Participant Spotlight


Aleicia Karapita, Mentee

Alecia is a Commercial Account Manager with the Royal Bank of Canada in Kamloops, BC. She specializes in serving the Agriculture sector. Working closely with her clients Alecia assists in all areas of their business including financial analysis, succession planning, business development, and of course financing options.

Alecia grew up on a family farm near Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. Throughout those years she developed an interest in raising and showing purebred Angus cattle. Alecia was involved in the Saskatchewan Junior Angus Association, the Canadian Junior Angus Association, and of course 4-H. It was through those events that provided many opportunities to meet new people, travel North America, and develop leadership capabilities that continue to serve her well.

Alecia obtained a degree in Agriculture Business and a degree in Marketing and moved to BC in 2002 with her husband. Alecia and Wallace reside on his family’s ranch known as the Willow Ranch where they run 400 Angus cows and run yearlings in the summer. Wallace runs the ranch on a full time basis while Alecia works for RBC and assists when she can. They have 3 children – Ty is 7, Callie is 5, and Lexi is 3.

Alecia loves to volunteer her time in her community, judging and presenting to 4-H groups, teaching Ag in the classroom, and just spending time as a family on the ranch. Alecia is extremely honored to have the opportunity to be a finalist for the 2017 CYL program. She hopes to use this knowledge to better serve her clients and act as an advocate for the beef industry.
Allan Hjertaas, Mentee

Raised on a 4th generation family farm near Redvers SK, Allan got started in the livestock sector through 4-H. He then started buying and showing purebred Hereford females and exhibited at several Canadian and U.S. junior nationals. After high school Allan began doing custom work for purebred operations typically focusing on show and sale cattle. Allan has exhibited and prepared cattle a major shows across North America , Australia, and Argentina. He is currently employed with Double Bar D Farms, a large mixed farming operation in Grenfell SK.

Andrea Haywood Farmer, Mentee

Andrea was born and raised in rural British Columba and has a passion for land, natural resources and the ranching sector. Daughter of a biologist and social worker, Andrea is equally captivated by science and natural process and stories of human experiences and history. Taken together, these passions have made marrying into her husband’s family ranch a wonderful fit, for which she is extremely grateful.

Andrea hold a Masters Degree in Public Policy from SFU and, over the past decade, has worked extensively in the natural resource and conservation sectors across Canada in both policy analysis and government relations capacities. She has worked as National Policy Analyst for Ducks Unlimited Canada in Ottawa, at a provincial level and, most recently, in supporting conservation objectives through land use planning in northern Canada. Additionally, Andrea is an instructor at Thompson Rivers University where she teaches policy and planning to Natural Resource Science students.

A proud mother of two young daughters, Andrea currently balances motherhood, assisting her husband Ted on the ranch, continued work in conservation and teaching. Andrea brings her passion, skills and experience to the beef sector and is committed to being part of a bright future for this industry. She believes that tomorrow’s leaders in the cattle industry will be smart, creative, attentive and solution-focussed individuals who build bridges and connection between each other, other land users, consumers and the public.

Andrea is very excited and thankful to be taking part in Cattlemen’s Young Leaders.
Ashley Gaudet, Mentee

Ashley is a first-generation cattle producer, Prince Edward Island native and current Alberta resident, calling the foothills of Southern Alberta home since 2009. She has been involved in the cattle industry for the last 20 years, having gotten her start at an early age by taking an interest in helping her neighbours with their cattle. She eventually joined 4-H and began showing commercial steers and purebred Charolais cattle across Eastern Canada, while taking full advantage of everything the program had to offer along the way.

She attributes her decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine to the rewarding experiences gained from caring for her 4-H animals, and knowing that she wanted to work with cattle, sought employment in that area following completion of her Veterinary Technician diploma. She recently pursued that passion further by completing a technician specialty in the field Clinical Practice specific to Production Animal Medicine and is currently the only technician in Canada with that designation. That drive to work exclusively with beef cattle resulted in the move to Alberta and allowed her to expand her experiences and begin to build a herd of her own. She is now actively growing her own commercial herd and currently raises Angus/Simmental cross cows East of Calgary, AB.

Ashley is excited and honoured to have been selected for the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program and is looking forward to connecting with the other CYL finalists and mentors she will meet through the program. Through mentorship Ashley hopes to gain a better understanding the business of beef production and strategies that might make her operation more economically viable and sustainable in years to come.

Ben Wilson, Mentee

Ben is a full time independent filmmaker and creative professional, operating his freelance and consulting company, Benjo Productions, from the rural community of Bashaw, Alberta. Born and raised in Ponoka, Alberta, Ben has always had a thirst for adventure and a passion for food and the environment. He has travelled across Canada from coast to coast in a two seater airplane, and backpacked from Cape Town to Cairo, among other overseas adventures. The art of visual storytelling began as an amateur attempt to share these adventures with his friends and family, but soon developed into the craft of documentary filmmaking and freelance corporate video production.

