Monday, 5 March 2012

"Why I Dairy Advocate" Mini-Series Part 1: Dairy Advocacy Starts at Home

By: Edward Rusenstrom 

During the past few months I have been putting some thoughts together on what is my inspiration to be an active dairy advocate.... and every thing points to home.  I have the great privilege to work side by side with my family operating our dairy farm.  Years ago I can remember my grandfather getting emotional one hot, sunny afternoon when three generations of Rusenstrom’s were all hard at work bringing in the hay.  

In recent months, my father has been courageously battling cancer and it has been during this time that I have realized how special it is working with family on a day-to-day basis.  My sons would wait impatiently for Grandpa’s tractor rides every morning as he prepared the cows feed for the day. There is no better source of pride than watching children growing up caring for the animals and being involved with the farm at a young age. I’m certain my father had the same feelings years ago when my brothers, sister and I were doing the same!

This is where advocacy comes in.  It is important to spread the word as a dairy farmer, about the great benefits that the dairy industry has on your family, because this spreads into your respective community.  Across North America, we see dairy farmers as active leaders involved within their communities.   

The group in the last picture is the Class 7 of YDLI (Young Dairy Leaders Institute)- a program that myself and the other founders of CD-AG had the honour to participate in. These individuals are some of the most inspiring dairy leaders I have had the pleasure to work with.

I am a proud third generation dairy farmer; I hope one day my kids will be saying the same thing.  I am very fortunate to be where I am today, and it all started at HOME... And that is why I choose to be a dairy advocate.

                                           YDLI Class 7 Dairy Advocates

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Circle of Life...

By: Christina Crowley

The old saying goes, "a picture's worth a 1,000 words" and when I saw this picture posted by a fellow dairy advocate, I couldn't help but share with readers. We, as consumers, sometimes forget or don't realize the significant impact that Canadian dairy farms have on our economy-- locally, provincially, and nationally. The Canadian dairy industry alone contributes $15.2 billion annually in economic benefits, while providing 215,000 Canadian jobs.

This is especially so true in many small towns or rural communities across Canada where farming remains a fundamental way of living for many and is the main reason why small towns continue to exist. We as consumers forget the direct/indirect impact that these farms have on our lives.

Take my small town in East-Central Ontario for example - a community that 30 years ago was thriving with many farms, not just dairy farms. Our local village of 1,200 people was flourishing with many stores open on Front Street; many different schools for children to attend; and a very successful high school. Now at present day, while our community is still a beautiful hot-spot on the water and a great tourist attraction for people to visit, it isn't quite the same compared to 30 years ago.

The number of farms around our small town has dramatically decreased and only a handful, if not only 5 or 6 farms, are left. Stores that have been open for a number of years are beginning to close. School enrollment has decreased. And our high school has faced the reality of potential closure for a number of years now due to dwindling enrollment.

While I can't say that the situation we are facing is 100% due to the decrease of farms in our community, I DO believe that farms ARE the fundamental reason why rural living existed in the first place. Large farming families filled the schools. Grocery stores were occupied with patrons buying food to feed their large families and many farm help. Tractors and machinery were being serviced by the local mechanic. Coffee shops were filled with those farmers who wanted not only a cup of joe, but the daily "news and happenings" from around town. All farms got their feed inputs from the same local farm supply store and most small-town stores were being supported by these farming families.

The poster below perfectly depicts what farmer's do directly/indirectly for their communities and we, as consumers, need to step up to the challenge to continue to support our rural communities by supporting farmers. When you drink your next glass of milk or eat your next piece of cheese, you probably won't realize how big of an impact that glass of milk or piece of cheese will actually have on your community. But, you can give yourself a pat on the back for supporting the system that
supports you and your community. Having farms in our communities is beneficial not only to farmers themselves, but to us as consumers. If we support farmers, they will support our communities, and that community will be a thriving place for us as consumers to live. As was sung in the famous Disney movie, The Lion King (which I'm sure you're all familiar with!) this is a perfect example of the circle of life.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The 4 'H's of Youth Development

By: Amanda Cowan 
Head, Heart, Hands and Heath. Four small words that have had a huge impact on me and who I am today. In case you were wondering, these are what the 4 “H’s” stand for in the 4-H program.
4-H is one of Canada’s longest running youth organizations for youth aged 9 to 21. Since 1913, the 4-H program have been providing youth with so many amazing opportunities while helping them to learn new things and develop leadership skills through a dedicated group of volunteer leaders. 

The reason I am telling you all of this is because I’d like to share with you the benefits of the program and the impact it has had on my life. Although, when you think of 4-H, you probably instantly think of country kids or think that you have to live on a farm to be in 4-H. This is far from the truth! 4-H offers many types of clubs! Yes, there are the Dairy clubs, Horse clubs and Sheep clubs…the typical ones you would think of but did you know that they also offer clubs such as Scrapbooking, Photography, Veterinary, Knitting, Cooking and in our county, we’ve even had a Snowmobiling Club! There are so many clubs out there to suit many people’s different interests. There are so many opportunities at your fingertips through the 4-H program as well, such as scholarships, exchange programs, leadership conferences and camps. So many different opportunities to expand your horizons, become a leader, make new friends and have fun while doing it. 

I began in the 4-H program when I was 10 years old, at that time, 10 was the starting age, it has since been changed to 9, and completed my last club at the age of 21. I have taken part in clubs such as Horse Club, Chocolate Club, Cultural Diversity Club and my personal favourite, Dairy Club. I grew up on a dairy farm, milking purebred Holstein cattle and although I enjoyed the farm, my true passion for it began when I began to show our calves. I learned, through lots of help from my dad and my 4-H leaders, how to care for my 4-H project each year, how to feed them properly to keep them in show ring condition, how to clip and fit my animal for a show ring and continue to develop my showmanship skills by working with my animal as much as possible. I also quickly learned how to work as a team at shows when tying all the animals together. Year by year, I attended more shows and created more opportunities and eventually began showing at the Royal Winter Fair on a regular basis. To qualify to attend this show is a huge reward for all the hard work throughout the year. 

Upon my high school graduation, I went on to attend McGill University, MacDonald Campus in the 3 year Farm Management and Technology program. From there, I went on to work for Wilfrid Major Feed Mill, a Shur Gain dealer, as a nutrition consultant. Although, I loved my job there, I realized that I loved being in the barn, looking at cows, finding out their pedigrees and I, therefore, made a change. I now work for Select Sires Canada as a sales representative and I couldn’t love my job more. I love working in an industry that I am so passionate about and I have to give that credit to the 4-H program. It was because of this program that I have the confidence to do what I do, have so many of the contacts and friendships that I do and most of all have such a love for this amazing industry. 

*Note: For any youth interested in the 4-H program, CD-AG highly suggests this program as a way to not only learn new skills, but also as a way to meet many new and wonderful friends. It should be mentioned that it certainly is not just a program for rural youth, but youth from all walks of life- both from the city and from the country. If you are interested in learning more about the 4-H program, head on over to 4-H Canada's website to find out how YOU can get involved!