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Keeping the next generation connected

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There are many organizations in the province for farmers, but not many are designed for young people starting their agricultural careers. The Future Agricultural Business Builders (FABB) is an organization for young agriculture entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-30. The organization, which has now merged with the Alberta Young Farmers group, was formed in 2004.

FABB has a 17-member volunteer board composed of people involved in agriculture in different parts of the province. The group was originally started by a number of young people involved with the Junior Cattleman’s Association.

“Once they were 18 years old, there was nothing left for them in terms of a supportive organization, and they lost that ability to network,” says Jackie Northey, whose children were part of the original FABB group. The group was provincial from its inception, and soon moved away from cattle breeders to include people from a variety of agricultural fields.

Future Agricultural Business Builders hosts an annual February weekend long conference called “Rock The Farm,” billed as being “not your parents’ conference.” The organization is affiliated with the national organization of Canadian Young Farmers.

“Our group is really good because it keeps our generation connected,” says Janette Bamford, a board member with FABB. “Through FABB, I met a lot of other young people who are interested in agriculture. One of the biggest challenges in agriculture is being able to share information because there’s such disconnect,” she said.

This year, FABB held a one-day fall conference in mid-October. “We just wanted to do a one-day conference to allow people to network,” says FABB president Jenn Norrie. “Rock the Farm will concentrate on more areas, including financial planning. This focuses more on personal development.”

Participants at the event, held in Red Deer, travelled from all areas of the province. They came from Lethbridge, Fairview, Edmonton and Calgary and one young pulse farmer drove from Assiniboia, Saskatchewan to meet the group.

“Everybody comes from different backgrounds,” said Norrie. “For example, I went to school in Saskatchewan, and wanted to find a network of other young people when I came back to Alberta. FABB helped me to meet others young people.”

Knocking down silos

The conference was attended by about 30 participants. Dave Howlett, the speaker hired for the event, is a motivator, teacher and speaker who speaks to large corporations, marathon runners, and non-profit groups.

Howlett spoke at last year’s Rock the Farm, and agreed to run a full session for FABB. His talk “Knocking down silos” encouraged participants to break free of assumptions about others, learn how to network, build a reputation and talk confidently with others. Howlett, who lives in Ontario, spends time speaking to participants at each event he leads, which enables him to tailor his talks to his audience.

“The biggest challenges for people starting in agribusiness are age, lack of money and lack of experience,” said Norrie. “There are a lot of negative ideas facing the new generation of agricultural leaders. But we’re here working in the industry and we want to make it better.”

Rock the Farm will be held February 13-15, 2009 at the Red Deer Lodge in Red Deer.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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