Day-to-day life requires a lot of our attention and energy. There are some days that you’re thriving, and other days can feel like the breaking point. In a world where we are constantly being spread thin over different directions, you may feel it would be hard to dedicate time to volunteer and get involved in one more thing. But, we need to make time for things that are important and matter to us.
Young people in particular are in overdrive, trying to live up to expectations, while trying to choose their time and commitments wisely. One of the most important things to prioritize is yourself. And, focusing on yourself can have significant benefits to others as well. When you take time to pursue something that interests you, it can lead to a lot of opportunities.
Any industry, organization, club etc. started off with a group of people who, driven by their passion, took a step forward. You may feel underqualified or too far removed from something to get involved, but if you are intentional in pursuing your interest, everything else can be learned.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s (CCA) Young Cattlemen’s Council (YCC) is made up of young people who considered these thoughts before getting involved. We know that initially it can be extremely uncomfortable getting involved in something without knowing the outcome, but we guarantee it can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will have.
Before getting involved, reflect on what matters most to you, and what it is that you would like to do, develop and achieve. Our group, for example, is made up of young people who wanted to serve the cattle industry and gain skills to serve on a board of directors and advocate for the cattle industry.
So, how can you start to serve the industry you are passionate about? YCC Delegates have some input on how to take the first step.
Susan Hamilton (YCC Atlantic Delegate) did not grow up on a beef ranch, but it was something that she wanted to learn more about. She began looking for industry events like workshops, field days and conferences to start meeting people.
Martin Clausen (YCC Alberta Delegate) suggests young people ask a farmer for a tour of their operation, or attend a cattle sale in their area to network with like-minded people. You even can call upon your provincial cattlemen’s or breed association and ask questions or for potential opportunities to get involved in the industry.
Jessica Sperber (past YCC Member at Large Delegate from Alberta) offers advice in stating that, “You may find that your passion for the industry will lead you in the conversations and interactions that you have with others. Write down on a piece of paper the reasons why you feel uncomfortable with getting involved, and then brainstorm ways in which to overcome those reasons. Some people are uncomfortable in a crowd setting because they feel their knowledge of the industry is not sufficient compared to others. If that pertains to you, realize that the majority of the people that you interact with in the industry are wanting you to succeed! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they would be happy to answer… you will meet a lot of like-minded individuals, and they will help you to grow and succeed.”
Why should I get involved? What’s in it for me?
One of the great things about volunteering and getting involved, is that there is always an opportunity and all kinds of ways to serve if you are struggling to find the time or find gratification in what you are doing. But once you decide you would be interested in getting involved, an entire suite of benefits become available to you. The agriculture industry is special in that it not only helps you gain experience for your career, but it is an opportunity to join a community and create relationships that will create value to your life as a whole.
One of the greatest outcomes of reaching out and getting involved is the value of mentorship. If you are ever looking for guidance or encouragement, the networking opportunities that you gain can have an immense impact. It is important when you are a young person to have someone in your life you can look up to that can give you perspective on the challenges you are facing and encourage you towards your potential.
“I didn’t grow up in agriculture, but decided to expand my interest and jump in with both feet. Something that has made a huge impact on my time in the industry has been mentorship,” says Carley Henniger (YCC Member at Large Rep from BC). “I am incredibly fortunate to have Bob Lowe of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association as a mentor. He has shown me how diverse the cattle industry is and how I can find my place in it. He made it clear that my interests matter to him and has pointed me in the right directions to excel in both my career and my personal life.”
Another benefit of getting involved is having a voice for other young people around you. The beef industry is constantly improving, growing and adapting. Participating is a great opportunity to direct things in the way you believe would make a stronger industry. Chances are, you already have so many valuable qualities and amazing things to contribute due to your own personal knowledge and unique experiences.
Young people who participate in industry organizations can also expect to gain valuable life skills such as critical thinking, professionalism, how to interact and collaborate with different people, establish relationships and network, and have the opportunity to constantly be learning something new.
“I am proud to be a part of this community as I feel very welcomed to be a part of the industry. This industry is as much of a people-industry as it is a beef industry!”, says Holly Sparrow, YCC Member at Large from Saskatchewan. “Going to conferences, meetings, and events in the industry has always been valuable time spent as I know I will be coming home with another idea for the ranch. People are so willing to help one another out, bring ideas to the table. What’s better than talking about cows with someone who also shares the same passion?!”
How do we expand?
Agriculture as a whole is not just an industry, it is a way of life — everyone has to have a spot at the table.
Those of us who are already involved in the industry need to welcome people to join us. Some people, particularly young people, often feel unwelcome and intimidated getting involved. But it is also imperative to note that the older generation of ranchers and those already involved are eager to include youth opinion and are looking for ways to engage new people. So, how can we connect the two?
Those of us involved can help bridge gaps by inviting young people to sit in on meetings and observe or invite them to join us for a ranch tour, or simply ask for their opinion on something and engage in conversation. Being open about our needs as an industry and our successes and challenges may help us to create meaningful relationships and attract people with new ideas and a keen attitude to contribute.
To our fellow young people, please take heart that you are important and valuable and have so much to offer. You are welcome here, and we hope that you will consider serving with us. To our industry leaders, thank you for setting an example for us to follow and offering your advice and guidance. This industry is made up of all kinds of people from all different walks of life, but so long as we continue to care about our community we will move forward together.
If you are considering getting involved, or simply want to talk to other young people in our industry, all of our delegates are more than happy to speak with you. You can get to know each of us on the YCC Meet the Executive page on our website and can reach out to the CCA Youth Leadership Coordinator, Jessica Radau at email@example.com.