Acres of Opportunity

Last weekend was the 2014 OAC Leadership Conference (January 24th and 25th) and it was a blast! I was on the planning committee for this year’s conference (originally as the Ridgetown liaison, then as a “whatever-you-need-done-I-can-do-it” person) and I think it was an awesome weekend:

On Friday night, we had dinner at the University of Guelph Arboretum. I’ve never been to the Arboretum before, but it’s a beautiful place. Even though we were just in one room of the building, we were surrounded by gorgeous scenery outdoors. After everyone got settled, Darlene Spencer, a professor at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts (RAPA), ran some fun icebreakers and initiatives with the group. She was a great introduction to the weekend. It was a good chance for everyone to get comfortable with each other and get in the mood for another day of the conference. There were some 2017 Stags (FEAR THE DEER) at the conference, along with lots of others from other classes.


On Saturday, we were back at the Arboretum. Throughout the day, we had a few different speakers and workshops. Our first speaker was Kim DeKlein, who works for OMAF and MRA. Her talk was about the importance of social media in the workplace. It was a great talk, one that is becoming increasingly relevant now that the workforce is becoming younger and frequently uses social media. It’s through things like Twitter, Facebook, and even blogging (like me!) that news is spread and information is shared.

After Kim, Barry Hannah from Growmark came in to run a True Colours workshop. I’ve done this workshop a few times before, though every time it seems to be a little bit different. It’s a personality test that reveals your “true colours” about your working style. Usually, you’re given a list of traits that you compare yourself to, ranking yourself on a scale of 1-4. Then you add up your numbers to find your most dominant personality type: Amiable, Expressive, Analytical or Driver. The way Barry had his workshop set up, however, allowed for two other people to rate your personality on the same scale. I think it’s really interesting how you see yourself compared to how others see you. For example, others found me to be a lot more of a “take-charge” person than I think of myself. Is that good or bad? Not really sure, though it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

After a lunch break, everyone regrouped for some team-building workshops run by the committee. I got the chance to run a workshop (perspectives and reasoning) while there were two others being run as well – the human knot and team drawing. Because I was running a workshop I didn’t get to participate in the other ones, though I’ve heard that they were lots of fun! My workshop involved groups of 3 people organizing a set of cards however they want. Each card had something different on it, and each group got the same set of cards. Afterwards, we compared organizational styles. Then the groups had to mix up and do it again, and a third time as a large group. It was really interesting to see different organizational styles, as well as peoples’ reasonings! At the end, we examined perspectives and how to change it – taking a cue from Dead Poet’s Society, each person picked an object in the room, then was encouraged to stand somewhere different (like on the desk!) to see how their view of the object changed.

Finally, for the last speaker at the Arboretum, Dave Baute from Maizex seeds came to talk to us about “Growing A Dream”. He gave a short speech at the end of his talk, and a few lines in particular stood out to me:

“Confidence: The one word that will set you apart. It will define you and your peers.”

“As you go on through life, you will continue to meet friends that excite, challenge and encourage you.”

On finding a career path, this is what Dave had to say:

“Ask your parents what you most enjoyed doing when you were 5-years-old. Do that. It will be easy to go to work.”

After Dave had finished speaking, we were given a little bit of time to rest and prepare for the last bit of the conference: the banquet at the Holiday Inn. The banquet is a chance for us to thank our sponsors and invite out, hear from our Dean, Rob Gordon, and to listen to our endnote speaker, Crystal MacKay. (It’s also a chance for everyone to get dressed up!) Crystal is from Farm and Food Care, anew coalition whose purpose is to educate the public about agriculture before they hear the bad news on TV. Her talk was dynamic, showing us how – as young farmers – we are the ones responsible for representing agriculture and informing the public about what farmers do.


I met with Crystal after her talk and asked her what we can do to bring agriculture into city schools. I grew up with no knowledge of agriculture, and I want to make sure that kids know more about where their food comes from than what I did. She led me to OAFE (Ontario Agri-Food Education), which is working to bring agriculture into schools and relate it to the curriculum. It’s right up my alley, and has me thinking that this may be where my future lies!

As the conference came to a close and thank-yous were said, I couldn’t wait to get started on next year’s planning! Coming right off of one conference into another is where all the discussion is, and the freshest ideas of how to improve the conference. Though, I gotta say, this year’s was pretty good! Thank you to everyone who came out to the conference, our sponsors, and, Laura and Steph, our co-managers, for making this all happen!


I’ll leave you with one last quote from Dave Baute’s speech:

“Change the traditional definition of success.”

Keep Calm and Farm On,

Emma — The Suburban Aggie


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