You Against the World

A recent winner of the Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers program offers his thoughts on how producers need to stay current and competitive.

By Diane Rogers

Marketing makes the difference for the 2010 winners of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers program—Lauren and Ryan Maurer.

As a couple, who now operate an 11,000-acre grain farm at Grenfell, Saskatchewan, they began farming with Lauren’s parents in a land-work agreement. Within a few years, they purchased Lauren’s parents’ share and became niche marketers with a number of crops.

They are the largest Canadian producer of identity-preserved wheat for Warburton’s Bakery in the U.K. Barley, flax, pulse and spice crops are all grown to meet specific requirements for their worldwide customers.

Ryan got his start working with his parents and brothers. The family support not only taught him skills, but allowed him to use his labor to pay for his share of the machinery. Today, land is a high cost, but Ryan says there are more options such as renting through investment firms.

Yet for him, an even more crucial area that is lacking is a business education for young farmers. “Today I don’t know which is more important—agronomy or business administration.”

Young farmers also have to be nimble and adapt to changes, he says. With the Canadian Wheat Board’s future at risk through government legislation, farmers will need to do more of their own marketing.

Ryan says they shouldn’t waste time fighting that change but focus their energy on what they need to do. “As government support for agriculture drops off, they need networking. Not with your neighbors and competitors, but across your province, country and even the world.”

Social networking with your peers is  “a very powerful tool,” he says. It not only allows you to compare notes and learn new solutions but “sometimes you see it’s not so bad on your farm.

“As Canadian producers, we don’t look abroad enough to see policies developing in other countries” and, he contends, the implications for our farms. “With the rate of change, we need to keep up by communicating with and benchmarking against producers in other parts of the country or the world.”

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