This year’s conference date was moved from January, 2013 to October 2013. While attendance was down, one of the factors attributed to this decline was the late harvest.
Many of our members were still haying and combining under some pretty rough weather conditions. However, having said that, the members who were there were enthusiastic, energetic, and came prepared to learn and work.
Big Daddy Taz
The morning session was started off by a surprise visitor, “Big Daddy Taz”.
He woke the crowd up with his down-to-earth humor and put everyone in the mood for learning.
Lots of laughter was heard throughout the hall and after coffee break there were still large smiles on people’s faces.
Keynote Speaker – Peter Male
“Peter Male” from the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver inspired us all with stories and pictures of innovation and creativity. He spoke about the importance of Ag Societies being a “gathering place for community.” Additionally, he talked about the importance of remaining relevant to the community and stressed that it doesn’t matter the size of the organization we must always keep re-inventing ourselves. Peter was thought provoking, and put the crowd into a creative mode that got them ready for the rest of the day.
Liz Roberts, Superintendent of Ag Societies and Marlene Baskerville, Executive Director of M.A.A.S. led the group through a community engagement process. People were asked to engage in conversation around questions that challenged them to reflect and have very different conversations than they had previously experienced.
Participants didn’t have time to sit still – every activity required them to move and to sit with someone they least knew or hadn’t sat with before.
By the end of the day there wasn’t one person that hadn’t had the opportunity to converse with everyone in the room. Not only did they move around – they created!
A warm up question was asked to get the group comfortable with the process. There was a buzz in the room as people shared what their commitment was in coming to this conference. During the plenary two groups were asked what surprised them in the conversation they had to which they replied:
“the commitment people brought into the room were similar to each other.”
The second question asked participants to share what made their community or region the best place to live for them. Once again the noise level rose as people became excited at sharing their view of their community. Following this exercise the groups were then asked to record words that described their amazing communities. A pattern emerged and many of the words were repeated including:
Describing Your Winning Community in 3 – 5 words (Flipchart)
Volunteerism Comfort (2)
Sense of Belonging (2)
Extended family (8) Economics
Partnerships (3) Dedication
Pride (2) Growth
Tradition (2) Lifestyle (2)
Positive (3) Refocusing
Diversity (2) Multi-generation
Youth Community spirit
Welcoming Close knit
Safe and secure environment
Everyone was now in the creative mode and the next question provided them an opportunity to come together to create ideas for their future. All their ideas were recorded on flipchart and then hung on the walls. People walked the walls and climbed all over the data and together they themed their ideas into 8 key categories.
A. – Youth
B. – Events
C. – Technology
D. – Partnership
E. – Positive Experiences
F. – Ag Education and Awareness
G. – Facilities
H. – Leadership
Ideas You Want to Create Together?
Reaching out to youth to incorporate ideas
Real youth involvement
Ask youth what they want and listen to them
Engage young people and elders together
Community gardens – youth & seniors – produce & donate to charity
Welcome youth and embrace their ideas
Seniors into school classrooms to teach gardening etc.
Use technology to advantage – email/facebook
D. Partnerships and collaboration
Strengthen ties with neighboring organizations
Pooling of resources
Partner with other organizations in community
Different organizations coming together for common goals
Cooperating with other groups
E. Positive Experiences
Remember to have fun
Entice whole family to participate to satisfy all needs – fun for all ages, entertainment, babysitting
Engaged youth and elders together
Do ordinary things extraordinarily well
Engage and empower ethnic and cultural diversity
F. Ag education and awareness
Diversify what ag means in our communities
Seniors come into school classrooms to teach gardening, etc.
Education with different cultural groups
Multi-generational sharing of knowledge
Make facilities more accessible for physically challenged, ramps, benches, family washrooms
Multi- generational facilities in middle of town – greenspace, daycares, schools, nursing homes.
Become a welcoming body in community
Planning for future
Listen – “we not me”
Develop inter-cultural inclusion
Awareness of opportunities
Embracing future interests while honoring tradition
Creating opportunities and leadership
Newcomers, First Nations and youth
Engage and empower ethnic and cultural diversity
In the next exercise the participants were tasked with the job of identifying 3- 5 bold steps around the theme they had a passion for, that they felt could transform their community. People organized themselves into groups around the theme in which they had a passion and where they wanted to spend time on creating ideas for the future. The following “bold steps” were developed.
