Jeannett is a farmer in North East Alberta in Canada.
I am a proud farmer alongside my husband and son on our 3,500 acre farm in north eastern Alberta. We are the third generation to farm this land. On our farm, we practice sustainable farming practices through crop rotation, accessing new plant science and technology. We grow canola, wheat, barley, oats and peas —the farm is situated in an area with short growing seasons and limited heat which dictates our crop choices.
I am so grateful to have an advocacy role with Canola Eat Well as a Farm Leader. In this role, I have the honour of sharing our farm-to-food story with city dwellers in Toronto at Canola Connect events. Here, we gather guests who have a social media presence to educate and connect them to a farmer by sharing stories and food. They have so many questions and misconceptions about who and how our food is grown and I am so fortunate to have these honest conversations with people who don’t have the facts about how safe the food we grow is for their families to eat. How do I know our food is safe? I grow it and I feed it to my own family.
My husband and I are canola seed reps. We sell canola and corn seed to many of our neighbouring farmers. This allows us to access the most current plant science and model it for our farmers.
Why do you love your job?
The opportunity to carry on with the family farming legacy and be entrusted with the overwhelming responsibility of growing food for families leaves me in wonder most days. The mornings when I get up and look out our front or back door and see our crops thriving under the blue Alberta sky fills me with pride. I am also filled with pride:
To know that the land that we are working to sustain will someday be left in the care of our son in better health than we first took over this farm.
To know that we are in a time where plant science is quickly changing for the betterment of the environment, consumers, and farmers around the world.
To know that technology is making it easier to farm more acres with fewer pesticides and impact on our land, air, and water.
To know that if we take care of this land, we can pass the legacy on with a clear conscious.
My role with Canola Eat Well allows me the privilege to teach and connect with city dwellers who may have never met a farmer before. I was a teacher before we took over the family farm so in my advocacy role, I get to teach people about my farm and the crops we grow. When I have a guest from Toronto come to me at the end of the evening and say to me “I had no idea ….. And thank you for growing my food” these comments impact me deeply. There is so much negative chatter about our food and when the guest can see and hear a real farmer speak from the heart about her land and her family who works together to produce food it really can change minds. I find this work so rewarding.
How did you get here?
I was the farm girl who swore she would never marry a farmer. I grew up on my parents mixed grain farm and saw the work and sacrifices my they made – especially my mother. She put her needs aside in order to care for her family and farm. I have to say I was drawn to a farm boy who gave me fair warning that eventually he wanted to take over his parent’s farm. So here I am a on a farm after years of teaching pre-schoolers. After college, careers, and kids, we took over my husband’s family farm where we experienced drought in our first year of farming. We struggled to get through it but with grit and trust in the future, we are still on this farm.
The beauty of my advocacy work as a Farm Leader is to share this first year of farming with guests. So that they understand that farming isn’t beauty yellow canola field and fiery pink sunsets. Farming is about a family working together to obtain success and survive the challenges while trusting in the science.
What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?
As a teacher and farmer, I would encourage a young farmer to expand her own knowledge and seek out knowledgeable people who want to see her grow as a good steward of the land. Growing sustainable food is the most essential career in the world. Civilizations depend on us, so own this role with pride and integrity.
How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?
Agriculture isn’t just what is happening on your land and the food that you are growing, it’s quickly evolving globally. Consumers are asking questions about how their food is being produced and who is producing it because there is an overwhelming amount of information. We need to share our farming stories with consumers so they can connect a human face to the food they are feeding their families, and receive our truth. As a teacher, I know the wonder and power of telling a story. As a farmer, I assume that no one can tell my farm-to-food story like me since farming is so personal and this is my family’s livelihood. We now have the role of not only producing sustainable food but we must also be our own best advocates for the food we grow.
What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?
At Canola Eat Well events, the guests that I engage with often are surprised that I am a farmer. First, I am a woman. Second, I am educated. Third, I don’t look like their image of a farmer (hair, make up, fashionably dressed.) Even some of my male farming counterparts are pleased to hear that I contribute to the harvest by running my own combine or carry bags of canola seed in the spring. I am sometimes frustrated that in this day and age, I am still having to prove that I am capable of being in a farming role.
I am excited to see more young women embracing careers in in agriculture. Stereotypes are being shattered by their presence in the agricultural industry.
Anything else you would like to share?
I am no different than any other female farmer. I just chose to use my voice to bring awareness to agriculture. Thank you for the acknowledgement to be a Female Food Hero.
I would like to acknowledge: My mother, Evelyn for being my role model in a time when women were not valued as contributors to the building of the family farm. Simone Demers Collins for providing me the opportunity to become a Canola Eat Well Ambassador. Ellen Pruden of Canola Eat Well as a consistent stream of encouragement and support as well as Jenn Dyck. Canadian Canola Farmers for their trust in me. My husband Dwayne, for being my cheerleader.
Jeannette is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.