Participant Spotlight

2020
Andrea van Iterson , Mentee
Fawn Jackson, Mentor
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Laura Code, Mentee
Lee Sinclair, Mentor
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Aydon Almberg, Mentee
Dave Solverson, Mentor
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Iva Harberg, Mentee
Kim Ominski, Mentor
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Claye Harsany, Mentee
Mathieu Paré, Mentor
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Dave Slingerland, Mentee
Dave Kasko, Mentor
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Mackenzie Argent, Mentee
Nicole Zeni, Mentor
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Katie-Jo Stehr, Mentee
Sheila Hillmer, Mentor
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Kaylee Chizawsky, Mentee
John Lawton, Mentor
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Scott Gerbrandt, Mentee
Brent Difley, Mentor
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Matt Hildebrandt, Mentee
Steve Kenyon, Mentor
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Sarah Jensen, Mentee
Bryan Thiessen & Stuart Thiessen, Mentors
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Laura Plett, Mentee
Martin Unrau, Mentor
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Charlene Yungblut, Mentee
Matt Bowman, Mentor
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Grace Kuhl, Mentee
Crystal Mackay, Mentor
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Greg Stavert, Mentee
Dean Manning, Mentor
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Andrea van Iterson, Mentee

Biography:

Andrea van Iterson was raised in Westwold, BC on a small backgrounding feedlot. While always maintaining some connection to the farm, she was off farm for eight years. In 2012, Andrea and her husband made the decision to move their young family to Westwold to continue farming with her parents and brother. Their operation backgrounds 2,500-3,000 head annually.

Aside from her job in the feedlot, Andrea works as the Executive Director for the B.C. Association of Cattle Feeders (BCACF). BCACF allows Andrea the opportunity to participate with the National Cattle Feeders’ Association; something she enjoys very much. 4-H was an integral part of Andrea’s childhood and she continues to work with the program as one of the leaders with her boys’ club. Expanding her presence with multiple industry groups has become increasingly important to Andrea. She recently became a board member with AgSafe BC and participates in the Public Affairs and Education Committee with the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.

Applying for the CYL program had been something Andrea has wanted to do for a number of years. She finally took the chance and is extremely excited to be one of this year’s finalists. Hearing so many positive experiences coming out of the program was one of the factors that pushed Andrea to apply. Gaining new contacts with the industry members and partners, working on speaking and engagement strategies as well as becoming more confident at advocating for our industry are some goals that she hopes to fulfill during her time with CYL. Andrea is confident the experiences and knowledge obtained during her mentorship will not only benefit her career, but also positively impact her personal life.

Fawn Jackson, Mentor

Biography:

Fawn is a leading voice in Canadian agriculture with a particular focus on international trade and sustainable agriculture systems.

Fawn is the Director of Government and International Relations at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, an industry association representing Canada’s 55,000 beef farms, one of Canada’s largest agriculture sectors. Fawn is the lead staff for CCA’s government outreach and the international trade committee that focuses on attaining meaningful market access for Canadian beef that is currently exported into 58 markets around the world.

In her previous role, Fawn was the founding Executive Director of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). During her time at the CRSB, Fawn led the 110+ multi-stakeholder member organization, (including organizations such as; Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, WWF, Royal Bank, McDonalds, Chop Steakhouse, Cargill, beef producers and others), in defining, monitoring and certifying sustainable beef production in Canada.

Key accomplishments during Fawn’s tenure at the CRSB included the development of the Certified Sustainable Beef Program, the first sustainable beef certification program in the world, and leading the industry’s first sustainability strategy and assessment.

Fawn is an avid advocate for the endangered grassland ecosystem and has sat on Canada’s Species at Risk Advisory Committee. Fawn also helped establish one of Canada’s leading youth agriculture mentorship programs and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Foundation that is dedicated to research, youth and the environment.

