Brent Derkatch teaches elementary school students about the agriculture industry at a recent Agriculture in the Classroom event.

There’s a lot of talk about engagement in our industry, and how important it is. I think we can all agree that it’s important for seed industry members to be engaged, but what does that look like? And, more importantly, how does one become engaged?

We’re all “involved” in our industry. We involve ourselves by going to work each day. We attend training sessions in order to hone our skills. But engagement is more than just involvement. It’s more than just going to a training session to learn new things. It’s about volunteering your time to help make your industry better.

I recently took part in an Agriculture in the Classroom session. I went to my daughters’ French immersion school in Winnipeg, where I stood in front of a roomful of young children and enlightened them about the agriculture industry and its importance. I really enjoyed it and I was so impressed with the kids.

The thing is, engagement takes time. This is what stops a lot of people from becoming as engaged in their industry as they could be.

We’re all busy, but to be engaged takes commitment not just from the individual, but also the organization they work for to provide the time it takes.

There are certain things you can do to be engaged while in your office, but it often takes some travel to become a truly engaged person. Conferences, working groups, and many other initiatives require you to be there in the flesh. And that means taking some time away from “work”.

At Canterra Seeds, we’re committed to industry engagement as part of what we believe in. What I’m doing is not unique. Our marketing director, Sheena Pitura, is involved in Agriculture in the Classroom and the Canadian Seed Trade Association stakeholder relations working group. Our president, Dave Hansen, volunteers for Cereals Canada and CropLife Canada. Erin Armstrong, our industry and regulatory affairs director, is also very involved in industry.

We’ve committed our people and resources to support the industry, and I encourage other companies to do that as well.

Being involved in industry initiatives is about partnerships, after all. You have to collaborate with other stakeholders and competing companies in that space. You have to be working together for the common good, and that’s why engagement is so crucial.

I often find the same people volunteering and contributing to various initiatives within the industry. I can think of about 10 people who are always the first to put up their hand. Part of that is their own personal nature, and another part is the fact they work for a company that supports that level of volunteering. That’s a positive thing, but it doesn’t encourage new ideas and diversity of opinion. It’s important to get others involved.

Doing so pays off in the long run. Over a period of time, it shows. On any organization or committee I’ve been involved in, I’ve always been able to get more out than I’ve put in. That’s one thing a lot of people and companies underestimate — that it’s an education opportunity. Enaging in your industry isn’t necessarily a substitute for formal training, of course, but it’s a not-too-distant second as far as development of an individual is concerned.

This year I’m serving as president of the CSTA. People ask me how it’s going, and I say it’s like doing a seed industry MBA, but it’s one you can’t take at a university or college. You’re living it, and the only way to experience it is to be a volunteer.

I encourage our member companies to send more people to industry events and get involved in good causes like Agriculture in the Classroom. It doesn’t have to be senior managers, either — there are many staff members who can contribute.

Agriculture in the Classroom is a great way for people to start getting more engaged, by reaching out to help school kids learn where their food comes from. I benefit from a personal sense of satisfaction from teaching the next generation about our industry. Give it a try. You won’t be sorry you did.

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