They don’t keep records on these sorts of things, but Allison and Mike Ammeter are likely the first Canadian farm couple to each chair a provincial crop commission. Allison became chair of Alberta Pulse Growers at the organization’s annual general meeting at FarmTech, six weeks after Mike became chair of the Alberta Barley Commission. The couple, who has three grown children aged 20 to 25, crop 2,200 acres near Sylvan Lake. They spoke with Alberta Farmer about public service, their cropping choices, and use of social media.
Has there ever been a husband and wife who were both chairs of farm organizations?
Allison: “I know of commissions where both the husband and wife are involved on the board, but I don’t know of a couple who is both chairs. My board told me they don’t know of another board that has a female chair, so I may be setting a record there, too.”
What sort of commitment does it take to be a chair?
Mike: “I’ve heard some say it can be up to 100 days a year. I don’t know if I can take that many days away from the farm. Allison drives the combine in the fall, but I do all the seeding, spraying and grain hauling, for the most part. So I don’t know if I can pull 100 days out, but I anticipate 40 or 50.”
Allison: “Michael and I both believe in making sure our entire boards are involved and get opportunities. Both of us have the goal that if there are things other members of our board can do equally well, we’d like to share that experience.”
Why are you doing it?
Allison: “I think it’s about serving the industry, serving what we are part of.”
Mike: “I think I attended the first AGM of the barley commission (more than 20 years ago). I’ve always gone to regional meetings, I was a delegate for years, and became a director four years ago. Part of it is that the kids are out of the house, so that’s no longer an issue — and a tip of the hat to anyone who serves on a board and still has a family at home. That’s a huge, huge commitment.”
Allison: “I didn’t even step up onto a board until our last child got a driver’s licence. When the kids were at home, I was chauffeuring all the time, I home-schooled some — there were just other priorities. Now is the time of our life we can give back to this. And we’ve met wonderful people and had cool opportunities. You always get back more than you give. Yes, we’re investing time, but neither of us feel it’s a huge hardship. It’s a huge opportunity.”
What’s your recommendation for someone trying to decide whether to grow more pulses or barley this year?
Allison: “We have a four-year rotation and aim for a quarter of each: barley-wheat-canola-pulses. Rotation is the key to healthy crops. And I don’t mean canola-snow-canola.”
Mike: “It can vary a little. Last year we grew 600 to 700 acres of barley and 400 acres of pulses. So that rotation isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s pretty close to that.”
True or false? The better you are on social media, the better a leader you are.
Mike: “There’s probably an element of truth to that. My wife is the social media representative of the family. I creep into it a little bit, but I don’t really engage.”
How many times have you tweeted and when was your last one?
Mike (@mikeammeter): “Maybe two. And I couldn’t tell you when.”
Could it have been one tweet — “Coffee in banff” — at the barley commission’s AGM three years ago?
Mike (laughing): “That’s probably it.”
Allison (@AAmmeter; more than 8,000 tweets): “Now that I’ve had time to think about it, can I answer that question? No — I do not believe social media makes you a better leader. Leadership is a combination of a lot of traits, some you’re born with and some you learn. But I think social media helps us get our message out so much better.”
Are you prepared, Mike, to make a commitment to double your number of tweets?
Mike: “I’ve been challenged on that already. Let’s see, I had one three years ago. I think I could do another in the next three years.”
Allison: “I just want to say, Michael, that I didn’t know he was going to ask that. I did not set you up.”