What Bold Steps Might be Created based on Themes
Give a small bursary to volunteer youth to go to an ag program
Contest for youth that promotes agriculture through creative projects
Encourage youth volunteers to become a junior director to share ideas from a youth perspective
Work with school curriculum
Give ownership to youth\jobs they want and events want to work at
Bring a youth with you
Scholarships for youth volunteers
Use youth them to post on social media free
Create a theme that suits your community
Introduce involvement from your community (all ages/organization)
Execute your plan with positive reinforcement
Develop webpage that is maintained and updated with current information (facebook/web)
Saves times, money, could email books, post fair results.
Sell advertising online, sponsorships
Incorporate technology into the fair
All recording of results done on computer
Live interaction (ipod, texting, pictures)
Photography contests (digitally enhanced)
Website design competition
Run seniors course for computer (possibly youth involved)
Big party to include all organizations in area (bring food, ideas and spirits)
Comment box – how could we partner together
Identify opportunity to collaborate – how
Action plan – how can it work, who’s doing what
Evaluation and refine
Umbrella board for different community groups
Partnering with other community groups to utilize facilities year round
Partnering with neighboring ag society to hold larger events
Identify common goals
Insist every new development has a community garden incorporated within every school, seniors centre in retrofitted life cycles, the organic existence (in finding ways to create experiences of every aspect of community celebration)
Ag Education and Awareness
Tours to farms with kids (to elevators, food develop lab, equipment, manufacturing)
Farm to plate – education in classroom
Cultural awareness around food in world
KIDS IN THE KITCHEN
Garden in the schools
Ag science fair, animal welfare,
Bio security/disease in plants and animals
Eat local grown products.
No one worked on this theme at this time
Mandatory leadership/governance – training for all ag society board members on roles/responsibility
Ensure that governance includes all voices/cultural/age/gender
Recognize heritage while looking to the future
In plenary the “bold steps” were reviewed and everyone was asked: “Is there anything on the list they would not be willing to work toward?” Everyone in the room agreed they were prepared to make these ideas happen.
The next exercise had the participants share with each other what they personally would be willing to contribute to make these bold steps happen?
Comments included: inclusion of youth and giving them ownership of their project; M.A.A.S board members stated they would contact all the Ag Societies (by letter and email) within their district to encourage them to take leadership/governance training
Prior to the final exercise Peter Male was asked to return to the podium and provide his thoughts on the day. Peter fed back to the group three key thoughts that he heard throughout the day:
We are all the same regardless of size of community, organization, or event
We can affect change in our communities if we are willing to work together
Engaging youth is a major target in moving forward.
Peter also reiterated the fact that because Ag Societies are living reflections of life around them, it is important to know their community – and identify how Ag Societies reflect the needs of their community. As well, Peter was amazed at how the discussion reinforced both the Mission and Vision statement of M.A.A.S.
Peter’s final reflections are critical in ensuring that Ag Societies are around for another 100 years and that is that “our strength in moving forward comes from our ability to work together, with other communities, with the Provincial association and with the National organization.”
The final exercise the facilitators asked people to express in a few words what they were taking away with them today. The responses included:
The importance of youth (“youthmania”)
Inspiration and vision
Passion and commitment
Right event for your community
This year M.A.A.S was delighted to showcase two bands.
“Hicktown” from the Treherne area entertained participants. This is an up and coming band that would be a great addition to your events. Jason Gates is the contact person and can be reached at: (204) 723-2075;
Email Jason Gates at: HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org
M.A.A.S. feels very fortunate to have had “Jerry Sereda” and his band perform. Jerry is a Canadian Country Recording artist who has been a long time fixture on the Winnipeg music scene. He began writing songs in 2003 with a style that combines the descriptive storytelling of classic country crooners with the upbeat rhythms of modern country music and a singing style that has been compared to the “styles of country rockers Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw.” (Grassroots News, June 26th, 2007)
Jerry and his band would be a welcome addition to any of your events and he can be contacted at: HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at: 1-204-918-1337
“The M.A.A.S. Board will provide Manitoba Agricultural Societies with the vehicles and opportunities to develop and promote vital communities.”
“The M.A.A.S. Board will lead in revitalizing our communities”