Farmfair hosts make show a welcoming place

EDMONTON — Every year at Farmfair visitors are treated to a big welcome from two longtime volunteers who keep the shows running smoothly with gentle humour and a heap of enthusiasm.

Rob Smith and Tracy Gardner, both of Olds, Alta., have a deep respect for the purebred cattle sector and give everyone equal en-couragement.

In their day jobs, Smith is chief executive officer of the Canadian Angus Association while Gardner is the business development manager for the Olds Regional Exhibition.

“I have always loved all breeds because I love the people in all the breeds,” Smith said.

“There is something so honest and so dignified about raising cows.”

Smith and Gardner are niece and uncle and come from ranching backgrounds at Olds at Diamond T Cattle Co.

Both appreciate that the purebred industry is big business where families are at the core with tremendous commitment and passion for what they do every day.

“I don’t believe the cattle shows are reflective of our sector under any circumstances, but I see them as one of the tools that are available to us from a marketing perspective, a networking perspective. I think it is an opportunity across breeds to see what people have got going on and become more familiar with everybody’s breeding programs,” Smith said.

“We just want to create as much connectivity and as much synergy between the exhibitors, the people in the stands, the judge and just make sure that everything is happening like an experience that has an impact on people.

“Every breed has great ones and when you are announcing, you have the opportunity to celebrate the great ones. You are celebrating people who are committed to raising cattle and committed to making superior genetics.… Those are people who are focused on something, are passionate about something and in some cases they are exceptionally talented.”

Gardner said she has been coming to Farmfair since she was a baby and still gets excited, whether she is announcing a show in Edmonton, Olds or the Calgary Stampede.

“I get total excitement when our divisions and championships and supremes are in because you have such a profound understanding of the work that goes into getting here,” she said.

Before joining the Angus association, Smith was with the 4-H division of Alberta Agriculture. Gardner is one of the driving forces behind Summer Synergy, a joint youth livestock program sponsored by the Olds Exhibition and Calgary Stampede.

Both have reached the point where they have watched members start out as toddlers and become confident beef producers as young adults.

“We are seeing a promising future because there is so much excitement and interest,” said Gardner.

“They are willing to invest their money regardless of what breed. They are willing to embrace social media platforms as a way to share their interests and as a promotion. We have never been so fortunate in our industry to see such a great group of young people,” she said.

“Our youth today are the best they have ever been. They are so disciplined and so interested. They are so passionate and they are talented beyond belief. Our young people don’t do anything unless they do it really well.”

No matter what the age of the exhibitors or the type of cattle on display, Smith and Gardner see their jobs as a celebration of excellence.

“Celebrating excellence is a very easy thing to do, and I think it is very rewarding,” Smith said.

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