BUILDING INDUSTRY LEADERS
BY IAN DOIG • PHOTOS BY ROB MCMORRIS
Despite his urban upbringing, Roddy Campbell (pictured above, front row, far right) moved to Calgary from Toronto four years ago to work in the agriculture sector. Initially hired by Cargill, the Dalhousie University commerce graduate is now an agricultural services account manager for TD Canada Trust. He said the general willingness of farmers and other ag professionals to help industry newcomers such as himself speaks volumes. The 31-year-old has developed an enthusiasm for his adoptive field that is infectious. “The ag industry is like the tech industry,” he said. “It’s always changing and it’s always relevant.”
Taking advantage of a formal mentorship opportunity, Campbell has enrolled in the AdvancingAg Future Leaders Program, which is offered by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and Alberta Barley. The program pairs a broad range of experienced agriculture professionals with newcomers aged 18 to 35 for 10- to 12-month mentorships.
GrainsWest met with program participants and sponsors at the AdvancingAg 2019 launch held July 31 in a small boardroom at Calgary’s Hotel Arts. The reception followed a planning session in which participants got to know one another. Mentors helped their mentees begin an ongoing process of establishing professional development goals and objectives. They then discussed how these might be met by taking online courses, attending events and so on.
Campbell’s mentor is Alberta Agriculture and Forestry agronomist Bill Chapman. “He’s a really big influencer in his area and a really knowledgeable person,” said Campbell. Not having received a formal ag education, Campbell hopes Chapman can guide him in filling out his industry knowledge gap. He noted that the program puts the onus on the mentee to take ownership of the learning process.
Campbell hopes the program will increase his agricultural knowledge and open more doors for him within the industry. As an eager ag convert, he said he also wants to help bridge the gap between urban consumers and farmers.
Twenty-five-year-old Addison Cullen is a location manager for the Richardson Pioneer Bow Island Ag Business Centre. The Lethbridge resident earned an agribusiness degree at the University of Manitoba. He recently completed his mentorship and recommends the program to others. Like Campbell, he responded to the program’s self-starting nature. “You’ll get out what you put in,” he said. “The wheat and barley commissions have done a great job providing support. From there, it’s go and learn as much as you can or as much as you want.”
With AWC and Alberta Barley business development and markets manager Geoff Backman as his mentor, Cullen focused his mentorship learning areas on leadership skills and public speaking. He also researched agronomy technology and grain merchandizing planning tools used by farmers. In addition, he said the program’s networking opportunities have opened doors for him and he was pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed writing the blog entries required of AdvancingAg mentees. “I learned a lot about myself and what I can do,” he said. “It got me thinking I should be blogging and using social media more than I do.
“Geoff’s experience in the grain business really overlapped with a lot of my day to day tasks, and we had some really good discussions on the grain side of the business,” he explained. “His knowledge from a marketing standpoint and what producers are looking for from a grain buyer really helped set the direction on my learnings and my objectives.”
“One of the benefits of this program is it challenges the mentees to consider their roles and where they want to be,” said Backman. “This program really facilitates that process, which otherwise would be tough on your own.”
Backman also noted that the program forces both mentees and mentors to challenge themselves. In his time coaching, he has developed skills that he will apply to his own career. “I hope it makes me a better manager in the future,” he said. “The end result is both mentor and mentee are better equipped to face the challenges that the ag industry faces day to day.”
Corteva Agriscience is a program sponsor and its junior staff members have taken part in the Future Leaders mentorships. Marketing communications leader for Canada, Loralee Orr commends the diversity of professionals, including farmers, brewers and regulatory and policy professionals, who are available to mentor and network with participants. “We’ll certainly use it as an opportunity for Corteva to be introduced to young leaders and hopefully support them in their initiatives,” she said.
For more information on the AdvancingAg Future Leaders Program, visit advancingag.com.