The Power of Social Media: A Happy Story

Last year during mental health awareness week I opened up and told the online world about my experiences of being a child through a nasty divorce. The blog took a lot of courage and back and forth thinking if I should bother posting it, but now I sure am happy I did. Blog post here – Thank You Therapy: The Broken Kid

Last week I was at a conference and I was approached by a young boy, maybe 10 years old. He kept looking at my name tag, then back to my face. Finally I asked him if he was enjoying the conference. He smiled, and said that he was really enjoying it, but his dad told him to come talk to me. A bit shocked, I asked oh, and who is your dad? Instead of telling me who his dad was he shook his head and asked me if he could eat lunch with me.

At lunch this boy continued to tell me that the reason his dad told him to come talk to me is because his parent’s told him they had decided they no longer wanted to be together and he was really upset about it. He felt scared, alone, and that no one understood. His dad had seen my blog post earlier and told his son that everything will be okay, see, this girl got through it!

I told the boy I can’t understand exactly what he is going through because every situation is different, but I could understand the hurt he must be feeling. This young boy told me how he felt, how he got in trouble at school, and how he thinks it happened because he was mad at his parents. It was like speaking to the younger male version of myself when I was going through that too.

The boy and I continued to talk, but eventually we both had to part ways. I asked him if he felt a bit better and he said he felt, in his words, “Greeaaaattt!” I couldn’t believe it. That young boy has given me a whole new outlook on the power of social media. My story, although so hard to share, went above and beyond where I ever expected it to go. Now, I am happy I shared that story. It helped this young boy see that life DOES get better. For that, social media has proved to be a much more powerful tool than I originally realized, again.

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5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Farming

As the weather begins to cool down, well except for today as it will be 18 degrees Celsius, our harvest has come to an end and we are planning and preparing for next spring. So finally, I have some time to write.

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This year I learned A LOT. I thought I knew a bit about growing pumpkins, direct marketing to the local food market, and a bit of agronomy, but I was very wrong. I knew some things, but in the past on our other farm in eastern Ontario I always had my grandpa Curtis or Dad directing me in some way. This year, I was pretty much on my own with moral support from Nanny and Grandpa Banks and my dad. I mean, they helped me when they could, but they basically said, “We will help where we can, but if you really want to do this you need to see for yourself if this is what you want.” So, I put on my big girl boots, stood up straight and said, “I can do it.” But here are 5 things I learned in my first year of farming:

There is a reason your family did something in the past, so you might want to at least listen.

Being in a new-to-me area of Ontario to farm proved to be interesting right from the beginning. From day 1 of me handing my Grandpa Banks a cheque for land rent my grandparents and my dad tried to tell me things like, “Don’t put the tractor in the shed that way” or “Make sure you tell the custom sprayer to not go into the north east corner” and being stubborn, I ignored them. BUT, as they like to point out, I learned my lesson a few times and then I started to listen. I started to actually take 5 minutes to sit down with them and ask why I should or shouldn’t do something. Lesson here is listen to those giving you advice. It doesn’t mean you have to take the advice, but sometimes they actually know what they are talking about (says Miss Stubborn, so it’s good advice).

Work with those that want to work with you 

Farming is not an easy venture. It can be stressful and you can get exhausted, but then you see how far you have come and you realize how much you enjoy it and why you do it. You also realize very quickly who is out to help you, who is watching you, and who is out to take you down. The people that offer a lending hand of genuine support, work with those people. Those are the people that will help you and want to see you succeed. Those people can be consultants, your neighbours, or even other people from around the world. Cheers to the power of social media!

Prepare to make a lot of decisions, and THINK before you DO

It sounds naive, but I honestly always thought my family had our farm decisions all thought out and I was just told to go, “Clean that up” or “Plant that field” and that was all there is to it. What I learned is there are a lot of discussions and thought behind those decisions and things I had never thought of. For example, this year I didn’t have a weed control plan for our farm market and realized very quickly that was a big discussion and decision I did not think of before. My lesson was learned as I had to hand hoe over 3 acres of pumpkins 3 – 4 times a week all summer.