Fawn’s schooling included attending Pearson College UWC, the University of Alberta where she attained a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource and Agricultural Economics and a Master of International Agriculture from Oklahoma State University.

Fawn grew up on a family farm in Manitoba and now resides in Ottawa. Follow along @FawnJackson1



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Aydon Almberg, Mentee

Biography:

Aydon is a fourth-generation rancher of Lazy HE Ranch LTD in the Czar, Alberta area. Currently the ranch runs an 1,800 head cow-calf operation and retains ownership of their calves for backgrounding. They also have a 3,000 head capacity feedlot with the remaining balance consisting of purchased cattle for backgrounding and future grass stock. Aydon was apart of the local 4-H club for nine years where he showed cattle and took part in all of the judging programs 4H offered. After high school, he attended Lakeland College in Vermilion where he received a diploma in Agri-business. Following college, Aydon returned home to continue working on the family ranch. On the side, Aydon, along with his wife Jess and their son Vern, raise and train cow bred quarter horses for use on the ranch.

Dave Solverson, Mentor

Biography:

Dave Solverson, and his family operate Woodwind Ranch Southwest of Camrose, Alberta. He manages a herd of 800 cows, retaining the steers to finish at the home lot. Eighty per cent of the heifers are bred for replacements or for sale as two-year-old pairs. Dave has been very active in industry association affairs. He was a director of the Alberta Beef Producers and was Finance Chair and Vice President before being elected President of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association from 2014 to 2016. Dave was very busy during his term helping to negotiate several trade deals that were favourable to the Canadian beef industry. Dave has been a strong supporter of the CYL program having seen so many graduates excel in their operations and in positions of leadership.



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Charlene Yungblut, Mentee

Biography:

Charlene was raised on a small commercial cow-calf farm in Thorold, Ontario. She developed a passion for agriculture, specifically livestock, at a young age while helping on the family farm. This passion led her to pursue a Diploma in Agriculture from Ridgetown College.

Charlene currently works for Brewster Consulting Services, an agriculture consulting and research company specializing in grape and tender fruit production. Charlene continues to be involved in her family’s cattle operation and in recent years has started to develop her own herd, which she intends to grow over the next few years.

Growing up, Charlene was an active 4-H member in Niagara and since graduating has become a co-leader of the Dairy and Judging clubs. Charlene is a director with the Beef Farmers of Niagara, where she has held secretary and treasurer positions.

Charlene is thrilled to be selected for the CYL program. She is excited to connect with the other CYLs and is looking forward to the incredible learning and networking opportunities the program offers.

Matt Bowman, Mentor

Biography:

Matt Bowman has a family operated mixed farm in the Temiskaming District of Ontario. They normally run 110 cows and crop 550 acres. Their cows are mainly Charolais cross calving in March and April, where they wean in early fall and market the calves at a vaccinated sale later in November. They produce all of the feed for their cattle and produce cash crop barley, oats, spring wheat, canola and soybeans. They also operate a small strawberry patch, and their operation is certified through the Verified Beef Program.

Matt is a Past President of Beef Farmers of Ontario (2016-2018). In that role, he was involved in government lobbying for programs such as the risk management program and Agri-Stability. He also worked with the government to develop the northern livestock pilot program. Matt currently sits as Chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council representing Ontario and is also a member of the board of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

Matt believes there is huge value in staying current with industry trends and new innovations to stay competitive and sustainable in the industry.



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Mathieu Paré, Mentor

Biography:

For more than 20 years, Mathieu Paré has worked in the hospitality industry in product development, promotion and sales in both domestic and international markets. As a Red Seal certified chef, Mathieu’s dedication and passion for providing engaging and uniquely Canadian hospitality experiences have provided the opportunity to travel across Canada and around the world to share Canada’s rich culinary heritage expressed through premium quality Canadian ingredients.

Before joining the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (CBCE), Paré worked in some of Canada’s best kitchens mentored by top chefs, including time spent as Senior Chef on The Royal Canadian Pacific railways.

