Prairie Post (East Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ryan Dahlman rdahlman@prairiepos­

Neubauer Farms near Medicine Hat hosted Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney on Canada Day. Ni­c­hole Neubauer is the co-chair of the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture com­mit­tee to help fur­ther agri­cul­ture in Al­berta through ed­u­ca­tion of con­sumer and pro­ducer as well as out­lin­ing the pos­i­tive as­pects of farm­ing. Evie Neubauer demon­strates how you milk a goat for Brooks MLA Michaela Glasgo and Ken­ney. For more on Ni­c­hole Neubauer and the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture,

Ni­c­hole Neubauer was on the phone with this reporter to dis­cuss the first face-to-face Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture meet­ing held June 25 when an­other call came in.

“Oh, this is Ed­mon­ton, I bet­ter take it,” she says and later con­firms it is the premier’s of­fice call­ing that Ja­son Ken­ney wanted to visit her Neubauer Farms near Medicine Hat. Amongst other things she wanted to get an un­der­stand­ing of her agri­cul­ture-ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram Grow­ing Minds which has been go­ing since 2005.

Such is life with Neubauer and how busy she is. Host­ing the premier at her farm aside, the cochair­per­son for the Agri­cul­ture In­dus­try Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee or the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture, is busy col­lab­o­rat­ing ideas and was thrilled with the June 25 meet­ing held at CANA’s board­room of­fice in Cal­gary where eight com­mit­tee mem­bers were on hand with a cou­ple of peo­ple who were there vir­tu­ally.

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment de­scribes the Agri­cul­ture in­dus­try ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee as a “vol­un­teer-based ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee to pro­vide strate­gic ad­vice and rec­om­men­da­tions on op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote un­bi­ased and sci­ence-based in­for­ma­tion about Al­berta’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor.”

“We need to en­gage the con­sumer; we have to have that pub­lic trust in our­selves and un­der­stand the busi­ness of agri­cul­ture,” says Neubauer about farm­ers and live­stock pro­duc­ers. “We want to have an en­gaged client and en­gaged cus­tomers.”

Neubauer ex­plains that be­cause the com­mit­tee is vol­un­teer-based, every­one is pas­sion­ate about agri­cul­ture in their own way. They are work­ing to­wards and are cog­nizant of the im­por­tance of this group and each one can con­trib­ute to the ad­vo­cacy and pol­icy veins.

“It was im­por­tant we met face to face; you can meet vir­tu­ally but there’s noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing in the same room. All the travel time, it was im­por­tant to get some­thing out of it,” ex­plains Neubauer of the June 25 meet­ing. “Prior to that, what we have been do­ing is es­tab­lish­ing direc­tion and have been do­ing that with video con­fer­enc­ing…work and col­lab­o­rate to­ward sus­tain­abil­ity is a path­way to ex­cel­lence.”

The com­mit­tee con­sists of Com­mit­tee co-chair Jill Harvie: owner/op­er­a­tor of Harvie Ranch­ing near Olds; Al­li­son Am­me­ter Chair, Plant Pro­tein Al­liance of Al­berta and farmer; Char­lotte He­be­brand Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Stake­holder Re­la­tions and Chief Sus­tain­abil­ity Of­fi­cer for Nutrien; Jeff Fitz­patrick-Stil­well Se­nior man­ager, Sus­tain­abil­ity and Agri­cul­ture Lead, McDonald’s Canada; Bob Lowe Pres­i­dent, Cana­dian Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion; Jean-Marc Ruest Se­nior vice-pres­i­dent, Cor­po­rate Af­fairs and Gen­eral Coun­sel, Richard­son In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited and is the chair of Ce­re­als Canada and of the Western Grain El­e­va­tors As­so­ci­a­tion; John Simp­son, Chair, CANA group of com­pa­nies and owner/op­er­a­tor of Simp­son Ranch­ing; Baljit Singh, Dean, Fac­ulty of Vet­eri­nary Medicine, Univer­sity of Cal­gary and Gary Stan­ford, Grain farmer in Ma­grath and past chair, Al­berta Wheat Com­mis­sion.

With such di­ver­sity in ex­pe­ri­ences, all facets of agri­cul­ture are cov­ered.

Had to de­cide on some ob­jec­tives and came up with: “why is this com­mit­tee im­por­tant”; “how can we lend our sup­port to the grow­ing of agri­cul­ture”; “how can we cap­ture some of the great things hap­pen­ing in agri­cul­ture.”

One of the key un­der­ly­ing as­pect is the mes­sage that farm­ers and those in live­stock are feed­ing the world in a “so­cially re­spon­si­ble, fis­cally-vi­able way.” Not enough con­sumers un­der­stand com­pletely or know what they do.

Neubauer ex­plains they need to have a way to ex­plain to the con­sumer how farms feed peo­ple. This comes to hav­ing agri­cul­ture ad­vo­cates go­ing into a va­ri­ety of con­ver­sa­tions on var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional and so­cioe­co­nomic lev­els, ad­vo­cat­ing for their pro­fes­sion. They need to re­cruit more cham­pi­ons of agri­cul­ture.

