DO YOU SOCIAL MEDIA? (cont’d from Part III) Don’t get me wrong. I loved what I was doing as an academic researcher, but I found myself feeling a bit disconnected from the real world. I felt isolated in that ivory tower and I didn’t always ‘fit in’. I was hungry to connect with public, with farmers in particular. I wanted a stronger connection with the people that grew our food and, of course, the consumers that ate it.
My students in a third year Research Methodology class that I was teaching at the University of Calgary dragged me kicking a screaming onto Facebook in 2007. There, and on Twitter, I found a voice. I was able to share what I knew and learned and engage in dialogue about agriculture from my unique perspective.
I was an early entrant to the social media space on this topic. At the time, I predicted that social media would radically change the conversation around food and agriculture. And not necessarily for the better. While my colleagues in academia saw social media as a passing fad, we soon discovered that things played more or less how I expected. And throughout all this, I continued to engage online — and I even got into it with some basement-dwelling trolls.
This all landed me a bit of notoriety. I scored invites to Canola Camp in Manitoba. I got to be a farmer for a day with the Galbraith family. I participated in media interviews. I was invited to write mainstream articles for the Western Producer, Scientific American, and Genetic Literacy Project.
I co-led the organization of the very first Biotech Bootcamp at the University of Florida. There have since been 4 more in North America. I even had the opportunity to present on a panel with renowned journalist, Mark Lynas.
And this all lead me to my current role with Bayer where I get to be part of an organization doing so much to advance modern agriculture and improve lives.
This was my unexpected journey through agriculture. There was some planning, a few accidents along the way (happy and unhappy ones), a bit of serendipity, and a lot of good luck. I was blessed with some amazing mentors and I learned from mentoring moments – both good and bad.
Amid the grief, loss, chaos, and some very marvelous milestones, I learned a few things:
- We are told these days to tell our stories in agriculture. But life’s personal triumphs and tragedies cannot be disentangled from our vocation in ag. I encourage you to let your skeletons dance. Embrace your vulnerabilities and share them. Because without darkness there can be no light.
- Lean into discomfort: for example, engaging in new conversations with new people who may think a bit differently than you do. There are great rewards in it and, I promise you, some very pleasant surprises.
- Self-doubt. It’s a universal, and a very human response to some of the crap that life deals you. But don’t let self-doubt define you – allow it drive you. When that renowned plant scientist tells you that you won’t amount to anything, prove him spectacularly wrong. Don’t get one degree, get two.
- This sounds cliché but don’t take any moment in your life for granted. Personal stories have a way of gaining new meaning over time. In the mid-90s, my feet were firmly planted in the middle of a story that I had no idea I was part of. That team of scientists that I served coffee to in Saskatoon was the same team that brought genetically engineered canola to the market. That was huge event in Canada’s agriculture history. And while I didn’t get the significance of the story I was living out then, I certainly get it now.
Speaking of things coming full circle, remember that farm boy I married back in the 80s? Well, guess what, after almost two decades after our divorce, we rediscovered one another and have since remarried.
Final words of wisdom:
“For every one person that tells you you can’t do something, surround yourself with five more than tell you you can.
Enlist their help to get you there.
Then succeed spectacularly.“