It sounds obvious, but I learned to think before I do. I made a lot of quick decisions thinking, “Why not!” and then realizing, “Oh no…” shortly after. I did some market research on the local food market in Dufferin County before planting the farm market produce, but went online to buy seed and saw so many beautiful varieties of pumpkins. So being drawn to those I purchased a few packs of seeds of different varieties and sold all of the pumpkins, but not easily. Apparently I am one of the few people who think pink pumpkins are cute!

Make do with what you have access to

Last fall I met up with our farm accountant so she could basically give me a lesson in managing the farm business side of things and how to properly keep track of spending and earning. I clearly remember leaving that meeting with one resounding thought in my head, “Whatever you do, only purchase what you absolutely need.” So I went for this past year, and for another few years ahead, with a custom operator for the cash crops and using our older loader tractors for anything I possibly could. Side Note: Kubota loader tractors can haul a lot more than you think! Until they break.

There is one thing I did end up buying and that is a truck. I learned early on that farming with an SUV would be difficult, but I didn’t realize just how difficult until I got stuck in a field 5 kilometers from the home farm and had to walk back in the cold wind and a week later tried to haul a hay wagon and couldn’t even move. So, I purchased what I needed, because I absolutely needed it.

truck-soys

 

Mother Nature truly is your boss

Between working a full time job and trying to successfully run a farm business I learned that Mother Nature truly is my boss. She will continue to be my boss as she decides when it is time to plant and harvest and when I should spray. This year I missed being at the farm while the custom operator planted and harvested our cash crops as I was away for work, but I knew it needed to be done when Mother Nature allowed it. I love my agribusiness job so sometimes getting photos from the custom work being done is a good compromise too!

custom-worker

Overall this year has taught me a lot. I know understand where I want the farm to go and just how badly I want to fulfill this dream of mine to successfully farm and feed the world. I know that it will continue to be hard work and that there will be good years and bad years. If there is one thing I learned this year though, is to follow your passion. Regardless of what anyone ever says to you, your passionate about something for a reason. Maybe in 10 years we won’t be growing pumpkins and into something different, but who knows. All I know is that I love farming, no matter how tough it can be at times!

me-and-pump

Consumer Demands & Earl’s Decision

I find consumer purchasing patterns and demands interesting. Whether it’s trying to understand the reason behind people purchasing an iPhone over an android phone or trying to find the real reason why consumers demand their food be raised/grown a specific way, it’s very… interesting.

Yesterday, Earl’s announced they no longer would be purchasing Canadian beef. Although I still trust beef that comes from the United States and I understand that they probably made this decision based on their customers demands, I don’t agree with it. Actually, I don’t find it rational at all.

Right now, there is a huge demand in the local food movement. According to The Conference Board of Canada’s Cultivating Opportunities: Canada’s growing Appetite for Local Food Report “interest in local food is largely driven by concerns about food quality, health and nutrition, food safety, the environment, and a desire to support local economies and farmers.” So if consumers are wanting to support local for these reasons, then why did Earl’s make the change? Why wouldn’t they just implement a marketing campaign promoting the fact that they serve real Canadian beef?

There are many different definitions of what local food really is, but as a consumer myself I would support Canadian anything if that was what was being promoted. It makes me wonder if Earl’s did some market research on this or did they just ‘go jump off a cliff because everyone else did’. Did they ask their customers if they would visit more often if they served hormone-free beef or would they visit more if they served local, Canadian beef? If this research is public, I would love to see it. As a marketer and businesswoman I could at least then begin to comprehend why they made this decision.

So what are consumers demanding more of? As an industry, what can agriculture do to help support a demand we can all agree with? Earl’s is yet another restaurant making a decision based on what their customers want. So how can agriculture create a demand? Is there a way or do we just sit back and let consumers tell us how to farm?

And with that, I’ll let you think on it for a bit.

 

#NoMoreBullies : Agriculture Style

How do you define bullying?  Is it something only kids experience? If you asked me these questions, I would say that there are many different types of bullying and it can be experienced by anyone at any age.