Paré joined Canada Beef in 2017 as Executive Director for the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence. In this leadership role, Mathieu acts as an ambassador for Canadian beef and veal in domestic and foreign markets, oversees the CBCE’s culinary and butchery talent, and manages its facility and activities.

He was also responsible for the development of emerging markets from 2017– 2020.

In his time at the CBCE, Paré designed and hosted more than 20 incoming international buyer’s missions, over 60 domestic product development engagements and delivered Canadian beef and veal technical training in 10 countries. Paré graduated with honours from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Culinary Arts, earning the Governor-General of Canada’s Medal for academic achievement. Prior to that, he studied Tourism Marketing and Business Management at Capilano University, North Vancouver, BC. He is fluent in three languages—English, French and Spanish.

Paré lives in Calgary, Alberta with his wife, Dorothy, and a retriever named Coco.

Claye Harsany, Mentee

Biography:

Claye Harsany is a fourth-generation cattlemen from High River, Alberta. Claye developed an interest in production agriculture, specifically in the cattle industry, from a young age. In 2015, Claye enrolled in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at Thompson Rivers University. In 2017, he transferred to the University of Alberta to pursue his passion for animal agriculture and completed his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a major in Animal Science, in which he recently graduated in the Spring of 2020.

During his time at Thompson Rivers University, Claye was fortunate to collaborate on research with UAV equipment which focused on enhancing technological advancements in the beef industry. Claye’s research with UAV technology was presented at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in 2017, where he was awarded first prize in the student competition. Claye worked with Feedlot Health Management Services in the summers of 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Claye joined the Feeds and Feeding module where he interacted closely with nutritionists and producers with feed analysis, and also collaborated on a GHG emissions project. In 2018, Claye joined the Research module in which he conducted data analysis for ongoing trials, operated a feed truck as part of a nutrition trial, conducted animal health protocols and assisted with data collection.

Prior to completing his bachelor’s degree, Claye began working with GK Jim Farms in the summer of 2019 as their Cattle Procurement, Marketing and Logistics Specialist. Under this position, he is specifically responsible for producing, procuring, managing, and marketing cattle across Canada and the United States.

Claye is extremely excited to be a member of the CYL class of 2020 and he is looking forward to supporting new and innovative ideas that will contribute positively toward the future of the Canadian Beef Industry.



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Dave Slingerland, Mentee

Biography:

Dave was raised on a feedlot and cow-calf operation in Southern Alberta, near Coaldale. The third-generation feedlot feeds 5,000 head of cattle, primarily as a finishing lot, along with a 200 head cow herd. Growing up he was very involved with 4-H, showing steers and heifer projects at local shows. His love for cattle and their genetics led him to start Tempest Red Angus, a purebred Angus herd founded on heifers purchased for 4-H. It has grown to 25 registered cows and selling yearling bulls bred for high quality carcass traits and efficiency. He has a diploma in animal science from the Lethbridge College and has since started a career as a livestock order buyer at Summit Livestock covering auction sales and ranch direct calf marketing across Western Canada. He enjoys the daily challenges and rewards of helping producers effectively market their hard-earned product. Dave is very excited to use the CYL program for networking with fellow agriculture enthusiasts and especially as a great opportunity to learn more about the final stages of the beef production cycle and red meat marketing.

Dave Kasko, Mentor

Biography:

Dave has been involved in the agriculture industry from a young age, growing up on a mixed farm in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The farm raised purebred Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn cattle as well as registered seed grains. His enjoyment for raising livestock began early in 4-H and later lead to traveling extensively showing cattle for several years throughout Canada and the USA.

