Nurturing a new career in agriculture – Lindsay Stallman
Despite growing up with agricultural roots, Lindsay Stallman didn’t consider being a part of the industry until opportunities after university led her back to school and back to agriculture. Now the Liaison Officer for the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, Lindsay is growing a new enthusiasm for food and agriculture.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.
I’m originally from Burtch, ON, a small community in Brant County. I grew up around my extended family’s variety of agricultural operations: a dairy farm, cash crop farms, an equine operation, and a zoo! Despite all this, as a teenager, with a limited idea of what it could mean to work in agriculture, I eliminated it pretty quickly as a potential career choice for me.
I attended the University of Waterloo where I earned a BA in English Language with a minor in Human Resources Management. In 2014, I moved to Alberta to accept a position at Olds College as a Student Recruitment Officer. Olds is best known for its agricultural related programs. I spent a year and a half in that role, and agriculture was suddenly a central part of my life again. I began to understand the breadth of opportunities in agriculture, especially outside of production.
In October 2015 I accepted the position of Liaison Officer at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. I am responsible for coordinating outreach for high school students, providing learning opportunities related to OAC programs, and promoting educational and career pathways related to agriculture. I feel so passionately about what I do. I didn’t expect to work in agriculture, and I think that allows me to be an even better spokesperson and ambassador for the agriculture and food sectors
Tell us about your role and what your “typical day” looks like.
One of the best things about my job is that I don’t have many ‘typical days,’ at least few of my days are exactly alike. In my job I am responsible for planning on-campus events for high school students, which includes coordinating facility tours, hands-on workshops, and lectures. I attend external events related to agriculture and food, and assist in developing new learning materials for high school students and educators. I get to work with OAC faculty from various departments and I am always learning new things from them.
How do you define personal success? What steps do you take to get there?
As someone who is still new in their career, establishing priorities, setting goals and developing a plan towards reaching them is really important. However, I don’t know that I would be as motivated or as effective if I didn’t have a job that I love. I have a unique opportunity every day to encourage and support students. I get to inspire them to consider new and exciting opportunities that they might never have considered before. For me, having personal success requires a balance in professional and personal gratification.
What’s the biggest professional/personal challenge you’ve had to face? And what did you learn from that experience?
My biggest professional challenge is probably one that many young professionals are experiencing: simply being young in the workplace. Being a young professional often results in other labels which underestimate abilities and talent. When we talk about discrimination, stereotypes and diversity in the workplace, age somehow gets thrown to the wayside. Being young should not undermine credibility. I continue to grow through this experience; what I’ve learned so far? Be professional, work hard, stand up for yourself and people will recognize your value.
Who has been your greatest influencer/mentor? What have you learned from them?
I am so lucky that this is a hard question to answer. I have an amazing family, and I have been influenced by so many incredible professionals as well. My Grandpa was one of the hardest working, most caring people I have known. He taught me to be many things, but above all showed me the importance of being honest and genuinely kind to others.
Learning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?
I once missed out on a great professional opportunity because I didn’t apply for it. I really didn’t think I had a shot. The manager later approached me and asked what held me back, saying that I would have been perfect for the role. It really taught me how much a lack of self-confidence can hold me back and that I will only get opportunities if I advocate for myself.
How do you define agriculture?
Agriculture is bigger than most people think. It affects every person, every day, and not only because it produces the food we eat and clothes we wear. It is at the heart of Canada’s economy; it greatly impacts trade and commerce and employs 1 in 8 Canadians. Agriculture involves environmental science, food science, community development and more. It is complex and innovative in science and technology. Agriculture is exciting and evolving as we are met with new challenges every day.
What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?
Being at OAC allows me to learn new things from the experts every day. However, the more time I spend here the more I understand how little I know about agriculture. There are so many people at Guelph who do incredible and diverse things yet are all contributing to agriculture in different ways, addressing various kinds of questions. There are so many important topics in agriculture right now. For me, I think agriculture matters the most to the future of development and fighting poverty around the world.
What solutions, tools or processes do you think could be put in place to help advance Canadian women, and specifically Canadian women in agriculture?
Connecting with other women in agriculture has made a big difference for me. I have been lucky to know some remarkable women and men who are committed to supporting women and making the agriculture industry an even better, and more diverse, place for women to advance in their careers. I’m hoping to attend the Advancing Women in Ag Conference in October, and encourage women to take opportunities like that. There are support networks and incredible who are willing to share their experiences and advice.
Do you have a piece of advice for young women starting their career in agriculture?
I have been so positively influenced by the women in my life and truly believe in the value of having a strong mentor who can share their experiences, inspire you, and encourage your growth.