What Is The Deal With Women in Agriculture? 

I was recently following a couple fairly active conversations in a group I am a member of, that focused on biases against Women working in Agriculture. I just couldn’t get on board with thinking about how bad it is – because I kept going back to thinking how much better it has become. At that time I already had a draft of this post done, and I have revised it a few times as I roll this situation around in my head. I am by no means making light of the struggles many women in the industry have gone through. I only want us to focus on the pride we should all take for our part in shaping the current landscape of acceptance. 

So here is the draft I decided to publish. Quite honestly I don’t love it. But my goal was to talk about Connect sometime this fall and being in the middle of harvest my blogging time is minimal for some reason! I can only speak from my own experience, so please let me know what your thoughts are on this subject. 

With the leaves turning color and the dust flying, harvest in Saskatchewan is in full swing.  Now that the season is upon us I can’t help but reminisce about Tiffany Martinka and the hashtag she started last year with women of harvest 15 (#womenofharvest15).  It coincided with a blog post I wrote titled ‘What Do You Do For a Living?’ that focused on convincing women to be proud to say they are a farmer. They were both included in a buzzfeed article titled; These Bad Ass Women Are Taking Selfies To Show How They Harvest Like a Boss. Contrary to how it may have come across to some people, neither of these things were an attempt to pat ourselves on the back. What they were, was a honest and heartfelt effort to bring awareness to some issues within the agriculture industry. 

One of the issues many of us are trying to address is women underplaying the roles that they fill in agriculture, or the knowledge that they have. I know women that handle the finances, women that seed the crop, women that spray the pesticides, women that pull the calves, women that fix the machinery, women that work as grain buyers, in seed sales, and as agronomists. For me its not about feminism or sexism, it’s simply about pride. When I was pregnant with my first child my Step-Mother politely told me that I didn’t have to put ‘farming’ on the occupation line of my patient profile at the doctors office, and that I could put ‘self employed’ instead. Ladies, we should be proud of the roles we play and the contributions we make to agriculture in Canada. The industry needs us. Do not be afraid to show your confidence at work or to stand up and say ‘I am a farmer’.  

As an industry I think we should celebrate how far we have come in acceptance of women. Most people don’t even blink when they see a female doing a job that used to be typically identified as a man’s. It honestly feels to me that agriculture as a whole is starting to understand that gender has no place in the conversation and women are encouraged as much as men. I found myself relating the situation to what Will Smith said in an interview with Steven Colbert a few weeks ago. When asked about racisim in the US he said (I’m paraphrasing here) I’m not going to get caught in the trap of talking about how bad it is because it’s not. It’s not as bad as it was 20 years ago and it’s certainly not as bad as it was 60 years ago. It’s by no means perfect, but maybe more acceptance will result if we focus on how far we have come. Years ago when I first got involved in my husbands family farm a women’s opinion was new, and definately out of the ordinary on this operation. I really struggled to find resources to help me learn more about the business and I felt very alone in my quest. These types of challenges certainly still exist but today we have many great resources to help such as FarmHer which shines a light on women in Ag through positive stories, imagery and now a TV series, or industry groups taking initiatives like this one (The Women of Real Pig Farming). There are also various Facebook groups that work to connect and encourage women in the industry: Ag Womens Network and  Women In Ag or Saskatchewan Women In Ag and any Tuesday you can join in a Twitter chat called #AgChat to connect and learn from other farmers across the world. Don’t let a preconceived notion or someone else’s negative experience keep you away, if you are looking for a job to be passionate about agriculture is the ticket and if you are looking for support there are lots of us here. 

My memory says that I communicated these ideas a bit more eloquently in last years post, but my website crashed shortly after and that particular blog was lost so I can’t be sure (my memory has been known to fail me before). Regardless, my original inspiration to write it was to help promote a new event called ‘Connect: Women in Agriculture’. The first of its kind (in my corner of the world), this event focuses on bringing the different  women involved in agriculture together for a two day conference and promises to be jam packed with learning, networking, and fun. The second annual event will be held on Nov 2 & 3 in Saskatoon, SK and I highly recommend you go if you are a women involved in the agriculture industry at any level. Let’s connect and support each other! See this link for more information. There is also a Canadian conference called Advancing Women in Agriculture held in 2 locations. You can learn more about these events here. (Catch up on what you missed by following #AWCeast2016 and #AWNchat) 

So I guess I’ll leave this post by saying what you should already know. Things have changed. Farmers don’t wear overalls and hold pitchforks anymore, sometimes they wear Silver jeans and lip gloss. You don’t have to list ‘farm wife’ on the occupation line at the doctors office and you can get that Ag degree and be kick ass at your job after you graduate. In my opinion, there has never been a better time to be a woman and to be involved in agriculture! 

