Pork producer Dianne Brekelmans describes in her own words how she and her family embrace change on their growing farm in Oxford County.
There are two framed aerial photographs hanging in the entrance of the Brekelmans’ farmhouse in Oxford County:
One, a black-and-white photo of a horse and wagon in the field amongst the stacks of hay.
The next, a photo taken about fifty years later with a new pig farrowing unit in the same location where that horse and wagon once stood.
We are once again in the process of expanding our herd, which incorporates building new and renovating existing buildings to improve production and efficiencies using new technology.
Change is constant, but how do we successfully embrace it? My husband Francis says, “Just do it.”
We farm with our sons Travis and Calvin and a team of dedicated employees. Our sons have asked us, “Where do you learn all this stuff?”
We tell them it takes passion and grit and connecting with people who share in your desire to learn and succeed. We are fortunate to be involved in an industry with so many resources. We can’t prepare for every unforeseen event, but can position ourselves to respond creatively to challenges versus just reacting to them.
Change can create opportunities that we may not have even envisioned. A few examples:
- New challenges prompt us to reevaluate how we do things—just look at the changes that have taken place in the pork industry over the last few years.
- The new technology implemented on our farm such as electronic feeding in the gestation barns gives the next generation more autonomy than we ever had.
- We started succession planning a few years ago to formally bring our sons into the family business structure.
- Our staff that we work with daily are vital to achieving success of producing quality piglets to our supplier. We continue to foster creativity in the workplace. It is important to hear our employees and continue to foster dialogue.
Bringing values to life
I am a current participant in the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP) Class 16 with the Rural Ontario Institute. At the beginning of the program if you would have asked me what makes a great leader, I would have listed a handful of values that I feel are important in a leader.
Now that I am approaching the end of the formative AALP journey, my response to what I see as qualities of a great leader would be one who brings those values to life.