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Empowering Women Conference

Empowering Women Conference

Canada’s Farm Progress Show is proud to introduce the 2nd annual Empowering Women Conference on Friday, June 22

By Sarah Grandy,

Empowering women will be a special focus of this year’s Canada’s Farm Progress Show, an annual gather­ing of producers, manufactures and buyers that high­lights the latest innovations in dryland farming.

This year’s event features the second annual Empow­ering Women Conference, an extremely popular show-within-the-show that aims to help women en­hance their family lives, communities, careers and the industry as a whole.

“Last year’s Empowering Women Conference sold out,” said Shirley Janeczko, manager of Canada’s Farm Progress Show. “So, we thought we would continue with the same message for all the females that attend our show. “Our survey indicates that 40 per cent of the attendees are female, so it’s definitely a demographic that we want to reach out to and ensure that they have added value for when they come to the show.”

Women fill vital roles throughout the agriculture

Women fill vital roles throughout the agriculture industry, serving as partners, decision makers and on production lines. There is a growing awareness of women’s essential contributions and the show is a great way to spread the word.

“I think it’s time to recognize the growing number of women in this industry,” said Janeczko. “Women are no longer just on the farm, in the house taking care of the kids. They’re partners, they’re working on the farm and they’re involved in their farming business. They are key decision makers, and it’s time that they are recognized and celebrated for that.”

Janeczko grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and has always had an interest in agriculture. She has been planning Canada’s Farm Progress Show for the last 12 years. She carefully selected four women to speak during the Empowering Women Conference and believes they have powerful messages for women all over the world.


Val Michaud

Val Michaud was born and raised on a farm in the small community of Gravelbourg, Sask., and is no stranger to agriculture.

In 2011, the entrepreneur took ownership of Gravelbourg Mustard and also appeared on the popular show Dragons’ Den in December 2017.

“I’m very grateful for the responses that I’ve been getting from other peo­ple about the product,” said Michaud. “I know myself that it’s a great product, but it’s just so rewarding to hear that confirmation from others that they love the product just as much as I do.”

Michaud started out with just four recipes and has grown the line to nine different types of mustard, three different types of dry formulated mustard, and a salad dressing.

“Seventy-five to 80 per cent of mustard grown in Canada is grown here in Saskatchewan, and 40 to 50 [per cent] of the world’s [mustard] is grown here in Saskatchewan. I’m proud to be keeping that resource here in Saskatche­wan,” said Michaud.

Michaud hopes to inspire other women at the conference to face their fears and pursue their dreams, even if they seem unreachable.

“If I can be some sort of inspiration to anyone that would be great,” said Michaud. “I’m looking forward to talking to women and making sure their dreams are recognized—while empowering them somehow and telling them that there really isn’t much that we can’t accomplish.”

The conference will also provide women with an hour of networking, where they can interact with the speakers while enjoying wine and cheese, courtesy of Willow Park and Sask Milk.

“I believe the speakers I have lined up have a very, very powerful message for our audience on how to be empowered,” concluded Janeczko.

The Empowering Women Conference will take place on June 22, 2018, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., in the Mosaic Stadium in the prestigious AGT lounge. Tickets are $35, and the purchase price includes admission to Canada’s Farm Progress Show.


Lesley Kelly

From her snack food company to her blog and podcast to the marketing side of things, Lesley Kelly is all about agriculture. “I love the industry,” she said. “I think it’s one of the best industries out there, and it’s because of our people. Our people are our greatest assets.”

Kelly was raised on a 6,000-acre farm in in Watrous, Sask. Her family farmed canola, wheat, lentils, flax, oats and canary seed. A few years back, Kelly created a blog with the vision of building community and creating conversation around agriculture. High Heels in Canola Fields has provided her opportunities to venture out into more writing, photography and podcasting—all about agriculture.

“Our industry is diverse, broad, and also deep and rich,” said Kelly. “We are in so many amazing things, whether it’s food, fuel, or so much more. That’s why I love agriculture. I’m continuously learning.”

Kelly will be speaking about mental health in agriculture and how it has affected her family’s journey. “Right now, some of the people in our industry are hurting,” she said. “We can all have a very large impact to help change the culture in ag[riculture]. We can just do a few simple things to have a major positive impact on mental health.”

Kelly hopes to inspire attendees to take care of those suffering with mental health, and also encourage women to follow their dreams and pursue a career in agriculture.

“I had no idea of the amount of careers there were in agriculture, or how broad you could go,” said Kelly. “A career in agriculture can range from technology, science and animal health, to crops, marketing communications and accounting.

Kelly was president of the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA); part of the Do More Agriculture Foundation; and has always held a position in agriculture marketing.

“In my spare time I try to promote the industry to consumers where I can,” said Kelly.

Kelly has a powerful message to everyone attending the conference: “Follow your heart and passions and the rest will follow.”

Val michaud, Lesley Kelly, Melissa Coomber-Bendsten, Barbara Stegemann







Melissa Coomber-Bendsten

Melissa Coomber-Bendsten is the CEO of YWCA Regina, and has been working in the community for the last 20 years. Coomber-Bendsten recently began working with women and families who are dealing with homelessness and domestic violence.

“The connection for me with agriculture is about rural women who have experienced violence or who find themselves potentially homeless because of that violence,” she said. “It’s such an isolating thing that, more often than not, it means that women lose their community and lose their support.

“Saskatchewan has the highest rate of intimate partner violence in all the provinces, and that has continued year after year,” added Coomber-Bend­sten. “When I think about why is that happening, or what does that look like, I realize that part of it is that we don’t have an understanding that it’s even occurring.”

Coomber-Bendsten said that people within these communities often don’t realize the amount of domestic violence that takes place. She hopes to raise awareness about the issue and empower women to come together as community members to help alleviate some of the isolation around the issue.

“The stats show us that police calls for domestics happen throughout all jurisdictions equally. There are no hotspots in the province. This is an equal distribution. So, I think it’s really important for people to know that it is in their community and it is happening at an alarming rate and increasing,” said Coomber-Bendsten.

“I think that my message is about the importance of taking responsibility for our community and acknowledg­ing the connections that women have for one another and the kind of support systems they can be for one another,” she added. “When we acknowledge those things, I think we can ensure that it is a place that everybody is safe.”

Coomber-Bendsten hopes to inform women from all over how to help those dealing with domestic violence. She said many people are unsure how to help, and she hopes to change that.


Barbara Stegemann

Well-known author and entrepreneur Barbara Stegemann is this year’s keynote speaker. Stegemann was featured on the CBC reality show Drag­ons’ Den for her empowerment book: 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. She is empowering women all over the world to follow their dreams.

“Barbara is known as one of the top game-changers in the history of Dragons’ Den,” said Janeczko. “She has a great story. She’s also been named one of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women. So, we’re pretty excited to have her as our keynote speaker.”

The Empowering Women Conference will be held on Friday, June 22, as part of Canada’s Farm Progress Show at the AGT Lounge, Mosaic Stadium, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  The Price is $35 + fees (includes one-day admission to Canada’s Farm Progress Show, and wine and cheese during the conference).

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