Happy Harvest to all the men and #womenofharvest16  

Categories: Agvocacy, Ask a Farmer, Family Farming, FarmHer, Farming, Harvest 2016, Jobs in agriculture, Love Sask Food, Saskatchewan, Uncategorized, Women in Ag | 3 Comments

A Better Backyard BBQ with Bison. 

Ok, let’s be honest. It isn’t better. I do not believe in tearing down one area of our diverse, plentiful and exceptionally safe food supply in order to promote another. Canadian raised beef, pork, turkey, chicken and specialty meats such as lamb or bison are among the highest quality in the world. “Recognized around the world as one of the best, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency federal inspection system has allowed Canada to export meat to over 150 countries. Canadians should be proud of this reputation, and the Canadian Meat Council is committed to working with the CFIA on continuous improvement to maintain our international and domestic reputations.”

I do have a soft spot for bison meat though. When I was growing up my aunt and uncle (Marie and Jack Evans of Clair Side Bison) always made sure we had a steady supply of this heart healthy protein in our diet. We now raise our own animals and I am doing the same for my family.

What is Bison?

Original settlers of the American West called North American bison “buffalo,” because they were reminiscent to Asian and African buffalo. Although it is a misnomer, the name buffalo is still commonly used today.  I personally have had consumers question me when I say that we raise buffalo, because they have never heard of this animal.  The correct term is bison and in Canada meat is correctly labeled as “bison,” so consumers know they are buying this specific North American product.

A Brief History 

As settlers moved into the center of the continent looking for land to farm, and towns to build, the natural home of both the native people and bison diminished. Historical accounts suggest there were 60 million bison in 1800. By 1899 there were less than 1000 bison left.

In 2005, it was estimated that there were over 500,000 bison on farms and ranches in North America and in Canada we have almost 2000 bison producers who own over 250,000 bison. Because of consumer demand and the initiatives of farmers and ranchers the population of this almost extinct animal continues to grow – a conservation success story.

Why Choose Bison?

Because bison move constantly, grazing specific areas intensely for short periods, they actually enhance biodiversity. Each year a bison cow and her calf require an average of four to sixteen hectares of grazing land depending on the weather and range conditions in any particular neighborhood. As bison move across the land, they create good locations for the seeds of new prairie plants to germinate. The result is a varied grassland that hosts butterflies, pollinating insects, and nesting birds.

The bison’s healthy diet, along with their stress-free lifestyle, results in a lean protein and nutrient packed meat. Bison meat is a flavourful, tender and a lower fat red meat alternative. Similar to fine beef but slightly sweeter and richer in taste, it is often described as a meat with a rich flavour satisfying you more while eating less. Studies have shown that the meat from Bison is a highly nutrient dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, mineral, and fatty acids to its caloric value. 

Comparisons to other meat sources have also shown that Bison has a greater concentration of iron as well as some of the essential fatty acids necessary for human well being. Readers’ Digest magazine has even listed bison as one of the five foods women should eat because of the high iron content. When I first looked into the nutrient comparisons between bison and other meats I was shocked that a red meat could have considerably less fat than chicken, less calories than salmon, one of the lowest amounts of cholesterol while still having very high amounts of iron and vitamins.  With it’s wonderful rich taste and it’s significant nutritional performance, bison meat has often been referred to as the meat of the future.  It is most definitely the meat of the ‘present’ in my kitchen.

I am aware that a post like this should probably include a wonderful recipe using bison meat and beautiful picture of it. Sadly I have found out that I do not have a talent for food photography (I am actually really bad at it so you will have to settle for enjoying the stock photos below).  I am going to leave this post by saying, just use it in any beef recipe (that’s what I do).  Our family favorites include a good bison rib-eye steak cooked over an open fire, or sweet and sour bison meatballs served with white rice.  The secret is a lower temp and a longer cooking time (slow and low) especially for steaks or roasts.  Because of the lower fat content, prepared bison is always a little redder in color than beef, so don’t be fooled when cooking a steak! 

Thanks for reading!  Stop in and check out my sources for more info:




Categories: Agvocacy, Ask a Farmer, canadian beef, Canadian Meat Council, Family Farming, Farming, Love Sask Food, Saskatchewan Beef, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Did Someone Say ‘Long Weekend’? Not for these Farm Kids. 

Members of the Kelvington 4H Grain club are learning all to soon that at certain times of the year, holidays and long weekends don’t mean much to a farmer. Seasonal work doesn’t wait so holidays have to. Often farmers schedules offer them alternative times to celebrate or relax, like during the winter. But these sort of self regulated holidays don’t work very well when you are a student and a school division sets your schedule. Which is even more reason to be impressed that some of our club members gave up their day off at home to go to another school and learn!

