Lights, Camera, Action!

Telling Stories of Agriculture Through The Camera Lens

By Ryan Métivier

When you hear the name Bruce Sargent in agricultural circles, it’s synonymous with high quality video production, an entrepreneurial spirit and his company, Farm Boy Productions.

It is an enterprise that has allowed him to put his talents to work on numerous projects in the agriculture industry. However, it wasn’t that long ago that Sargent was a student at Clarington Central Secondary School, planning a career in media and showing calves in 4-H dairy projects.

Sargent, now 24, was a member in 4-H from the age he was eligible, until he graduated—only missing two years due to other commitments. With grandparents and parents involved in the program, as well as all four of his siblings, he fell in love with the program too. Today, he’s in his second year of leading the dairy club in Durham East—a club of which three of his siblings are members.

“I really like leading. It gives me the opportunity to give back to the community that raised me up and pass on some of my experiences to the younger seniors,” he says.

Sargent still counts many of his close friends as people whom he met through 4-H-—and specifically through Provincial 4-H Leadership Camp. Whether it’s friends he sees regularly, or people he connects with in the agriculture industry, familiar 4-H faces are always nearby.

Heavily involved with all things media and communications in high school, Sargent was assigned the task of creating a logo in his Communications Technology class, which would be used to brand his work for the rest of the year. Farm Boy Productions popped into his head. After being assigned a project to work with a poultry farm on creating a website and business cards, the business model slowly began to take shape.

This continued into university when he applied to the Summer Company Program, which provided more experience and a chance to put his business education to work, while still allowing for time working at the family farm. His work landed a few newspaper and TV stories, including coverage by the Ontario Farmer, which continued to open new doors.

Now five years into the business, Sargent has taken on countless projects—and the work keeps piling up. Word of mouth, networking and leveraging media at the right time have all helped to grow Farm Boy Productions into what it is today.

“The biggest thing is word of mouth,” says Sargent. “Once you make a couple of good contacts and impress the right people, their friends in the industry will call on them and say they need somebody and if you’ve impressed them and if you’ve done well, they’re going to promote you. And that happens a lot, especially since the Farm & Food Care project.”

That project was the Faces Of Farming calendar, which featured Sargent’s family in 2010. A couple of years later, with his company up and running, Sargent approached Farm & Food Care and pitched the concept of creating video interviews with those farmers featured in the calendar.

The idea took—and now sees Sargent helping not only with photography for the calendar, but also creating related videos. By scanning a QR code in the calendar, readers can view this additional media content from Farm & Food Care.

“It’s the perfect day,” he says. “You get to meet different farmers from all over Ontario and they’re all from different corners of the industry. It’s a really fun ‘I Love My Job’ day.”

Among many exciting projects, another is the Egg Farmers Of Ontario book he completed by visiting 240 farms across Ontario, doing photography and videography for their 50th Anniversary. Many of the 1,000 copies produced now sit in the hands of every MP, MPP, farmer and sponsor of Egg Farmers Of Ontario.

Each fall, Sargent also attends the Agricultural Bio Technology International Conference, typically held out west, where he conducts three video news broadcasts per day from the show.

“It’s a cool add-on to my typical video production, as I get to play a news host for the week.”

Sargent looks at many of the skills and experiences he gained from his time in 4-H as being building blocks to his success today, citing communication and work ethic as important traits to have in the business world.

“Public speaking is a hallmark of the 4-H program—and being able to present reasons or give a speech,” he says. “Those skills from speeches and debates still come through on a regular basis in meetings and presenting myself at networking events,” says Sargent.

“The work ethic is huge, because the livestock programs in 4-H and a lot of the clubs—you can’t do them unless you put 110 per cent into it and the reward you get back when you do put that effort in is definitely what I’ve applied to my business model.”

While it may seem like more and more doors keep opening for Sargent and Farm Boy Productions, that didn’t happen overnight. Sargent says he has been annoying his siblings reciting his “elevator speech” to use at networking events for years, and then working to build up contacts, a good portfolio and a name for his work.

“Entrepreneurship is really hard because you feel like you always have to justify yourself and prove yourself,” he says.

Farm Boy Productions is now a division of Glacier Farm Media. It’s a partnership born two years ago, while Sargent was on a project with Ontario Agri-Food Education at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. While interviewing Glacier’s publisher about jobs in agriculture, he impressed enough to be invited to meet with the company’s vice presidents later that day. After a follow-up meeting, the deal was made official the following July. It is a deal that has allowed both parties to share resources and grow their businesses.

