Étienne Gosselin | Agronomist | Journalist
Dairy farmer Sabrina Caron regularly leaves her community of Laurierville to see what's new, get inspired and enjoy the intellectual stimulation that comes from learning. Is it worth the cost to step away from the everyday in order to stand out in her sector?
"Every time I attend a training course, conference or workshop or do a visit, it's not an expense, it's an investment."
That pretty much sums up what Caron has to say on the matter. The 35-year-old has a diploma in livestock production from the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (La Pocatière campus), is involved locally, provincially or nationally in unionism or cooperation and is a mother of 3!
Keeping up with what's new and investing in innovation
"I really enjoy learning," says Caron, who's featured in the La FERME TV ad produced by the Producteurs de lait du Québec, a bold ad created to put a face to the people who produce the milk on Quebec's 5,400 farms. It's no accident Caron was chosen to appear in it.
She's very active on social media--she has 1,150 Facebook friends, 2,543 Twitter followers and 441 Instagram fans--and loves new ideas, which she finds on these apps or by "asking Google." She still reads paper publications, as well, especially over lunch. "I don't just read Hoard's Dairyman, Holstein International or Production laitière moderne. There are good ideas in each one." And, despite having 136 kilos of quota to produce with 100 cattle in all, Caron has been toying with the idea of starting a cranberry bog from the sandy soil on her land.
More training = greater efficiency
"I'd do training every week," says Caron, who takes at least one exploratory trip a year. Her training budget is about $5,500 and increases every year. "This budget item pays for itself, because the new ideas I implement make the business more efficient. Also, the MAPAQ reimburses some training expenses for young farmers when it's not my local union I'm involved in that allocates its budgetary surpluses to reduce training enrollment costs." When you look at it that way, cost as an argument for not taking training just doesn't hold up anymore, says Caron.
"I wouldn't have the barn I have today if not for the many visits I made before building it in 2009," she says. Configuration of sections to maximize feeding even at night, cattle with teats adapted for robotized milking, facilities focused on the animals' wellbeing--Caron and her father refined their plans as they visited many herds and barns. "There's never a bad visit. I always learn at least one thing every time I go out," says Caron, who likes to "see to better understand."
It's great to produce milk and genetics, but the most useful training is the kind that gets her thinking about the management and evolution of her business--like Perspectives agroalimentaires, the Rendez-vous laitier AQINAC or the analyses of her farm management group. Caron feels sorry for farmers who find it hard to step away from the day-to-day. "It's a matter of will. We've arranged our business so we can focus on our strengths and on developing them," she says.
"Once I'm back on the farm, I digest the information and apply it to our situation. Because in the end, you have to stay true to your business vision," says this shareholder of Ferme Roland Caron et Savaron Holstein.
Caron also pays it forward. She doesn't just visit other businesses; she also opens her doors to local and international groups and individuals--students, interns and farmers. Every week or just about during the winter, she answers visitors' questions. The discussions are never unilateral.
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