Dave attended the University of Calgary receiving his BA in Economics. This coupled with his passion for livestock lead the way to an early career with Cargill Meat Solutions in 1990. The new beef plant had just opened in High River and Dave was given an opportunity to learn from the ground up. Taking on roles in every department in the plant provided a solid foundation and understanding of every aspect of beef harvest from livestock receiving, carcass grading to fabrication, packaging and boxing of beef products. Early roles within Cargill included managing production scheduling, boxed beef pricing, beef sales, yields and cutout optimization. Dave transferred to Cargill Meat Solutions Toronto in the mid 90’s to lead the Production Operations Team managing Case Ready then returned back to High River in the late 90’s to lead Quality Assurance, Technical Services, Regulatory and Food Safety. In 2001-2005, Dave transferred to the USA and held senior roles in Cargill from operations in Kansas to Wisconsin before returning to Canada. From 2005-2017, Dave held the role of Vice President Operations for both XL Foods and JBS Canada Inc.

Returning to Canada in 2005, the beef industry was reeling from BSE. Changes were happening quickly as regulatory agencies were challenged to find solutions and get beef products from Canada back into the international market. Dave sat as a director on several committees with the Canadian Meat Council, CFIA and Canadian Cattle Identification Agency. In addition, Dave served as Vice President for the Canadian Beef Grading Agency from 2006-2017.

Since 2017, Dave has been involved in the pork industry. Currently he is Vice President at Soleterra d’Italia, a new state of the art Italian style dry cured salami and ham processing plant in Acme, Alberta.


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Grace Kuhl, Mentee

Biography:

Grace currently lives in Keady, Ontario where she farms with her family. They run a backgrounding and commercial cow-calf operation comprised of Red Angus/Red Simmental cross cows, with an expansion into purebred Simmentals in the past few years. Along side their cow herd, her family owns and operates a multi generation livestock auction business. Growing up very passionate about the agriculture industry, Grace has always been a member of her local 4-H beef club, and more recently sitting as a board member for her county beef farmers association as well as Vice President for the Ontario Young Canadian Simmental Association. Grace graduated high school with a Red Seal in Agriculture and continued her education at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus graduating with an Associate Diploma in Agriculture focusing her studies on agribusiness and livestock production. In 2018, Grace attended World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, and now practices alongside her dad at farm sales and community fundraisers. Currently Grace works for Purina in Beef Product Marketing, as well in Sales Development with Sharpe Farm Supplies, an Ontario Purina Dealer.

Grace is very honoured to be a finalist in the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program. She is excited to expand her network with her fellow CYL finalists and other industry leaders, as well as develop her skills to continue to build her career in the beef industry.

Crystal Mackay, Mentor

Biography:

Crystal is a proven leader in connecting consumers, farmers and food system partners. She is a pioneer in this field with 25 years of experience in earning trust in food and farming in Canada with many award winning efforts. Crystal served as the founding CEO of Farm & Food Care, the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, and most recently her own company, Loft32. Crystal is a dynamic presenter and engaging trainer who has the ability to share a vision, encourage others to get on board, and get to work to make it happen – all with a smile! She has delivered over 1,000 presentations and workshops about food and farming to audiences around the world – from students to CEOs, media and food influencers.

Crystal is a Board member for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and chairs the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef communications committee. She has served on the Poultry Industry Council, Ontario 4-H Foundation and is past president of the OAC Alumni Association at the University of Guelph. Crystal grew up on a beef farm in the Ottawa Valley and is proud of her farm girl roots. She enjoys spending time with her family and playing hockey whenever she gets a chance!


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Dean Manning, Mentor

Biography:

Dean and his wife Catherine are second-generation farmers who operate a mixed farm consisting of beef, vegetable and greenhouses in Falmouth, NS, which is part of the Annapolis Valley. They have two children, Caylene and Andrew. Caylene is finishing her degree in human nutrition and Andrew is in his third year of his B.Sc. in Agricultural Business and will be the third generation on the farm.