As the Farm Boy Productions name and business continues to grow, Sargent is looking to incorporate aerial video and photography into his repertoire, to complete a documentary on farming, add to his skills force and to work with Glacier Farm Media on expanding into projects across the country.

He also hopes to use his skills and connections to help grow the profile of farming and agriculture because not a lot of people know what goes into making their food.

“I want to continue to do that any way I can going forward, because we as an industry have to do better at telling people what we do,” he says. “I really care about agriculture. It’s provided for my family and I believe in it.”

The Family Business Is Dairy

The Family Passion Is 4-H

By Ryan Métivier

Emily den Haan remembers many days spent on a tractor with her mom, cutting hay and brainstorming ideas about starting up an on-farm dairy operation.

Today, those plans have come to fruition and she and her family now sit around the table to brainstorm new products to sell at Sheldon Creek Dairy, which is located on their family Haanview Farm in Loretto, Ontario.

The den Haan name is well known in the 4-H community. John, and wife Bonnie were members as youth and have continued involvement in the program to this day. Whether it be their deep commitment to volunteering, or time spent leading the organization—John was Ontario 4-H Council President from 2012 to 2014—they have been heavily involved with all things 4-H.

“4-H has been a big part of our lives, both as members and volunteers,” says John. “The program has given us many opportunities to learn and meet new people as well as to give back by helping to develop the next generation.”

The den Haan family immigrated to the Alliston area in Simcoe County from Holland after World War II in 1953 and after three years of hard work they established Haanview Farms. Born in 1955, John was the sixth child
in his family. In 1982, he and Bonnie married and began farming together developing the Haanview Herd.

Together, their family continued to grow with four children of their own in Scott, Andrew, Marianne and Emily. John and Bonnie passed their love for 4-H on to their children. All four participated in 4-H as youth, and have remained involved in one way or another into their adult lives.

Scott has two daughters who are of 4-H age and excited to join. Andrew is a dairy judge who judges 4-H shows, Marianne has participated as a 4-H leader and Emily is currently a leader for both the South Simcoe Crops Club and the Cookstown Dairy Club.

Agriculture has always been a staple in their family and after hearing members in their community express a desire to purchase whole milk from a local farm, they built and created Sheldon Creek Dairy.

At Sheldon Creek Dairy products are pasteurized, but not homogenized. The company produces whole white milk, skim milk, chocolate milk, yogurt, labneh and cream, as well as strawberry milk and eggnog in season.

“The goal is to produce fresh, local products,” says John, emphasizing the importance consumers place on knowing the source of products. “Education about agriculture and food is also a big part of our business.”

Part of that education has come in the form of private farm tours where visitors see what the cows are fed and how they are milked. This season, two free events were planned—with Annual Day on the Farm in June, and another coming up for the Fall Harvest Festival. Local 4-H’ers are recruited to help run the events.

Keeping things in the family, their daughters are both heavily involved in the business. Marianne works for Sheldon Creek Dairy overseeing the production of various products, managing the distribution of products to store shelves and building the company brand through social media, advertising and working with service groups within the communities where they sell their milk.

The growth of the company has been built on a strong foundation, which has grown steadily over the years. The farm continues to develop, gaining new technologies to keep up with the times. Sheldon Creek Dairy was another way of adding value to the farm in 2012. The company has seen growth through a trend for consumers to source food locally, wanting to know where their food is coming from, and also wanting more whole foods.

“It is an exciting time in agriculture, where we can myth-bust the common misconceptions consumers have about agriculture and the food grown here in Canada,” says Marianne.

For Marianne, being able to advance the company alongside her family has been an amazing experience.

“When you work in a family business, everyone knows that you are all in this together and each of you work towards that common goal. We all grew up with the same work ethic, and when working alongside your family, you are a natural team.”

Emily’s main responsibilities come on the dairy farm, where she is in charge of herd care, milking, field-work and other day-to-day tasks around the farm. She’s also an Associate Sales Representative for DuPont Pioneer and has a small Purebred Shorthorn Herd, conveniently located across the road from Haanview Farms.

“We have always been a close family, my brothers and sisters-in-law included. It’s really nice to work with people who are more than just co-workers,” she says.

With three grandchildren already, allowing the next generation to become part of the business has been part of the succession plan John and Bonnie have been developing.

