It was meeting of east and west, north and south as dignitaries from the local rural community met with a busload of people taking the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program.
The Rainy River District was the halfway point in the program’s two week North American study tour, which focused specifically at the Canadian/American relations of the midwest.
Farmers, bankers, and government workers were among the contingent of 30 people who gathered information on the region’s approach to agriculture, trade and development, resource uses and social policies.
The class met local farmers en masse at an informal luncheon/information session held at the Emo Research Station.
Karen Scott runs an auctioning business and livestock farm with her husband in Brant County. Unlike many of her associate’s in the AALP, this wasn’t her first time in the Rainy River District, having visited in 1994 when she worked for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
But Scott found this trip very beneficial.
“This is a good stop because this is an important part of Ontario that doesn’t get much emphasis,” she explained.
Although farming in Southern Ontario may seem removed from that here, Scott said the issues remain the same—even if they’re under a different name.
For example, the northern “Lands for Life” debate is similar to the encroachment of urbanization into rural areas since both dealt with the handling of land resources.
Same thing, different name, Scott noted.
“Ontario is so complex but the issues are the same,” she remarked.
Jennifer Schroter hails from Victoria County, near the municipality of Bob Caygeon. She holds an English degree and has been running a dairy farm for the last five years, as well as working for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Georgetown.
Prior to this, her furthest venture into Northern Ontario ended at Sudbury. She was very impressed with concept of holistic management, noting “it was a real eye-opener.”
But the biggest surprise for Schroter came from the social environment, not the agricultural one.
“I knew the agriculture was here,” she said. “I didn’t expect the cultural diversity. I didn’t expect the German, the French as in from France, and some Swiss.”
Finding the unexpected, though, was one reason Schroter signed up for the AALP. Spread out over two years, the program consists of nine three-day seminars in different parts of the province plus two two-week tours, one North American and one International tour.
The class has four more seminar sessions left.
“For me, it’s helped me to broaden and deepen my understanding of how agriculture fits into the world,” Scott said.
“We too often get caught in a very narrow mind-frame,” echoed Schroter. “[This program] is the opportunity to expand opinions, gain a breadth of experience and share you experience again with others.”