Germination presents a series of stories on the 20 most influential people in the seed sector in 2018. Want to nominate someone for 2019? Email email@example.com with the subject line “Top 20 nomination”!
Iris Meck might not work directly in the seed industry, but that’s not stopping her from having a big influence on it.
Meck, owner of Iris Meck Communications, is helping put the seed sector’s women in the spotlight by creating the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference that takes place twice a year — once in Western Canada and once in the East.
The event brings women in agriculture and food together from across Canada and parts of the U.S. including business experts, motivational and inspirational leaders and industry representatives. It marked its fifth anniversary in Calgary earlier this year and has become known for putting women in seed in the spotlight.
Meck grew up on a farm in Manitoba. She went to the University of Manitoba to get a degree in agriculture and was offered a position at Cargill when she graduated. After a career working for major companies in the ag space, she started Iris Meck Communications in 2000 working with clients from small to major corporations. She now has over 40 years experience working in ag.
“I appreciated the entrepreneurial spirit in the people I worked with over the years, and I decided there was a real need in the industry to give women a voice in agriculture and to also recognize the contribution that women have made in the ag industry. There are great women we don’t hear about often enough, if at all,” she says.
So, she founded the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference to do just that.
“It’s an opportunity to learn from these influential women what leadership is all about. Whether you’re an executive, or running a farming operation, or you’re a student just graduating from university, it’s always great to hear someone’s story and learn from them.”
But people in the seed industry are also learning from Meck herself. She’s become an example of how one person can make a huge difference by going out on a limb and trying something new.
“I think the greatest challenge I’ve had in all my work career is knowing when to step out of my comfort zone. I did that when I started my own business. It was very comfortable working for other organizations — but taking that step from a regular paycheque to stepping out on your own and starting with nothing, that was a huge risk,” she adds.
“Thinking back, I wish I’d have done it a year sooner. Same thing with starting the Advancing Women Conference — it was a big risk to decide to do a conference on my own. With the support I’ve had, it’s been a massive success and I wish I’d done it six years ago rather than five.”
(Listen to Iris Meck speak about her vision for the future of the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference.)