I don’t want this to turn into a rant, but people, let’s just be kind to one another and stop the bullying.

Every morning I have the same routine. I wake up, check my social media platforms, and get ready to start my day. When I do this I see what not just farmers, but non-ag folks are saying to each other and honestly, it drives me crazy. Most of the time there are some really interesting things to read through and I love hearing about what other people are up to, but if you’re calling people names or trying to be hurtful, it’s unnecessary and you should stop right there.

At London Dairy Congress a few weeks ago, there were some animal activists standing outside of the building calling farmers and other attendees names as they walked in. Although most farmers were able to let that slide off their shoulders, some farmers/attendees were genuinely hurt. They would ask me questions like, “Why did they call me a murderer? I love my cows!” and it made me realize that I honestly think some people do not realize this: FARMERS ARE PEOPLE TOO.

Before we begin to point fingers and blame just the activists, let’s remember that there also seems to be a lot of bullying going on between the different sectors within agriculture. You should be proud to farm what you farm and other farmers should be just as proud without trying to push other sectors into a hole. It’s really sad to see that this world appears to be a lot of putting others down instead of lifting them up.

Overall, it’s heartbreaking to see farmers bully each other within the same industry, but it is even more sad to see non-ag folks trash farmers. Farmers are doing the best they can with the resources they have available to them. As for the 98% of people who do not farm, please remember this; they are working for you. They are trying to provide you with healthy, nutritious food and when you call these farmers ‘murderers’ or ‘evil’ it becomes discouraging and honestly, it hurts their feelings.

So let’s all remember something that I, along with many others, grew up on, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Also, if you are so concerned to outright call farmers, or humans as I like to call them, terrible names, please just ask them about the part of their job that you are concerned about. I guarantee you will realize that these people are not what you think they are. sunset straw

Thank You Therapy : The Broken Kid

A week before my 13th birthday I remember my parents sitting my brothers and I down at the table to talk. During the weeks previous to this night, I remember noticing things were different with my parents. They were no longer talking or home at the same time and every time I would say something about the other parent, the parent I was talking to would snap back and change the subject. It wasn’t until that night, a week before my birthday, that they sat us down to tell us they were going to no longer live together and things were going to be changing. They were getting a divorce.

This news shattered my world, it honestly tore me apart. I remember thinking, “What about our house we just built and moved into? What about my brothers? Holidays?” I had so many questions, that my parents really didn’t know the answer to. They tried to sugar coat things by saying, “You’ll now have two of everything! Two houses, two Christmases, ect.” That didn’t help, that just made me more sad.

When you live in a small town where everyone knows each other and everyone talks, word about people divorcing or separating spreads like wildfire. My parents had two different stories about their reasons for divorcing and as things started to snowball into a big mess of lies, us kids got pegged for being ‘broken’. It was honestly terrible.

Being 13 I didn’t understand everything, but I understood mostly everything that was going on. My parents hated each other, I didn’t like living out of a suitcase, my brother’s weren’t sure what to think, and I understood, at the time, that I needed to protect my brothers. I needed to be strong and tell them it was all going to be okay. I needed them to know that no matter what happens through all the drama of a messy divorce, we were NOT broken!

It wasn’t until the end of grade 9 that things started to seriously fall apart. I had told my mom I wanted to live with Dad full time, I had stopped talking to her all together actually, and I was trying to act like a parent to my brothers instead of their sister, a teenager.

That’s when things got bad, quick. My mom and I were constantly in an argument, if and when we talked, and my dad and I were getting frustrated with each other. He couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but when you become the ‘parent’ to your brothers, it’s frustrating.  My dad and I would get into big fights resulting in me leaving the house for a bit.

My friends and their parents would try to talk to me and tell me to, “Keep going and stay positive”, but I felt like I was in a nightmare. Then one day, one of my best friends in high school, noticed I had hit my peak. I couldn’t go any further. I was depressed, stressed out, and my anxiety was through the roof. Her mom called my parents and they took me into the guidance counselor’s office at my high school and for the first time in over a year, my parents were together, for me. It was too late, I already had hit my peak and didn’t want to hear whatever they had to say. So what did I do? A natural reaction, I left. It was winter and a very cold day, but in just a sweater and jeans I left the school and walked over 10 km just to get away from it all.