After a very short lived career in aerospace engineering, Ben discovered his true calling when he married a farm girl and joined the team as video production manager in 2009. His own company, Benjo Productions, is now a full time venture and serves a wide variety of clients across Alberta, primarily in the agriculture industry, including several stakeholders in the beef value chain. Ben's passion for the cattle industry continues to grow with each beef related video project he works on, ranging from forage and grazing topics to animal care, sustainability, farm safety, culinary education and beef marketing initiatives. His love for filmmaking, no matter what the topic, stems from a strong desire to help people share what's most important to them, and to create visual art that has a deep emotional impact on audiences.
Cale Toews, Mentee

Cale was raised on a third generation cattle ranch west of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Started in 1964 by Cale’s grandparents, the family ranch has grown to accommodate 1500 mother cows and a small backgrounding feedlot. The Toews family has worked hard to develop a consistent herd of Simmental/Angus cows, with emphasis on longevity, maternal strength and feed efficiency. Through the ranch, Cale was granted an early entry into agriculture and has been extensively involved in the local 4H beef club from the age of 9. In high school, Cale pursued the creation of his own purebred Simmental cow herd and marketed his cattle across the province.

After high school graduation, Cale studied in New Zealand for 6 months. Through his over seas experience, Cale gained cross cultural knowledge in the diverse field of New Zealand agriculture. These experiences in agriculture led him to pursue the study of science at a community college in Grande Prairie. Cale works on the family ranch in the summers and continues his studies during the winter months. He is now attending the university of Calgary with hopes of completing his bachelor’s degree, and plans on applying to a number of DVM programs.

Cale is extremely honored and humbled to be selected as a CYL finalist, and he plans on taking advantage of every opportunity provided by this renowned program. He hopes to gain mentorship in the area of beef cattle health, furthering his understanding of the interconnected relationship between veterinary medicine and beef cattle production in Canada. He has already connected with so many passionate individuals through the selections process and he is excited about the continued networking opportunities through CYL.

Carley Henniger, Mentee

Carley is one of the wild cards in this CYL group- she did not grow up in the agriculture lifestyle. Originating from the West Kootenay region in British Columbia, Carley moved to Edmonton to attend the University of Alberta to complete a double major in political science and international relations. During her time in Alberta Carley’s love for farming grew, and she began to pursue a career in agriculture.

After graduating University, Carley moved to a small town just outside of Calgary where she became a junior board member for the 4H communications board and worked for a large mixed grain and feedlot operation. Starting work as a farm hand, Carley eventually worked her way to a position on the business side of the operation. She later left Alberta and headed home to BC to work for Douglas Lake Cattle Company.

Carley has recently completed the Rural Finance and Entrepreneurship program at Olds College and is currently living in Kamloops, BC working for the BC Angus Association. Carley absolutely loves the agriculture way of life, and is a large advocate for the beef industry and the people in it. She currently volunteers with 4H BC and is in the beginning stages of becoming a first- generation beef rancher. Carley may not have grown up on a farm, but she sure got here as soon as she could!

Carley is grateful for this opportunity to work with the CYL program, and looks forward to all that she will learn this coming year. She hopes that this program will give her more knowledge to share the story of Canada’s farmers to consumers and open more opportunities for her to help play a significant role in moving the beef industry forward.
James Jenkins, Mentee

James grew up near Okotoks Alberta on a small family farm. The original family farm recently turned 100 in 2015. Growing up there was much to learn as there were beef cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs and grain that needed tending.

Beef cows have always been a lifelong endeavour that was pursued at the age of 9 when he began 4-H beef. Knowing that he wanted to continue in the beef industry he decided on taking Agriculture Production, with a major in Livestock Production. While working part time for a local seed stock producer James fell in love with the Fleckvieh Simmentals and purchased his first heifers in the fall of 2006. After several years he has now built a 70 head cow/calf operation made up of both purebred and commercial cows that spring and fall calve.

Being selected as a finalist for the Cattlemens Young Leaders program is a great honour and he cannot wait to continue his learning and networking with the many great minds in the cattle industry.

Kaitlyn Polegi, Mentee

Kaitlyn was raised on a mixed grain and commercial cow/calf operation near Jedburgh, Saskatchewan. Her love for cattle developed early as she enjoyed checking cows with her grandpa and watching the calves in the pastures. Joining the local 4-H club at the age of six, she was a member of for 12 years. At the age of 15 began to build her own purebred Hereford herd and joined the junior association. This past spring, she completed a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from the University of Saskatchewan majoring in Animal Science. Her undergrad thesis was entitled, “Minimizing the Stress of Weaning on Beef Calves”. Kaitlyn is an avid advocate for animal welfare and informing consumers about the measures taken in the beef industry to ensure that cattle are treated humanely.

