison wrote and illustrated a book for Jillian about how grain is grown and ends up on ships heading to customers.

Mattel’s philosophy is that when girls play with Barbies they imagine everything they can become.

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