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New program empowers female egg farmers to lead

Sandra Dyck wasn’t born a farmer. Her career began in healthcare, in fact—but everything changed when she married fourth generation egg farmer Eric Dyck and got involved in the family farm. Sandra has been working full-time on the Dycks’ 4D Farms in Springstein, Manitoba since 2013. And she loves it.

“It’s been amazing—I love agriculture,” says Sandra.

Across Canada’s agriculture sector, over 77,000 women are farm operators—a higher proportion than existed just 20 years ago. Today, nearly one-third of Canadian farm operators are women.1

“The most welcoming community to me, as a female farmer, has been other farmers,” Sandra says. In that spirit, Egg Farmers of Canada created its new women in the egg industry program. Now in its second year, the program participants—including Sandra—are nominated by egg boards from across Canada.

Throughout the program, delegates engage in continuing education opportunities, take part in networking and industry events to build connections and share experiences, and support each other through a unique mutual mentorship program.

In 2019, Sandra was paired with mentor Kelly Clarke, who has been farming in Nova Scotia for two decades. Sandra sings the program’s praises. “I’ve asked Kelly questions about everything, from human resources to specific barn questions,” she says. “We set goals for our relationship for our year. It’s a great relationship—the chance to learn from someone living a parallel life to you. Networking with these women gives me confidence to take on more roles, to consider getting involved at a higher level.”

The aim of the program is to inspire and help prepare the next generation of leaders in Canadian agriculture, while enhancing connections across our sector—and acknowledging the particular challenges women juggle as farmers.

“I’m a wife, mother and a farmer,” says Sandra. “And farming is a lifestyle. You’re always on. The day doesn’t end when you go home. I have young kids, and so I have to be a provider and manage our family routines.”

Sandra’s challenges reflect those of other women in the industry. Egg Farmers of Canada co-sponsored a study looking at women in the egg industry conducted by Dr. Jodey Nurse, an assistant professor at McMaster University’s Wilson Institute for Canadian History. The study explored the past and present roles of women in the egg farming industry, and sought to understand the underrepresentation of female egg farmers in leadership positions.

The study results helped identify a number of opportunities, which inspired many aspects of the program. These include building industry knowledge and confidence in public speaking, increasing access to peer mentorship, creating larger industry networks and facilitating remote learning opportunities. The delegates taking part in the women in the egg industry program are putting these learnings into practice, while also providing suggestions enhance the program for future cohorts.

Our sector relies on the determination and hard work of our farmers, and we are proud to support the next generation of leaders through our women in the egg industry program and our longstanding young farmer program.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the women in the egg industry program, contact your egg board today!

1Statistics Canada