A plan to provide more agricultural training in western Manitoba has won first prize in a competition among second-year agribusiness students at Assiniboine Community College.
Charlee McLaughlin-Ventnor of Shoal Lake along with Donovan Hickson from Forrest and Laura Sytnyk of Rivers developed a fictional company called the Agricultural Training Farm of Manitoba — an extended agricultural training program that would give graduates more hands-on experience before entering the industry.
“This program would be targeting students who have graduated from an agriculture program. We want to provide a secondary option and further training to give students a leg up in the industry,” McLaughlin-Ventnor said.
The competition was held in mid-February. Ten teams of students presented their plans to peers, which were evaluated and narrowed down to three finalists.
Alumni from the agribusiness program then judged the finalists.
“There’s tremendous value in students working through the challenges and complexities of a complete plan from start to finish,” said agribusiness instructor Terry Powell. “They have to think through all aspects of their business model as well as challenges and opportunities in the marketplace to deliver a strategy for success.”
First prize came with a $1,200 award contributed by Redfern Farm Services Ltd., that has supported the event for the past three years.
“It’s always exciting to see an idea and a concept come together,” said owner Ray Redfern. “It really does prepare those participants for tomorrow’s world.”
Keep kids at home
The fictional Agricultural Training Farm would look to offer essential hands-on skills and allow graduates to have a more rounded knowledge of farm operations.
“I think having this program in western Manitoba would be a huge benefit because this kind of hands-on learning isn’t available around here,” said McLaughlin-Ventnor. “I think that a lot of local kids from around here travel to Lakeland College in Alberta to get this kind of education. So having that kind of program available here would benefit our local industry for sure.”
The fictional business plan outlines that the training program would be an eight-month certificate program offered by ACC in partnership with the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative.
McLaughlin-Ventnor said the training program would be set up at the MBFI sites and would likely focus on cattle production in the initial years.
“In working with MBFI and the faculties there, we would really focus on cattle production for the first couple of years because that is what we have available to us. We would be looking to target cattle farmers and local 4-H kids in cattle programs, along with agriculture program grads,” McLaughlin-Ventnor said.
Each student team was poised with selecting a mentor that could provide them with real-world expertise in operations. Glenn Friesen, project co-ordinator with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development was this group’s mentor.
“I really enjoyed working with them. They are progressive and thought-provoking individuals, and worked well as a team,” Friesen said. “From the outset of our initial meeting, they continued to ask many questions, exploring directions, potential partnerships, and design options for the training program.”
According to Hickson, parts of the students’ concept may one day become a reality on the MBFI research farm.
“Talking to Glenn afterwards he seemed pretty happy with our finished project. He actually wants us to send him our business plan so that he can implement some of that on the site,” Hickson said.