Dean graduated with a degree in Plant Science from Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1989. He worked 4-H Extension during the summers while going through university, and upon graduation, worked in Agricultural Extension with the Provincial Government until he and Catherine went back to take over the family farm from Dean’s parents in 1997. In 1990, Dean also graduated from auctioneer school in Wisconsin and spent 20 years selling all classes of livestock and farm items at a local sale barn on weekends. He gave that up when his kids were old enough to join minor hockey and 4-H and spent the next 10 years helping coach minor hockey as well as moving into the role of beef leader for the local 4-H club.

Dean also had an interest in livestock grazing management practices and worked with producers in improving their livestock grazing skills while working in Ag Extension, as well as setting up producer grazing clubs in the regions he worked. He was a grazing mentor under the National Grazing Mentorship Program from 2007-2009.

In 2010, Dean and Catherine were the recipients of the NS Federation of Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award for their commitment to practices such as grazing management, biodiversity, biological pest control in crops, and streambank conservation. The farm continually looks at management practices that benefit the farm, environment, and community they live in. The farm has always been involved in direct market sales to consumers and recognizes the importance producers have in being transparent to the consuming public, so became VBP+ producers in 2017.

Dean currently is a 4-H beef leader, sits on the Board of the NS Cattle Producers, Council member of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), and Chair of the Maritime Beef Council.

Greg Stavert, Mentee

Biography:

Greg Stavert is a fifth-generation farmer from Freetown, Prince Edward Island. He farms with his father and uncle at Stavert Farms Limited, where they produce seed potatoes for local and domestic markets. They feed 175 natural angus cattle and have a flock of free run laying hens.

Greg is passionate about agriculture and is an active member of various committees in the industry. He is a board member of the Prince Edward Island Cattle Producers. As well, he sits on the board for the Summerside Farmers Market, where he is a vendor selling free run eggs, meat chickens and turkeys. Greg is also the chair of the Prince Edward Island Agriculture Sector Council.

Greg is most excited for the networking and learning opportunities that will come from the CYL Program. He is looking forward to learning more about the cow-calf side of the beef industry, including pasture management to help build soil organic matter.


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Iva Harberg, Mentee

Biography:

Iva was raised on a mixed farming operation near Hay Lakes, Alberta and is the fourth-generation member to work on the farm.

Growing up, Iva was active in 4-H in both the beef and horse clubs, as well as helping out on the family farm. Iva also enjoys horseback riding and spent some time riding and showing horses. Iva always knew her future would be in agriculture, and when her dad started to think about retiring from cattle, she decided to step up and take on a more active role. It was always important to Iva that her family grow up learning the same values as she did on the farm.

As Iva began to take a look at growing her commercial cattle herd, she found an interest in extended grazing concepts and is willing to experiment with different ideas to find what will work best for their operation.

Iva hopes to gain more knowledge in grazing management and building the soil, as well as a stronger understanding of the impact of agriculture on the environment in order to better promote the industry to consumers.

Iva is feeling incredibly lucky to be chosen as a finalist. She sees the CYL program as a great opportunity to network with other young producers across the country and to build relationships within the industry. She hopes the program will help to open doors for her cattle operation as well for her to play a role in promoting the beef industry.

Iva is incredibly thankful to the sponsors, organizers and mentors who have put in the effort to run this successful program and is grateful it is able to continue through the challenges that COVID-19 has presented.

Kim Ominksi, Mentor

Biography:

Kim Ominski is a professor in the Department of Animal Science. Since joining the University of Manitoba, Kim has established a research program improving the productivity and sustainability of beef cattle production in Western Canada. This work includes a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across Canada and in the United States. Kim has trained more than 50 research personnel and considers herself fortunate to teach in both the degree and diploma programs at the University of Manitoba.


