N.L. young farmers gather for engaging leadership summit

by Matthew Carlson

FF Dec. 18 Matthew Carlson Headshot.JPG

The Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers’ Forum (NLYFF) hosted its fourth annual Leadership Summit in St. John’s on Nov. 14 and 15. This year we once again built on the success from previous years with great feedback and a solid attendance.

About 40 delegates, including young farmers, government representatives, and other industry stakeholders attended the event.

This year was also the first time we had a pre-conference tour, which took attendees to Lester’s Farm Market, Pondview Dairy, and Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, all located in the St. John’s area. Those in attendance were very pleased with what they learned and the food they sampled.

Prolific blogger Lesley Kelly was the keynote speaker at the event. She runs the “High Heels and Canola Fields” blog. She grew up on her family’s grain farm in Watrous, Sask. After gaining an education in marketing and accounting, she went on to work in various marketing and branding positions in the agriculture sector. Using her entrepreneurial spirit and the skills developed through her agribusiness career, she created a snack food business using the barley grown on her farm. In December 2015, she started her blog to dispel myths and bring consumers and farmers together. In 2017, she expanded her reach by co-hosting the “Farmer and the City Girl” podcast. Her keynote address focused on leadership and social media.

Lesley and her husband Matt Kelly also delivered a second presentation on mental health, which took what she calls a “fireside chat” format. The room was very engaged with the presentation about a very important topic that usually does not get the attention it deserves.

Other speakers included Kevin Stewart of London, Ont., who worked three decades in Canadian media and now operates his own company, AgVision Media, and local chef Roary MacPherson, who is known as “Mr. Newfoundland Food.”

We also hosted a panel of chefs, which featured Roary MacPherson of The Wilds golf resort, Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage, and Daniel Butler of The Gypsy Tea Room. That discussion covered topics relating to local food in restaurants.

Local brewer Liam McKenna of Yellowbelly Brewery also gave a presentation on brewing, using local ingredients, and the connection between agriculture and brewing.

A panel discussion by local young farmers, a perennial favourite amongst their peers, also took place. This year’s panel featured Susan Lester, a vegetable farmer from St. John’s, Lucas Strong, a dairy farmer from Harcourt, and Rodney Reid, a sheep farmer and apiculturist from Bishop’s Falls, who is also our regional representative on the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum board.

As part of the event, the NLYFF also held its annual general meeting. Four board positions were available at the AGM. We are pleased to announce that Susan Lester is the new organization chair, Nancy Lester is the new secretary-treasurer, Richelle Porter is the new Eastern representative, and Krista Chatman is the new at-large representative.

Funding to host the conference was provided by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Kevin Stewart’s presentation was sponsored in part by Farm Credit Canada.

(Matthew Carlson is the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture’s young farmers coordinator. He has been with the federation since 2007 and moved into his current position in 2015.)