Their operations have also created jobs for others in agriculture, including 4-H’ers. Sheldon Creek Dairy employs six full-time and four part-time employees, while Haanview Farms employs another three full-time and two part-time.

“It has given an opportunity for students to experience agriculture as a part-time job as well as given others a full-time job in a rural environment,” says John. “As a result HR has a whole new meaning.”

“When I see 4-H on a resume, it is an automatic for an interview as I know the program prepares youth with the tools needed for success,” adds Marianne.

For Marianne, those tools to success included learning how to lead and how to let others take the lead, public speaking and how to engage an audience when making a pitch to potential customers. She also learned life skills such as cooking, sewing and learning how to be curious.

“4-H taught me perseverance and to be persistent, learning that everything in life takes work and everything doesn’t come easy,” she says. “It taught me to remember your roots and where you came from, to give back to others and to be more than just a member of your community.”

For Emily, learning how to communicate and how others communicate, as well as how to be professional yet still have fun, were skills she took from her time in 4-H that have translated to the working world.

Being able to work in a team and develop a strategy are skills John says he learned back in his own 4-H meetings.

“Those [skills], along with having the confidence to take risks and talk to customers freely about agriculture, all began through speaking in public and explaining your choices at 4-H meetings.”

John has seen first-hand the effect and benefits 4-H can have on youth with children of his own.

“4-H teaches self-confidence and decision making through judging and developing a strong work ethic by being willing to learn, he says.

The den Haan family work ethic has made their company into the success that it is today, with over 100 locations within a 100-mile radius of the company carrying Sheldon Creek Dairy products.

A Lifelong Ambassador

How 4-H Membership Turned Into A Career In Agriculture

By Ryan Métivier

Three years ago Samantha Klaver joined the 4-H Ontario Ambassador program and became one of the faces of the program throughout 2012. Already a 4-H member at the time since she was 11, she says the program definitely helped to shape who she is today.

From improving her public speaking, as well as confidence, and interview, presentation and etiquette skills, to enabling her to gain a new career, participate in competitions and meeting people of similar interests, Samantha took advantage of everything 4-H had to offer.

“I really enjoyed learning about such a broad spectrum of topics,” she says. “It allowed me to learn a little bit about so many different topics that interested my peers. Without 4-H, I would not have been able to visit some of the places I have, nor meet so many people whom I am still in contact with today.”

Samantha Klaver (far left) with her fellow 2012 4-H Ontario Ambassadors.

Samantha’s first 4-H club was Wearable Art, after hearing about it through her church bulletin and joining on her mother’s suggestion, as she had been a 4-H member herself as a child. That first club lead to many more and eventually her position as an Ambassador.

Looking back at her scrapbook, Samantha remembers the sponsor tour day, learning about other agribusinesses; the GROWMARK Annual General Meeting where she met Future Farmers of America members and farmers; visiting the Chicago Board of Trade; and, the UPI Rendezvous, where she had the opportunity to enjoy a surprise concert by Emerson Drive.

Today, Samantha has parlayed her experiences in 4-H into a career in the agriculture industry. As a Field Marketer for Hensall District Co-operative in Seaforth, Samantha works with farmers in Huron and Perth Counties, assisting them with growing successful crops, such as food grade soybeans and edible beans.

The role gives Samantha lots of variety, as she will spend some days attending meetings and training, and others on the road meeting with farmers to determine crop plans for the upcoming growing season.

The required public speaking skills were something she worked to develop during the Ambassador program.

“I have a lot more confidence in myself when speaking in front of crowds, which made my last year in 4-H the most memorable,” she says.

While competing in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture Competition last November at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, she noted in her speech that without 4-H, she would not have been there speaking.

“I used to be really shy and quiet, but 4-H changed that about me and applying to be a 4-H Ambassador only seemed like the right thing to do.”

The Ambassador program also gave Samantha a great foundation to become a 4-H Leader. She took up volunteering this year, and says she looks forward to sharing 4-H with everyone she meets. This summer she had the opportunity to chaperone a group of 4-H members to the Peace River area in British Columbia.

“An organization that has literally taught me to ‘Learn To Do By Doing,’ also taught me that anything is possible as it has lead me to keep working and learning in agriculture; the industry I grew up in. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The  4-H Ontario Ambassador Program celebrates ten years of senior youth leadership in 2015. The Ambassador program is generously sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc and UPI Energy LP.