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Katie-Jo Stehr, Mentee

Biography:

Katie-Jo Stehr was raised on a mixed cow-calf, ranch horse, and grain operation near Swan River, MB. She was heavily involved in the 4-H program, and it helped develop her interest and shape her future in the beef industry. In 2016, she received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with Great Distinction from the University of Saskatchewan, majoring in Animal Science and minoring in Agribusiness. While at the U of S, she was involved with campus clubs including the Stockman’s Club, Beef Team, and 4-H Alumni, and served many executive positions with these organizations. After completing her Bachelors, Katie completed a Master of Science Degree in Animal Science under the guidance of Drs. John McKinnon (U of S, Saskatoon) and Tim McAllister (AAFC, Lethbridge). The trials she completed examined the impact of chemically treating barley straw to improve forage quality, and the impact of feeding the treated product in wheat-based finishing rations. Prior to completing her M.Sc. program in August 2019, she began working as a ruminant nutritionist with Gowans Feed Consulting out of Lethbridge, AB. In her role as a consultant she provides advice on a wide range of topics including ration and supplement formulation, animal health and nutrition, best management practices, and nutritional and economic evaluation of ingredients. While most of her clients are feedlots, she also advises commercial and purebred cow-calf operations, sheep, goat, and bison customers. Katie enjoys getting to know producers and helping them to be more profitable and productive in their business. She is proud to have a career in beef production where she can help drive the sustainability of the industry. Outside of her career, Katie owns a small commercial cow-calf herd alongside her parents, and she plans to grow her herd when possible. She makes as many trips back to Manitoba to help out with farm work as possible and enjoys riding pasture and checking cattle whenever she can. She also serves as a 4-H leader in the Lethbridge district and thoroughly enjoys seeing the enthusiasm, passion and drive of her 4-H members.

Sheila Hillmer, Mentor

Biography:

Sheila Hillmer is a Key Account Manager with Elanco Canada. Elanco is a global animal health company that has grown significantly in this space in the past five years. Sheila works with corporate feedyards and is based in Southern Alberta. She also spends a significant amount of time developing and executing Learning and Development both internally within Elanco and externally to customers.

Sheila and her family have a farming and ranching operation in Del Bonita, Alberta and her two sons are beginning the process of succession in the family business. The boys are the fourth generation to be working in the family business. Sheila was born and raised in ag and has continued her work in ag for well over 30 years.

Sheila is a passionate advocate for the beef business. She is a current delegate for Albert Beef Producers and a past director, and is currently a board member of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. She has sat on several ag boards over the years, was a past 4-H leader, and continues to volunteer in various ways. Sheila enjoys coaching and mentoring young people and is working towards a certification in this field.


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Kaylee Chizawsky, Mentee

Biography:

Kaylee grew up just outside of Vegreville, Alberta where her passion for the cattle industry developed at an early age and began with many elementary school mornings bottle feeding twins before running to the bus and going to school often smelling of milk replacer! Her family has a commercial cow-calf operation and in 2010 they founded Foresee Cattle Co. and began breeding and raising purebred Simmentals. After high school, Kaylee attended the University of Alberta where she graduated in 2018 with an Agriculture degree, majoring in Animal Science. Kaylee’s employment experience began with summer student positions with Alberta Innovates and Monsanto as a Field Research Technician, a Statistics Project Assistant with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and further developed into roles at Trouw Nutrition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and a Dairy Assistant at the University of Alberta’s Dairy Research and Technology Centre. Kaylee is actively involved with the family farm and just recently purchased her own bred heifers in which she hopes will be the foundation of a much larger herd one day. Outside of work or the farm, you can often find Kaylee at the University milking cows bright and early on the weekends and volunteering her time weekly at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and the Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association.

Kaylee’s drive to expand her knowledge and meet others who are also passionate about the beef industry has led her to the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program, which she is thrilled and proud to be a part of. Kaylee looks forward to the networking opportunities the program will provide her with and is eager for the opportunity to share her learnings from the CYL program with other young “agvocates” in the beef industry.