That evening, after my dad came to pick me up, we talked. For real, talked about what I was feeling and we both decided this monster of emotions needed to be dealt with by a professional. So, I got help. I told the therapist everything. The saddest part? I even made the therapist cry with this story. NO ONE should ever have to go through that. The best part? She helped me learn so many things, including that I need to forgive my parents for their mistakes continue to live a happy life because under all those emotions and reactions, I am a good person.

everything

After a few sessions and some real conversations with both my parents I came to realize things that I just needed to accept if I wanted to move on in life being a happy person. I realized that I can’t change my parents, but I can stand up for myself. I realized that I can’t change situations, but I decide what my reaction is to a situation. I realized that although my parents will never truly get along, I can get along with each of them in my own way, on my own terms. Most importantly, I realized that without that therapist, I have no idea where I would be today. She helped me see clearer and gave me the support I needed to get back to being happy.

Admitting you need to get help is not easy. I may have been young at the point I needed the help in my life, but it was not easy to admit. Who wants to be the highschool kid going to see a therapist? No one. But I did, and I am so happy I did.

I truly believe in the power of seeking help if you need it. Just remember, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on or someone to just listen, I have gone through this. I am here, for anyone.

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#WorldVegetarianDay and Respecting Diet Choices

In case you haven’t been on any social media sites today, it is #WorldVegetarianDay. Trust me, it’s one of the top trending hashtags on twitter, you’ll see it or hear about it eventually.

vegetables-1

Now, I’m sure most people think I am about to talk about how ‘being a vegetarian is wrong, but we still have to respect it’, I’m not. Actually, I’ll let you in on a secret only people I grew up with and people that I’m close with know…

I, Kelsey Banks, was a vegetarian for 3 years.

Yes, that’s right, I’m a huge supporter of all the agriculture sectors and grew up with my grandparent’s owning a beef farm, but I was still a vegetarian for my first 3 years of high school. Although I could blame it on being young and trying to pave my own path by being ‘different’, that wasn’t my reasoning for it.

My reason for being a vegetarian was the internet. One day when I was at school, obviously off task, my friends and I were talking about our weekends and how my family and I had gone to visit my grandparent’s farm. Out of curiosity, and because I didn’t really grow up on that farm, we googled ‘How are beef cows slaughtered?’ Being 14, trying to explain the images that came up to my friends, I thought I couldn’t eat meat again. Every time I looked at meat on my plate all I could picture was the images that came up on the internet and I couldn’t eat it.

I had the resources in my family to learn the truth and not believe the exaggerated images that I saw on the internet and I believed the images over my own grandfather, a beef farmer. However, once I grew up a little and realized what livestock are raised for I began to ask questions to reliable sources, also known as livestock farmers. I learned a lot and quickly realized that those images I had seen 3 years previously were exaggerated and not the truth. I then went back to eating meat. Side Note: when you go back to eating meat start off slowly and work your way from white to red meat or else your body won’t be able to handle it very well. Take it from my experience.

So now that I’ve told you this big secret, which I haven’t told many people because I’ve been afraid to be attacked online, I think I should share my perspective on the whole debate of vegetarian/vegan and carnivore diets. As a person in agriculture I always see other agriculture folks bashing vegetarians and vegans for choosing to eat those diets. Although I don’t agree with most of their reasoning for choosing those diets, it is their choice. You never know, one day they could have the same realization as I did and begin to work their way back to being a carnivore. Maybe all it takes is a farm tour and a bit of education as to where their food comes from and how livestock are treated with respect. Maybe they are just simply going with the fad of becoming a vegetarian/vegan or maybe, just maybe, it is their personal lifestyle choice and it works for them.

