Questions. Since the start of my Nuffield research I have asked many. In fact, I've got a whole list that I refer to in every meeting I have. Often I end up adding more questions to that list after I have met with someone. I guess that is part of the process - it is organic and morphs with situations and context.
But in my elusive attempt to shut off my brain after 6pm last night I had another question: Am I asking the right questions? A sense of panic came over me as I started to wonder if I was missing some jewel of information because I neglected to inquire in the right way.
Here is an example. Many agri-businesses say that a passion for agriculture is a key trait they appreciate in future employees. So I had asked a few people how they thought we could sow the seeds of passion for agriculture in more young people. Some answers surprised me. Two of my interviewees said the same thing - can you even do that? Shouldn't we be focusing on the ones who are already passionate? Well that threw me for a loop! Here I am trying to expand the roster of people entering careers in agri-food and I'm being told to actually narrow the search!
It got me thinking that perhaps I need to follow up that original question with "how do we do a better job of harnessing the passion of those young people interested in agriculture?" (which is a actually a better and more exciting question).
This was further confirmed when I woke up this morning to an email in my inbox from a young woman back home who is very passionate about agriculture She is looking for help at making some connections in the industry because she graduates from a business and food management degree next year and will be entering the workforce. That is the kind of passion that we need to be nurturing. Those are the young leaders who deserve opportunities to prove themselves and make a mark on the agri-food industry. How do I engage her, and help to set her on a path to a successful and meaningful career in agriculture? The importance of positive role models, mentors, and young leader programs is becoming increasingly clear!
I'm so glad that I took the time to reconsider my approach to my questions. I think the lesson here is that it is important to take "1 minute for silent reflection" (lol #nuffield15) and ask ourselves if we are asking the right questions. It's a bit like those choose your own adventure books - if you always make the same decisions you will always arrive at the same destination. So make a different decision. Ask a different question. You never know where it may take you.
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.