A World Record 4-H Project

By: Ryan Métivier

The bond between 4-H’er and calf is one that often grows strong,- bringing much joy. This was never more evident than during the partnership between Stormont’s Aimee Van Loon and her jersey calf, Payneside Mac N Cheese.

Loaned to Aimee for her 4-H project in 2013 by club leader Jill Robinson and her husband Doug from their family farm, the two quickly became inseparable. Aimee worked on training, clipping, feeding and showing the calf in many competitive and open 4-H shows across the province.

“Every time I went to walk her, she would come running to see me. When I put her back in the pasture she would turn around, stay at the gate and watch me leave,” says Aimee.

Jill says watching the pair together was simply amazing.

“Aimee is very dedicated to training animals and has patience and the ability to remain calm and focused even when her calf has a stubborn day,” she says. “They connected right from day one.”

“It means a lot to me because Doug and Jill saved Mac N Cheese for me to show when they could have easily sold her to some of the many people wanting to buy her,” says Aimee. “It was great that they gave me the opportunity to show Mac N Cheese at numerous shows that season.”

Despite coming from a holstein farm, Aimee has always held affection for jerseys, saying she loves their unique personality, which can make them more challenging.

And Aimee was more than up to the challenge, entering Mac N Cheese into numerous competitions and having huge success. Overall, they attended nine 4-H events that summer and fall. At their first show, which was the Eastern Ontario Junior Show, Mac N Cheese won Grand Champion, despite Aimee being in new territory, having never been in the champion class before.

As a typically quiet member who got involved with 4-H because her family was involved—and because she enjoyed showing cattle—Aimee found this experience helped her develop many new skills.

Being in 4-H has allowed her to become more confident in public speaking, leadership and working with others, as well as teaching her new skills like cooking, sewing, plowing and showing beef cattle. Watching senior classes gave her a chance to learn new tips for showmanship, fitting and clipping skills.

“During this time we could see Aimee gaining more confidence in her own abilities,” says Jill. “Her showmanship skills got better and better due to the time spent working with Mac N Cheese… Aimee was thrilled when we put a
set of clippers in her hands and said ‘Mac N Cheese is your project.’”

Aimee’s hard work culminated 18 months later into a world record when Payneside Mac N Cheese sold at an auction in the United States for $267,000 on April 2.

Jill says she and Doug are thrilled and that they knew there was something special about Mac N Cheese from Day 1 as a young calf, but never imagined this.

“As a 4-H member Doug always dreamed of having the perfect calf, and although he was not on the halter of Mac N Cheese he still got to see his dream come true through Aimee.”

Aimee looks back fondly on her time with Mac N Cheese.

“It feels incredible. It’s awesome how much I hear people talking about Mac N Cheese and I’m so proud of her,” she says. “It feels like a dream come true. I always knew that someday Mac N Cheese was going to be famous.”

Now 14 years old, Aimee plans on completing her years in 4-H, while continuing to show jerseys and hopefully achieving her goal of once again competing in the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair. Also on the horizon is joining new clubs and camps, becoming a Youth Leader, and becoming a volunteer leader once her years of membership in 4-H are complete.

Success For Team Canada In UK

By: Ryan Métivier

This past April, Northumberland 4-H’s Hailie Conley was part of Team Canada travelling to Malvern, England to participate in the Young Show Stars Beef Competition. The team brought home second place. Canada’s squad was the only one invited from outside of the United Kingdom. They gained the spot with their performance at the 2014 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The team included Conley, Reserve Grand Champion Showman, fellow Ontarian Courtney Walker of North Simcoe County, Reserve Grand Champion Intermediate Showman, and Jack Oates of Brome County, Quebec, Grand Champion Showman.

Now in her fifth year of 4-H, Conley says she had some trepidation leading up to the competition, knowing they only had 24 hours to get the heifers accustomed to them and ready to show. The experience of meeting new people, learning the different ways they prepare cattle, show and live were things she’ll never forget.

“I learned a lot about myself on this trip! I learned that I was able to do things that I would never have thought I could do like fit most of a heifer by myself,” says Conley. “As the youngest one on the team, I was a little nervous because I didn’t have the experience fitting that the others have.”

However, Conley had the encouragement of her teammates, and says the group came together to bond quickly.

“The team was awesome and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to travel and share this amazing experience with,” she says. “We all had different skills that we brought to the table and weaknesses that we worked together to help each other out with.”

This summer Conley is excited to learn more, as she has moved to Eby Ranch in Kansas to learn new techniques and to show her 4-H heifer at the Angus Junior Nationals.