As a person in agriculture,and others in agriculture, we sometimes feel it is our responsibility to educate every single person about where their food comes from so they can understand this industry. I agree it is our responsibility, but I also think we need to know when to take a step back and ask ourselves if wasting time and energy on someone who refuses to understand livestock farming is worth it.

My whole family thought I was NUTS for becoming a vegetarian, and looking back I should have simply reached out to beef farmers, like my grandpa, for answers about livestock farming. So if you are a vegetarian and you choose that lifestyle because it works for you, great. If you are a vegetarian/vegan because you firmly believe livestock are being disrespected or not used for the right reasons, I urge you to ask a farmer. Ask someone who knows the industry and works with the animals every day.

If you have questions about livestock farming, or any type of farming, please leave a comment and I will put you in contact with a farmer!

Ag Women’s Network: Communication, Networking, Collaboration

Last night I attended a very thought provoking, insightful, and amazing evening meeting many women who are involved in the agriculture industry. The evening lasted for approximately three hours and involved three of my favourite things – talking about agriculture, networking with other women in agriculture, and food. The last one I had to throw in there because everyone loves food and a huge thank you goes out to New Life Mills for providing the great dinner!

After sitting down with a few women in agriculture I had met originally through Twitter, the main speaker, Owen Roberts of the University of Guelph, began his talk about how to communicate with media and even between each other about agriculture. It really had everyone thinking from different angles.

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One of Owen’s main points, and an important one, is that when telling a story ask yourself, “So what?” and, “Who cares?” For a group like the Ag Women’s Network, not every story could have a ‘women in agriculture’ angle to it, but we should be thinking about how we, as a group, could take charge of some of those stories being put out by the media about agriculture. Owen made a great point, and not just for women. Those working in agriculture should be proactive, look at what is going on in the industry or on farm, take charge of the news, and let a media outlet know about it. This can be done on a local, national, or even international level!

If there is one thing that most people in the agriculture industry share, it has to be the passion that drives us all to do what we do every single day. When one of the participants asked about Owen’s thoughts on talking to the media and hiding emotion, Owen said let your emotion show. If you don’t show emotion, you could be masking your passion. (Side note: this had to be one of my favourite points!)

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The beauty of this group really is that every person there has a different background and works in the industry in a different way. Owen’s talk resonated with everyone in a different way, and I think that is wonderful. As this was my first Ag Women’s Network meeting I really did not know what to expect, but I am glad I took the step and attended. In one night I was reminded of why I am in this industry, what motivates me to do more each day, and the passion that we all share to communicate the right messages about agriculture to those who simply do not know. I know I will definitely be attending the next Ag Women’s Network meeting and I hope to see many more faces next time as well.

Twitter: @kelseybanks

5 Things I Learned Working my First Year in Agribusiness

Around this time last year I began my first full time job in agribusiness with a soybean company as their marketing communications coordinator. I had worked with the business and their advertising agency part time during my final year of post secondary education and loved it. I was thrilled to have been hired on full time to coordinate marketing activities and liaise between the advertising agency and the company!

Coming from a farm family and going to work on the agribusiness side I brought on farm knowledge and work ethic to the company while the company brought me opportunities to learn and grow. Working in agribusiness showed me a different side of the business that helped me see the vast amount of opportunities there are for those wanting to work in agriculture.

The business that I worked for, and still work for, is a growing family company that allows their employees to learn and grow with the company. This meant that my position was the only marketing position in the whole company, ever. It also meant that I had the opportunity to learn everything about the business because I could be involved in it.

I have learned a lot throughout my first year of working in agribusiness and I want those coming into this exciting industry to know what they are getting into, the best business ever! Here are 5 things I learned in my first year of working in agribusiness:

  1. You are the newbie

Embrace the newbie status. Due to the tight knit nature of the agriculture business, you (being the newbie) will be noticed. Embrace it and take advantage of it by meeting as many people as you can.

  1. Take advantage of every opportunity

Working in agribusiness offers a lot of opportunities. Whether the opportunities are for travel, education, or networking take advantage of every single one. You won’t regret it!

