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"Like anything in life, you reap what you sow. The more that you put into something, the more you will get out of it." That is Kaleigh Sorensen's take on the Next Gen Agriculture Mentorship Program. Sorensen was matched with her mentor, award-winning rancher Sean McGrath, 11 months ago. She already considers this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I want to be viewed as a leader in my area of expertise and within my community," she said. "This program has given me more confidence to speak publicly, take risks, reach out to those in the industry that I admire and want to learn from, and to pursue a life filled with learning."
The Next Gen Agriculture mentorship program is administered by Canadian Western Agribition and funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year investment by federal and provincial governments. The objective of the 18-month match is to develop the leadership capacity of young people in agriculture.
In November 2019, Canadian Western Agribition announced it would be accepting another round of applications for the program. Eight mentees will be selected to participate in the second year.
McGrath sees a lot of value in the program as a leadership development conduit.
"Young people come into the industry with a creative set of eyes and ask a totally different set of questions. Involving young leaders in the industry offers a whole new perspective and helps to equip us better for where the world is going," he said.
The Next Gen Agriculture Mentorship Program includes skills training, board and governance training, industry learning, networking opportunities and one-on-one time with mentors. Sorensen, who is currently in university with the intention of becoming a veterinarian specializing in large animals, has already been exposed to new technology, extension education and leaders who are pushing the envelope on how to be more innovative in the industry.
For Sorensen, the experience has helped her clarify her vision of how to be a vet viewed as "influential, trustworthy and authentic." For McGrath, working with Sorensen has refreshed his faith and enthusiasm for the industry and where it's going.
"It has been a privilege and pretty fun being a mentor," McGrath said. "It's a bit of a reverse program, because I am getting a lot out of it, too."
Sorensen and McGrath's formal mentee-mentor pairing will end this July, but the benefits will be felt for years to come. McGrath's decision to be a mentor in the program hinged simply on the fact that somebody reached out to ask him. Getting involved as a leader in the agriculture industry can be as easy as keeping your eyes out for opportunities and being willing to say yes when someone reaches out.
More information about the program is available at saskatchewan.ca/CAP.
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