John Lawton, Mentor

Biography:

John is a third-generation agricultural producer with more than 35 years in the cattle business and extensive knowledge of cattle feeding, procurement and risk management. John and his wife Stacey oversee cattle feeding and trading operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. John attended Olds College, graduating from the Agriculture Production program. He served as a director on the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association board for many years, helping to improve the industry alongside other knowledgeable producers. Over the last 15 years, he has developed the Linus7 Cattle Financial System to aid cattle feeding clients in making risk management decisions. One of his current endeavours is to encourage and advise young people on how to take on positions in companies and challenges in the cattle industry. When he is able to get away, John likes to travel to different countries to see how others live.


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Laura Code, Mentee

Biography:

Passionate about food and agriculture, Laura currently works as the Beef and Livestock Industry Specialist for the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture. In this role, she works in partnership with the cattle sector as a liaison between government and industry and supports beef ranchers around the province.

Her love of animals and agriculture started at a young age while growing up on a mixed farm on Vancouver Island and going through the 4-H program. She achieved in horse and beef projects, was a 4-H BC Ambassador representing the Vancouver Island Region, and attended workshops regionally, provincially and nationally. A highlight from her time in 4-H was attending the International 4-H Judging Seminar at the Canadian Western Agribition and winning the beef heifer class. This allowed her to join a panel of judges to judge the Heartland First Lady Classic all-breeds heifer show.

She pursued a career in agriculture and graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Sciences major. Laura holds a dual master’s degree in Management of Animal Resources and Sustainable Development in Agriculture from universities in Italy and France, including a research internship in the Netherlands. Laura enjoys traveling and learning about food systems and different cultures. She recently married a cattle rancher’s son and in her free time she helps with the cattle and honeybees on the farm. She volunteers with Junior Chamber International (JCI) serving on local, regional and national boards as well as running community projects. In 2019, she was recognized as one of Vernon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Top 20 under 40’.

She is extremely excited to be selected as a finalist in the CYL program and looks forward to gaining knowledge and experience of beef production and the supply chain, as well as creating connections with fellow participants and leaders in Canada’s beef industry.

Lee Sinclair, Mentor

Biography:

Lee grew up in the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan area. Mainly a town kid, he had access to the mixed farms of his family and friends and was there at every opportunity. Working with cattle and horses took precedence over running equipment. His dad and grandfather both hauled livestock, so he spent time travelling to farms, ranches, feedlots, auction markets and packing plants.

In his early teens, his dad was working as a feedlot pen rider and overseeing grass cattle. It was at this time he was introduced to animal health sales.

As his family was very involved with rodeo, Lee started out riding steers and moved up to the saddle bronc riding event. In 1989, he started at Lakeland College, where he competed on the Rodeo Team and graduated in 1991 with a Diploma in Herd Health Technology. While at Lakeland College, he met with mentors involved in agriculture sales and realized he would need a degree to pursue a career in animal health sales.

In 1991, Lee received a rodeo scholarship to Montana State University (MSU). In 1995, Lee graduated with a Degree in Animal Science. During his time at MSU, he twice qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo and was a member of the National Championship MSU Men’s Rodeo Team. He spent his Christmas and summer breaks working part-time as a pen rider at a 20,000 head Alberta feedlot. It was during this time he became interested in the livestock handling concepts of Temple Grandin and Bud Williams.

Upon graduation in 1995, Lee began a career in agricultural sales. Lee and his family moved back to Saskatchewan in 1998 and over the years he has worked in feed, animal health and livestock equipment sales. In the fall of 2015, he joined Merck Animal Health as an Account Manager covering Southern and Eastern Saskatchewan. Joining Merck Animal Health has renewed his passion for low-stress livestock handling and he enjoys presenting the theory and hands on application to his veterinary, cow-calf and feedlot customers.

Lee and his wife Heather live in Regina and between them they have six grown children.


