Proud of the Prairies
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Canadian farmer Cherilyn Nagel is championing modern farming both on and off the farm.
“Farmers in the past didn’t worry so much about talking to consumers but as less and less people choose to farm, consumers get less and less familiar with what we do,” says Cherilyn.
“That has led to a disconnect between farmers and consumers. Many people’s vision of farming is of an old male farmer with a pitchfork, but in reality it is modern using some of the most advanced technology and science of any industry that provides an exciting and fun career for both girls and boys.”
Cherilyn’s own passion for agriculture has been slowing burning. She grew up on the Saskatchewan farm in the heart of the Canadian grain belt where her family has been farming for more than 100 years.
“I could never say that I always wanted to farm,” she says.
“To be honest, when I was younger I might have said that I never wanted to farm. I didn’t see a place for me, my talents or even my personality. But I think that stemmed from what was a limited view of the industry.”
After college, Cherilyn took a number of jobs including loading rail cars with grain, crop watching and working for an agchem company and it was through this experience that she saw how diverse and exciting farming could be. Part of her journey of falling in love with farming was to fall in love with local farmer David Nagel whom she married.
Although she recognised the importance and value of supporting him on the farm, she also understood the importance of a fulfilling career for herself. That coincided with a growing interest in how farming was portrayed to the wider world and led to her joining the board of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers where she helped develop policy and eventually became the youngest and first female president of the organisation.
Now Cherilyn divides her time between the family farm and activities promoting food and farming to a much wider audience. The farm is 7,300 hectares and is run by Cherilyn, David his brother and sister-in-law. It grows durum wheat, canola oilseeds, lentils and chickpeas. The family calculates that last year it grew enough durum wheat to produce 137 million bowls of spaghetti.
Off the farm, Cherilyn works with Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan, a non-profit organization providing training to help farmers speak confidently to consumers about how they grow their food.
Cherilyn’s enthusiasm for farming is infectious and sees her speaking at events across Canada and beyond. She has two young daughters, so would she recommend farming to them or any other young women as a career?
“I certainly would. Farming is a cutting-edge diverse career that uses the latest science, technology and management techniques to produce the most vital of products - food – in a way that cares for the environment. We need dedicated and bright girls and boys to take up farming to ensure the world has a healthy and well-fed future.”
To learn more on Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan go to: https://farmfoodcaresk.org