Assiniboine Community College will be presenting Sylvia Mitchell with an honorary diploma in agribusiness at this year’s graduation ceremony in Brandon to be held in late October.
Sylvia was born and raised in Brandon, living there for 27 years before marrying Donn Mitchell. Settling on Donn’s grandparents’ homesteaded farmland north of Douglas in 1959 was Sylvia’s inauguration into the world of agriculture, now continuing into its sixth decade.
“I listened a lot,” said Sylvia. “My side of the family is not agricultural.”
She and her late husband, Donn, have been active members of the local agriculture community since the 1950s, often extending their presence beyond international borders, travelling the world to promote and sell their registered polled Hereford cattle — the main focus of their own Klondike Farms.
With Donn’s farm background and Sylvia’s experience in office work and bookkeeping, the two developed an electronic system for farm record-keeping — one that Sylvia says was able to outperform others because of the farming knowledge behind it.
This system became a model for the industry, tracking genetic information of livestock as well as inputs and variables for grain farming, which served them well in their own operation where they farmed grain along with raising polled Herefords. This diversity of commodities, she recounts as a positive in their farm journey.
“The college strives to provide leadership in agriculture-based programming, so we’re thrilled to recognize one of the early innovators in this industry. Mrs. Mitchell and her late husband had a pronounced commitment to agriculture and rural life,” said Assiniboine president Mark Frison.
“The Mitchells provided tremendous leadership and volunteerism with local agriculture and farm organizations — community involvement that Sylvia has continued to date.”
Sylvia served as an international officer of Quota International, chairperson of the Wheat Belt Community Futures, vice-president of the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame, and is a life member of the Women’s Institute. This honorary diploma adds to her YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and her designation as a Notable Farm Woman by Farm Woman News. Sylvia and her husband were inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1997.
“It was educational, too,” Sylvia says of her involvement with these many agricultural groups.
The Mitchells also provided financial support and sponsorship to local agriculture organizations and events, supporting the younger generation interested in agriculture. And from their own experience with farming, they learned some valuable lessons to pass on.
“We encourage the younger generation to go into, not necessarily just the agricultural farming, but into the agricultural management,” said Sylvia.
Her husband Donn used to speak with young farmers who would say they kept all the information they needed in their head. Donn would laugh at this, she says, before insisting they start writing everything down to keep track of it. This mentality went hand in hand with their push to create their own cutting-edge electronic record-keeping system.
Sylvia now lives at Riverheights Terrace, a retirement living community in the far west end of Brandon. She moved from the farm five years ago, after splitting her time for a couple of years, spending springs and summers on the farm and winters in Brandon.
A highlight of her life on the farm with Donn was the close relationship they had with their workers. She remembers many mornings where the farm workers would all come into the office to sit down for a cup of tea with her and Donn, where they’d all plan their day.