As I write this article, we are just a day away from one of Cariboo Cattle industry association’s Annual General Meeting.
At that meeting, we will be releasing a strategic plan to guide us as we struggle, like all mostly-volunteer organizations, to recruit board members. How many directors reflect the ranching base: women as well as men, First Nations as well as small operators? I know we don’t have active membership from the large corporate and sometimes foreign owned ranches.
As with most farming organizations ours has been the domain of men. Fortunately, we have a woman president who manages a thousand cow ranching operation. I am certain she has the help of her partner.
Our plan, which was adopted unanimously by our directors, will be presented to the members and we will be all ears listening to what the members have to say. It will be a challenge to engage and expand our membership.
I mused about this issue having reading about women in farm management and on boards of organizations in a recent edition of Country Guide.
I recall a humorous discussion with some ranching neighbours a few years back.
One male rancher whose partner has worked alongside him at virtually everything except logging, said his partner (wife) took care of things like childcare, birthing, growing and feeding nutritious food, participating in the school community and overseeing the kid’s education.
Also, she fully participated earning off farm money to pay for the place, and did much of the business with government, suppliers and regulators.
He, on the other hand, said he did the “important things” such as worrying and having opinions on such matters as the then Iraq war, the pursuit of peace,warming of the atmosphere, politics of the country and just about every other crucial matter challenging humankind.
This was very funny, and he, of course, had his tongue in his cheeky cheek.
In the Country Guide article, the woman interviewed made the point that while some of the agriculture service businesses had policies of equity in membership on their Boards of Directors and perhaps in their staffing policies, women were nowhere near equal in numbers on the Boards of the producer organizations.
Yet, she was as professionally qualified as a farmer and in her career as the men in these lofty positions. She felt that she still needed daycare and there was not much of that available where many of the farms are. However, social media and teleconferencing made it possible to work from home.
The conclusion of the article was that the business of governing farm Industry organizations had a long way to get to equality of the sexes in their top positions.
This is in spite of the fact that women stand to inherit and control the vast majority of farm equity (land, machinery and livestock) in the decades to come in America and probably Canada.
Maybe it is time for women to lead in the transition to successive ownership, since their day is coming albeit not too quickly.
David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.