Opportunities in ag.
Opportunities in ag.
  1. Just ask

Agriculture is technical, exciting, and very vast. If you don’t understand something or want to know more about agronomy or products or services, just ask. People are more than willing to help you understand their products, services, and technicalities better.

  1. You are not a professional

Recognize and respect the fact that there are people who have been in this business for 35 years and are still learning. You are new. Learn as much as you can so you can work towards being that professional.

  1. People look to you

You are “the new face of agriculture” meaning people are looking to you. Some people will look to you for advice on what young farmers want or need and others will look to you simply out of curiosity because you are young and full of energy.

Working in agribusiness is a lot of fun because no matter what job position you may be in you will always learn. Agriculture is an industry that is willing and ready to take on young “new blood” and being that “new blood” is fascinating. Keep your head high, your thoughts positive, and love working in agriculture!

A Thanksgiving Thank You to Farmers

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I think we owe many thanks to all farmers for everything they do for us.

Farmers deserve to be thanked not once a year, but three times a day. They provide healthy and nutritious food for us and dedicate their lives to doing just that. The food you eat did not magically appear in the grocery store, it came from a farm where a farmer spent time planting, growing, and harvesting the food. So thank you farmers for dedicating your time towards producing quality food.

Did you think that $40 turkey was expensive? What about the farmer who had hundreds of those turkeys and put a lot of money into feeding them and raising them to get them ready for your table. I can tell you it definitely cost them more than $40 to raise that turkey. So thank you farmers for putting a lot of money towards producing quality food.

I’ve always been told and have grown up knowing that farming isn’t just a job, it is a lifestyle. This is a known fact by all farmers both big and small. From the time a farmer wakes up to the time they are asleep they are thinking about their farm and how they can make their farms produce more with what they have. They are thinking about how to produce more food, more efficiently, while maintaining quality for consumers. Farmers dedicate their lives to their farms and to producing food. So thank you farmers for dedicating your lives to producing quality food.

This Thanksgiving remember to be thankful for those that are working day in and day out to produce quality food for you. Most of all, just remember to simply thank a farmer. There are a lot of farmers on social media outlets such as twitter, Facebook, and instagram that do not receive the thanks they deserve.

So here I thank you farmers, for everything you do to produce healthy and nutritious food.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

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3 Uses of Pumpkin

As it is October, I think it is appropriate to post about something everyone has on their minds… pumpkins! Having a small pumpkin farm in my family means that I am a bit more pumpkin crazed than other people (if that’s even possible), but I would like to share with you a few of the MANY uses of pumpkin.

Pie pumpkins in our field
Pie pumpkins in our field

Pumpkin is something a lot of people only believe in using during the month of October, for Thanksgiving and Halloween, or at Christmas. What I don’t understand is, if people are so obsessed with “pumpkin spice everything” during October, why let the obsession stop? Pumpkin is a very versatile fruit, yes a fruit, that is really good for you. Here are my top 3 uses of pumpkin:

1. Baking

One of my hobbies includes baking. My favourite kind of baking includes using pumpkin puree because the recipes are endless and it is SO easy to bake with. Pictured below are some pumpkin spice muffins I made a few weeks ago. If you think they look amazing, well they were. Just for you, here is the recipe link:

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/pumpkin_spice_muffins.php

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Pumpkin Spice Muffins

2. Cooking

A lot of families have squash or turnips with their meals at dinner. Although pumpkin is not technically a vegetable, it still serves beautifully and tastes great too. It is extremely simple to make, just cut the pumpkin in half, take out the “guts”, and put in the oven with any type of dressing you would put on squash and cook it as if it were squash.

3. Beauty

Yes you read that right, pumpkin is not just great to eat it is also great for your skin. Ladies, whip up this homemade pumpkin mask and see the benefits.

http://www.popsugar.com/beauty/Homemade-Pumpkin-Mask-Recipe-5452160

These are only 3 of the many uses of pumpkin. I encourage those that only use pumpkin during October to try to use it more and incorporate it into their diets and lifestyles. Pumpkin carries a lot of health benefits that are sometimes forgotten about.

During this week of Ontario Agriculture Week, remember to support local farmers!