This years field trip for our club may sound a little boring, but it was packed full of new experiences and information that directly applied to what we are learning about in a 4H Grain Club. Early on in the year I set out on a mission to find someone that would address the issue of the importance of biotechnology and plant genetics in modern day agriculture (after some great tour suggestions by the parents in our club). If you follow my writing at all you will know how I feel about farmers educating ourselves so we have the ability to answer tough questions and can help educate consumers. Who better to learn about this topic from than some university professors or research heads! The problem was, these people have actual jobs that keep them very busy and most 13-16 year olds aren’t interested in doing lab tours. This was definitely a new request for many of the people I contacted. To say I had a little trouble getting people to respond to our bright ‘4H club tour’ idea, would be a bit of an understatement.

Just as I was ready to give up and started discussing alternate tour options with the club leaders, a lone person responded to my requests. Dr. Martin Erlandson (research scientist – microbiology, insect virology) of Ag Canada answered the phone one day and offered to see what he could do to help us out. I’m not sure what hoops he and the administration had to jump through but they got us in and did a great job showing our club the work that is done at the Agriculture and AgriFood Canada Saskatoon Research Centre. The North East 4H office (thanks Jodi Schellenberg) helped me get in touch with Alicia Wehrkamp at the University and with her assistance we had a full day of learning on the U of S campus!

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Categories: 4H, Agvocacy, Ask a Farmer, Community, Family Farming, Farming, Saskatchewan, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Food Freedom Day!


The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has calculated that in 2016 Canada’s food freedom day will be February 9. This is the day that the average Canadian will have earned enough money to pay for his or her grocery bill for the entire year. In 2015 that boiled down to 11% of disposable income spent on food (note: that’s only DISPOSABLE income). This means in Canada we have a lot more available money to spend on things like housing, education and recreation (fun things like a family holiday or sporting events). Lucky us!


We should celebrate having such an early food freedom day, but celebrate with caution. Our FFD has fallen back a few days this year due to the rising cost of food. A low dollar means higher prices on imports, and Canada imports a lot of produce. Prices are forecasted to continue to rise in the coming months. If this worries you, just keep in mind how lucky Canada is in comparison to other countries. As a mother it is exciting to have a choice between 7 different kinds of milk at the grocery store, but what I think is even better is that every day more and more mothers in poverty stricken countries are able to wake up knowing their children won’t starve to death. Biotechnology and agriculture are helping in this area and have the ability to balance out economic and food inequalities around the world, if we allow it. So lets look at how lucky Canadians actually are compared to the rest of the world:

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Categories: Agvocacy, Ask a Farmer, Family Farming, Farming, GMOs, Saskatchewan, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Rain, moons and sunsets. Beauty from the field.

With the early start to harvest this year, I had my heart set on finishing around (Canadian) Thanksgiving. With our harvesting time being stalled by over 14 days due to rain, things didn’t work out quite to my plan. In this industry you would think I would have learnt by now to never make plans!

I have numerous people that I need to say thank you to this fall. Without all the support received I would not have made it through. My Mother in Law came down to help a couple weekends with cooking and to hang with my boys, my friend Sara helped me in a pinch or two with my kids, as did my sisters Marsha and Melanie. Our neighbor, Lorraine, helped with meals for part of our harvest run. My kids who put up with a harried and stressed out Mother who seemed to forget almost everything. And of course all the guys that helped in the field. There is no way we could pull this off without you!

So again we are stopped because of rain. With only about 4 hours left on our last day that pesky rain cloud just wouldn’t wait for us to finish up. I am choosing to not let it bother me and popping onto my blog page to share some of the reasons I am convinced we live in the most beautiful place in the world. Here is a little piece of harvest 2015 on our farm. (Please excuse my new found love for prairie sunset pictures. You would think the effect would eventually wear off but I continue to be awed by the beauty of where I live)





This sunset happened while harvesting our ‘home quarter’ which is the field around our house.







Thanksgiving supper in the field, just as the rain started.



One of my moose friends who hung out and watched us combine for a couple days. They were completely unbothered by all the activity.





Moving to a new field. Stopping for a quick bite to eat while we wait for the rest of the crew.



One of the many sets of rain clouds that rolled in.



This was actually early on in the evening that the eclipse happened. I watched it all with my boys from the combine cab.



Lots of rain this fall made harvest all around more difficult.



My favorite picture from this fall. I waited for the combine (my hubby and my oldest were in this one) to keep traveling North until it was in front of the sun but the hopper got full and it turned around! This snapshot still gives you a good idea of the amazing sunsets we get to see from the field during harvest.


Categories: Agvocacy, Family Farming, Farming, Harvest 2015, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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