From the Editor: New year, new learning goals
CTEAM takes professional development for farmers to the next level.
By Brett Ruffell
Happy New Year! Like many of you, once the holiday festivities are over I often consider two things for the months ahead – my next professional development goal and which activity on my bucket list I’m going to check off.
My training target for 2019 was to develop multimedia skills. You’ll soon see the fruits of that labour in the form of videos and podcasts.
As for my bucket list, for the umpteenth time in a row I planned to go whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River. Last summer, I finally followed through and, obviously, lived to tell the tale!
From an ag perspective, a reader recently told me about a unique learning opportunity for farmers. I thought I’d share the details, firstly, because it’s personal development season. Secondly, I was impressed with how it brings farmers from different industries across Canada together to support each other.
It’s called Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management (CTEAM). Developed by the George Moore Centre 20 years ago, Agri-Food Management Excellent (AME) took it over in 2013.
Far from being industry specific, students acquire business management skills that any farmer could apply. “It benefits everybody in every industry because the business management skills are the same,” says AME principal Heather Broughton.
It includes four week-long modules, each of which is held in a different province. The first two modules focus on business strategy and finance. Module three covers human resource management and succession planning. The last module concentrates on policy, governance and time management.
Students – classes are capped at 25 – devote one day to touring different ag facilities, learning from other farmers and industry experts. They then spend the next four days in a classroom learning from instructors and each other. The course centres around a business plan that learners develop and perfect throughout the program and in follow-up sessions.
The working document is invaluable, says CTEAM grad Janet O’Rourke, a broiler, hog and cash crop farmer from Perth County, Ont. In 2015, just before she and her husband Kevin first expanded into broilers, they thought it was an ideal time to develop their business acumen. “We didn’t have a good plan,” O’Rourke admits.
Fast-forward five years, O’Rourke now has a new broiler barn and 20,000 birds. She says CTEAM helped her family diversify. “What was most helpful was seeing how other people farm and expand,” she says, highlighting how one family whose barn they toured shared their experiences with succession planning.
With three staffers and also family who work at the farm seasonally, O’Rourke found the human resources module to be especially helpful, noting that neither she nor her husband had any prior training in the area.
The CTEAM alum used her newly acquired knowledge to develop job descriptions and evaluations. She also created a procedures manual in collaboration with her staff. “I had the actual people doing that job write the procedures for me,” she explains.
The business plan is still a work in progress that she continues to refine. “Because there’s follow up there’s good accountability,” she says. Looking back, the producer is adamant that the intensive schedule and $8,500 tuition fee was worth it.
Now, Broughton reveals that she’s currently running the numbers to provide concrete evidence of CTEAM’s return on investment. She ends with some wise words to start off 2020. “We want people to start thinking about investing in themselves.”