Kaitlyn is now an inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and together with her fiancé Mark, they are ranching alongside her parents Allan and Juanita. Kaitlyn enjoys volunteering with her local 4-H club and witnessing members become confident young cattlemen. Now that she has returned to her home community, she will volunteer for a number of organizations. She looks forward to both the opportunities and challenges that face her in the future as she expands and builds the family ranch.

Kaitlyn is excited to be a part of such a successful mentorship program and looks forward to making connections with her mentors and fellow mentees.
Lacey McCrae, Mentee

Lacey McCrae currently farms with her husband Andrew McCrae north of Vermilion. They have a commercial Black Angus herd and calve out about 350 cows. They also grain farm. Lacey loves the opportunity to be on the farm full time and is constantly looking at ways to improve their operation and have a positive impact where she can. She is currently on the Alberta Young Farmers and Ranchers board and is excited about the future opportunities that she hopes it will bring.

Lacey was born and raised on a mixed cattle ranch west of Prince George, B.C. The love for Agriculture, cows, horses and people was fostered on the ranch where she spent a lot of her time riding horses and checking cows. She also kept busy earning her keep by running tractor for her parents’ haying operation. From that impeccable start, Lacey knew that agriculture was the life for her. She took a few years foray into the horse training world, but would always revert to old habits and find herself once again working with cattle.

She is euphoric to have the opportunity to be a part of the CYL program. She looks forward to meeting all the wonderful people who are involved and hopes to learn from each interaction. Through CYL, she hopes to find efficiencies she can take back to the farm and improve her industry network.

Lee Creech, Mentee

Lee Creech was born and raised on a ranch just north of Lloydminster, Alberta. Creech grew up spending his summer months building fence and calving cows. His family’s ranch, M.C. Quantock, has grown in size significantly over the years, currently calving around 1,000 cows. -The herd is predominantly purebred Red Angus and Angus with a couple hundred Hereford and Charolais cows. These cows produce the bulls that go into their annual M.C. Quantock “Canada’s Bulls” Bull Sale on the final Saturday in January.

After graduating high school in Lloydminster, Creech attended the University of Lethbridge, Alberta graduating with a Bachelor of Management in Marketing. Upon graduation, Creech transitioned his role with M.C. Quantock away from day-to-day operations, to various assignments throughout the year on the business side of the ranch.

With the intent to return to day-to-day operations of the ranch one day, Creech pursued a career path that would diversify his skill set. He then accepted a job in Wetaskiwin, Alberta working for a livestock nutrition company. During this time he was the understudy of two ruminant nutritionists, spending his days testing forages, balancing rations, and making recommendations for hundreds of cow/calf producers, seed stock operations, and backgrounding feedlots.

With the ranching contacts he made along the way, Creech ventured out on his own in business and started importing utility vehicles from overseas to sell to his established customer base. During this time, Creech took a few weeks away to attend the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Denver, Colorado. Upon completion, he transitioned into a career with Global Auction Guide, a technology company that helps traditional auction markets and auction houses open up new markets by marketing their sales online. Creech was soon presented with an opportunity to work with a fast-moving consumer goods company, which he saw addressed two shortcomings in his current career path—managing people and working in a corporate setting.

After initial ranch succession planning timelines were established back home Creech decided to further develop his skills and expand his network by pursuing a Master’s of Science Degree in Ranch Management at the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The institute admits only three new students per year. Creech was awarded the Joe Marlin Hilliard Endowed Fellowship, as well as the unique honor of being the first-ever international student.
Matt Kumlin, Mentee

Matt Kumlin is a 5th generation rancher south-west of Cochrane, AB in the community of Jumping Pound.  After completing his Agriculture Degree at the U of S in 2010, he transitioned into the DVM program at UCVM in Calgary, graduating in 2014.  Since that time he has worked as a cow-calf and advanced reproductive veterinarian at Bow Valley Livestock Health and Bow Valley Genetics in Brooks, AB.  Starting in January 2018 Matt along with his wife, Angela and son, Wade will be moving back to the ranch in Jumping Pound.  They plan to continue to expand their commercial and purebred Red Angus herd.  Matt will also be working as a part-time cattle veterinarian at Veterinary Agri-Health Services Ltd. in Airdrie, AB. Matt is looking forward to growing his network of young cattlemen as well as the mentorship the CYL program has to offer.  He is very grateful for this opportunity to partake in this excellent mentorship program.