“My vi­sion, I would love to have agri­cul­ture cham­pi­ons for any­one and every­one who will lis­ten,” says Neubauer who points to the im­por­tance of hav­ing sto­ry­tellers and teach­ers of agri­cul­ture. .

“Let’s sup­port them give them to an­swer to the tough ques­tions and so they have the in­for­ma­tion they need… We need to up­hold our li­cence to farm… We need to lev­eridge that an­gle; go­ing to have to be two way com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween pro­duc­ers and cus­tomers. Never be­fore have we been able to com­mu­ni­cate like we can now.

“There are three pil­lars of re­sponse: re­ac­tive pil­lar and de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies to top­ics which comes up; the proac­tive pil­lar where how does agri­cul­ture trum­pet its re­deem­ing qual­i­ties; pos­i­tive and real facts and fig­ures and the end piece the pre­emp­tive piece where ed­u­ca­tion is in­volved on a va­ri­ety of lev­els, where talk­ing about con­sumers or those in school.

“Ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties will be there and stu­dents best and bright­est, look at in­no­va­tive ways to cre­ate part­ner­ships with new in­dus­tries,” says Neubauer. “Agri­cul­ture doesn’t just mean driv­ing a trac­tor. Maybe we have enough driv­ers but there are new ar­eas in agri­cul­ture that we can look at or haven’t been cre­ated yet.”

Be­sides co-chair with Cham­ber of Com­merce Agri­cul­ture Ed­u­ca­tion Task Force and is an in­terim board mem­ber with Re­sults Driven Agri­cul­ture Re­search. Ac­cord­ing to her biography, in 2016, the Neubauers were rec­og­nized as the BMO Farm Fam­ily of the Year and in 2017, they re­ceived the Medicine Hat and District Cham­ber of Com­merce Small Busi­ness of the Year Award. Since 2005, the Neubauer’s have hosted more than 20,000 stu­dents to their farm to pro­vide an au­then­tic, hands-on op­por­tu­nity for chil­dren to learn all about where their food comes from…the Neubauers have multi-faceted op­er­a­tion with grains, oilseeds and pulses on both ir­ri­gated and dry­land acres. They also pro­duce dry for­age and man­age the na­tive pas­ture that sus­tains their cow/calf op­er­a­tion.

That in it­self is a lot of work host­ing the tours but the farm stopped the tours in the spring once the pan­demic hit.

“It’s been a twisted co­in­ci­dence that with COVID and spring ed­u­ca­tion there has been no school and no field trips. With this com­mit­tee’s work now, it is the per­fect jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to be able to do more… plus I have a tremen­dous sup­port sys­tem with my fam­ily. All the ac­tiv­i­ties can be han­dled by the peo­ple here. I now have a 16 year old so Lo­gan has been seed­ing and my hus­band (Mark) is the great silent part­ner. It does get all over­whelm­ing with ev­ery­thing here and be­fore with the tour on I have an amaz­ing team of fa­cil­i­ta­tors who can do a bet­ter job of ex­plain­ing be­cause they are fo­cused on this, I have more time. They do an amaz­ing job.”

She is also with the Medicine

Hat Cham­ber of Com­merce with a con­sul­tant role. Neubauer says she has in­fre­quent meet­ings where she has time to pre­pare and can han­dle the time with them. She says the Cham­ber’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Lisa Kowalchuk and her team are do­ing a great job with the agribusi­ness ad­vo­cacy.

Neubauer has also at­tracted at­ten­tion within the ur­ban area as she was nom­i­nated as one of the fi­nal­ists for the Women in Busi­ness’s In­spire Award (win­ners will be awards July 9). Neubauer says that was and still is such an emo­tional mo­ment for her. She says to be con­sid­ered along­side some of the best lead­ers in Medicine Hat is an hon­our.

She looks at this as not as per­sonal tri­umph or glory but far more wide spread. She says this is a pos­i­tive sign that her em­pha­sis and drive to teach oth­ers about agri­cul­ture and where con­sumers’ food comes from is im­por­tant.

“It’s about the agri­cul­ture ad­vo­cacy work: this re­ally in­spires me to keep go­ing,” Neubauer, who’s farm is fifth gen­er­a­tion since 1910. “It is in­cred­i­bly af­fir­ma­tive for me that I am on the right path. It’s sig­nalling from my com­mu­ni­ca­tions (role) to please go for­ward; take it for­ward. We ap­prove.

“You just have to sur­round your­self with good peo­ple,” adds Neubauer. “At 5 a.m. I am ready to take on the day. Ful­fill­ing life’s pur­pose: agri­cul­ture is my pas­sion.”

Photo by Ni­c­hole Neubauer

Photo cour­tesy Ni­c­hole Neubauer

Meet­ing in Cal­gary as a group face to face for the first time, the Cham­pi­ons of Agri­cul­ture had a lot to dis­cuss. At left is co-chair Jill Harvie from Olds and to her left is Ma­grath-farmer Gary Stan­ford. At the far right is the other co-chair is Ni­c­hole Neubauer.

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