As we approach the post-pandemic reopening of Canadian businesses, the time seemed right to begin what all intend to be a successful, growing collaboration between provincial associations and their collective members.
On March 18, the board of directors of three provinces, (Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec) met in an inaugural townhall to discuss issues of mutual interest and to consider opportunities for enhanced collaboration.
While the sheep industry differs in practice from region to region, it has key common elements. The industry employs several successful production models, some unique to the geography of a region. Regardless of production model or region, the industry shares a common desire to capitalize on the growing market demand.
For each of the provinces engaged in the initial townhall the sheep sector is maturing into an important component of the agricultural landscape.
Negotiating that maturation, ensuring market access for growth, and making the best use of limited human, financial and leadership resources are elements in the leadership challenge confronting the three boards. Indeed, a central theme of the discussion was the need/opportunity to, in the face of increasing demands, help each other be more efficient and effective, particularly relating to the use of limited staff resources. One participant described “knitting together common resources” to better collect and mobilize data and information.
The theme of optimizing efficiency and effectiveness was a cornerstone in conversations around ensuring that the provinces and their federal counterpart did not duplicate efforts, choosing instead to put effort and resources behind initiatives with a high probability of generating positive outcomes.
Another point of agreement was the imperative to include as many provinces as possible in a forum to share challenges and solutions to better serve the industry.
The session also yielded discussion around several specific areas of potential focus:
- There are clear common benefits in inter-provincial opportunities for learnings and support on
- common interests to be enriched by further collaboration (e.g. market intelligence, and clarity on the definition/measure(s) of growth).
- common challenges in production (e.g. traceability);
- The opportunity to learn and leverage from inter-provincial engagement across Canada’s sheep sector (e.g. Quebec’s Agri-tracability system). Participants also highlighted a desire to know more about production in other province’s - production models such as feedlot utilization, flock size and economic or market conditions
- That collaboration between provincial sheep organizations can be further enriched by the participation of additional provincial organizations.
- Clear common concerns around import competition, the next generation of sheep farmers, changing animal welfare expectations, processing infrastructure (though a diffusion of concerns from expanding capacity to consolidation), and, a better understanding of the “consumer”.
- Collective consideration on the future of farming – what does the future farmer look like; what does the future of farming require to be successful; what would effective support for a transition to “smart growth” look like?
In conclusion, the session was a positive first step with a clear desire to formalize a more purposeful collaboration.
Next the provincial boards will consider how best to isolate individual initiatives for collaboration and methods of increasing efficiencies.