Quinn Anderson Folk, Mentee
Quinn Anderson Folk grew up on the Anderson Ranch south of Fir Mountain, Saskatchewan. She is still involved with this multi-generational cow-calf, backgrounding, and farming operation. Anderson Ranch has been recognized for its extensive efforts with species-at-risk and the environment.

Quinn has completed a Bachelor of Music in Voice (Performance) and a Bachelor of Education. She works in education and as a private music teacher in southwest Saskatchewan. Quinn currently resides outside of Swift Current with her husband, Keith, and their son, Quade.
Melissa Lee, Mentee
While growing up on a large mixed farm near Rossburn, MB a passion for the natural environment and agriculture was instilled in Melissa. It was during this time Melissa was able to purchase her first Purebred Red Angus cows and began raising and selling seed stock.

Melissa obtained an Adventure Tourism Diploma from Lakeland College and an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Alberta. Her education lead her to a career with Environment and Parks, working initially Seasonally and then becoming a full-time Conservation Officer. Melissa currently works out of Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, AB, where part of her job duties includes fostering relationships with ranchers and landowners in and around the park.

Melissa and her husband, Leon, own and operate Diamond L Ranch near Oyen, AB. They are dedicated to raising high quality Red Angus seed stock that are sustainable for both commercial and purebred producers. Each spring they market their bulls at the Medicine Hat Spring Bull Show and Sale as well as by Private Treaty both in Alberta and Manitoba. They also train and sell Ranch and Performance horses. They feel that there is no better place to raise their children, Kacey and Keaton, than in the ranching lifestyle.

Melissa is extremely grateful for the opportunities that the CYL program offers. Her hope is to gain knowledge and experience that will not only better her operation but the beef industry as whole. She would like to thank the amazing sponsors as well as the program coordinator Emily Ritchie, without them the CYL program wouldn’t be a success!

Rachel Verwey, Mentee

Born and raised in Portage la Prairie Manitoba, Rachael has been surrounded by agriculture her whole life. Growing up on a large mixed family farm where her mom,dad, uncles, cousins, and siblings run 200 commercial charolais cows, milk 100 dairy cows, and grain farm 7000 acres, it is safe to say Rachael has experience in a lot of different aspects of the agriculture industry.

At a young age Rachael began beef 4-H and continued to be a member of the Gainsborough Combined 4H Club for 13 years. During these 13 years she also became an active member of the Canadian Charolais Youth Association and has held office on both the National Board as well as the Manitoba Junior Charolais Association. With this involvement in the industry she found her love for cattle and helping the youth within the industry, by hosting judging clinics and helping out with the local 4-H shows her involvement within the 4-H community is continuing to grow.

Rachael is currently enrolled in her last year of university at the University of Manitoba, and will be graduating in April with her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Systems.During her time at the university she has become very involved with the student body, holding office on the Faculty of Agriculture Student Organization for four years as well as being an active member of the Stockman’s club for the majority of her university career. After university Rachael plans to become more involved with the family operations as well as working with her local Co-op as an agronomist as she becomes an ambassador for the Excellence in Agriculture Scholarship Program she will complete this year.Rachael has also become a passionate Agvocate, volunteering at numerous events with Ag More Than Ever, Agriculture in the Classroom,and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, she believes educating consumers is an important and rewarding job.

She is incredibly excited to be selected as a CYL finalist, as she hopes to broaden her knowledge on the beef industry in Canada, continue to keep youth involved and engaged within the industry, as well as learn valuable skills she can take back to the farm to continue to improve the operation. She is looking forward to connecting with the other finalists and mentors, as well as everyone she meets along the way in the upcoming year.
Taylor Grafton, Mentee
Taylor Grafton is a third generation rancher that grew up on a cow-calf and backgrounding operation called Bar K Ranch near Prince George BC that was managed by his parents. He did a BSc in Agriculture at the U of S, majoring in Animal Science, and then worked in research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine for a couple years in the field of Theriogenology. He then volunteered in an indigenous Mayan community in Guatemala doing agriculture development work before returning to work on the ranch where he grew up. After several years at the Bar K, he was promoted to Ranch Manager when his parents retired in 2015. He also began a master’s degree by distance education through Texas A&M in the field of Ethology while working on the ranch and has his Articling Agrologist designation. Currently his volunteer positions include Director for the Prince George Cattlemen’s Association, and the BC Representative for the Verified Beef Management Committee.

Taylor is very excited and grateful for about the opportunity to be part of the CYL program. He hopes to advance his knowledge of the industry as a whole and models of economic and environmental sustainability that he can use to contribute to a vibrant Canadian Beef Industry.

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