Andrea De Groot lives in Stratford, ON with her husband and four kids. Her career is in agriculture finance, but she also plays a key role in their sow and crop operations. In her career with both Farm Credit Canada and RBC she has made many moves to advance herself, while also trying to establish more balance between career, family and farm needs.
If you’re interested in connecting with Andrea, contact her via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/andrea.degroot.90)
To start off, please tell the Ag Women’s Network more about yourself.
I grew up on a farm outside Brigden, ON where my family had cash crops and beef cattle. I attended the University of Guelph where I studied agricultural business, and after graduation I worked at Farm Credit Canada (FCC) as an Account Manager (AM). I worked as an AM in Lindsay and Listowel, ON. I also spent time in the credit risk management and special credit departments in Kanata, ON. I spent 10 years with FCC and left in April 2012. After my departure from FCC, I accepted a position at RBC Royal Bank in Stratford, ON, which is closer to our farm and our little kids. I worked as an Account Manager in Agriculture at RBC and other similar roles to those that I held at FCC. However within RBC I have a larger variety of financial products to manage with clients.
Your career has taken you many places. Why did you decide on this career and what are the greatest benefits of working in banking?
The main reason I went into banking was because I enjoyed the business aspect of farming; it just makes sense to me. In addition, my parents always supported me in broadening my horizon and the principles I learn in banking are totally transferable outside of agriculture. However once I began in ag banking, I learned quickly that the technical focus of business is only half of the story! To be successful in any aspect of agriculture, you need to understand the complex nature of family businesses, the volatility of agriculture markets and how intertwined personal value and farming are in this industry. Working in ag finance has provided insight that success can be achieved many ways and to be a good banker you need to understand your clients to help them.
Tell us more about your farm business.
My husband took over the family farm in 2001; he is a third generation farmer. We have a sow operation (sell pigs at early wean, weaner and sometimes finishing stages) and we also have cash crop farms in Stratford and Belleville. Land is expensive and hard to get in Stratford, so we looked “outside the box” and decided to buy land in Prince Edward County. My husband travels to both farms and the spring and fall are quite busy with farming at both locations (usually at the same time). My role is to complete all bookkeeping, manage our hedging program and help with keep "the ship running", which means picking up parts and such.
Professionally we are often seeking success. How do you define personal success?
Success has meant a lot of things over the years. Currently I would say that success means being confident in the decisions that I made. I don't think that success is one "point in time", but rather a journey (corny but true). So when we talk about success, I think that it's important to speak about the process and the integrity in that process, rather than simply the end result. That means doing appropriate due diligence, respecting team players and taking the time to look at the big picture and not just the short term.
What’s the biggest personal/professional challenge you’ve had to face?
The biggest challenge for me has been trying to juggle home/family/career development and farming business. This is an on-going challenge rather than a "once and done" challenge, and I would dare to say that many women in agriculture truly struggle with this elusive "balance". The biggest learning I’ve had in this constant challenge is that you can find balance for short periods of time. When you think have balance, something else will change and the balance is lost.
Who has been your most significant mentor?
I would say that my biggest mentor was my second "official" mentor with FCC, Tom Gibson. Tom always challenged me to do better, think outside the box and taught me to stand up for myself. He also treated people the same regardless of gender.
In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but that taught you something important?
I make many mistakes, so it's hard to just highlight one! However I will use my hedging as an example. A hedge is an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Hedging can be very challenging on any given day, and earlier in the year I was complacent in my views toward the markets. This was a mistake and when you are taking market positions, you cannot think you are smarter than the markets. This taught me to stay humble in my process and reminded me to rely on my support systems such as our commodity broker and technials (historical averages and trends).
What’s the most burning question for you right now in your career?
How to find that balance between career development, family, and supporting my husband with our business needs.
How do you define agriculture?
Agriculture in my mind is everything from primary production to food preparation/value added to international
What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now?
One of the most important issues is animal welfare and how its changes will impact our future agriculture business. In addition how we can better communicate from producers to the end consumer.
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