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Laura Plett, Mentee

Biography:

Laura Plett and her husband Ryan own and operate a cow-calf operation in Stead, Manitoba, alongside her family’s fourth generation grain farm. She started this cow herd in 2014 with the purchase of 30 bred heifers while based near Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Laura has since returned to her homeland (with the cows), gotten married, had a baby and retired from her previous career as a professional Hunting & Fishing Guide and Manager in the outfitting industry. She now works full time on their farm, raising commercial Black Angus cattle with a Hereford influence. They grow and put up their own feed, and are working to extend their grazing season and background a larger portion of their calves each year. They have also recently added a band of range sheep to diversify and better utilize the land and resources they already have to work with. A large part of the operation is within the Belair Provincial Forest. This land is a mix of forested areas and tame pasture, which was cleared by Laura’s family’s logging ventures in the early/mid 1900’s. Laura and Ryan’s operation, named “Sawmill Creek Livestock” after these historic endeavours, has seen aggressive growth over the past couple years, with plans for continued expansion. Laura’s goals for the CYL program are based around the business management side of things, and she looks forward to mentoring with an experienced producer. She believes the timing is ideal to implement new strategies, practices and ideas that will lead to the success and sustainability of this young, progressive cow-calf operation.

Martin Unrau, Mentor

Biography:

Martin Unrau operates Bar 88 Ranch near MacGregor, Manitoba, along with his wife Roxie and son Garett, one of the couple’s four children. The Unrau’s calve 550 cows and background, and grow grain crops including corn, canola and barley.

Unrau previously served as a Director of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) starting in 2007. During that time, he undertook a variety of roles, including Chair of the Foreign Trade Committee and Co-Chair of the Animal Health Committee, as well as a member of the Animal Care Committee, the Domestic Agriculture and Policy Regulation Committee and Executive Committee. Unrau was elected to the position of CCA Vice President in March 2010. In 2012, he became CCA President, then transitioned into the role of CCA Past President from 2014 to 2016 before concluding his time on the CCA board.

Unrau came to the CCA through his involvement in the former Manitoba Cattle Producers Association. He first became involved with his provincial association in 2004 after being moved to help the industry during the early days of the BSE crisis. He became a director in 2005 and worked his way up to Vice President of the provincial association (2006) followed by a two-year term as President. He chaired numerous committees and served on the Production Management, Finance, Animal Health and Executive committees. In 2019, he was recognized with the Manitoba Beef Producers lifetime achievement award.


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Mackenzie Argent, Mentee

Biography:

Mackenzie Argent is a 23-year-old advocate of all things agriculture. Raised on her family owned and operated commercial cow-calf ranch and backgrounding operation just west of Cremona, Alberta, Mackenzie has a deep-rooted passion for the beef cattle industry. Mackenzie attended Olds College from 2015-2017 and received her diploma in Agriculture Management, with a major in Marketing and Communications, where she also was co-valedictorian of her class. Additionally, Mackenzie holds an off-farm career with Elanco Canada, where she is the Monogastric Account Representative for Western Canada. In her spare time, Mackenzie can be found working with her horses, hiking, or spending time with her friends and family. She is excited to see what new opportunities the CYL program will bring, and plans to use her new skills to effectively connect with consumers about the beef cattle industry, in order to build public trust and education surrounding beef production.

Nicole Zeni, Mentor

Biography:

Nicole Zeni is the Sr. Manager of Strategic Supply for McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. She's held various supply chain positions during her fourteen-year McDonald's career and was a key contributor to major initiatives including Coffee, All Day Breakfast and Beef Sustainability. Over her tenure, she's been recognized with the prestigious President Award as well as several Canadian and global team awards.


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Matt Hildebrandt, Mentee

Biography:

Raised on a sixth-generation farm in Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Matt along with his wife are in the business of harvesting sunlight. He manages a farm business with 257 head of cattle that helps grow cash/cover crops and nurturing 5,000 acres of land.

With a commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan, Matt manages his farm like a business. Return on Investment, depreciation and cash flow are a few things monitored to ensure financial health.

Matt believes that managing human resources and relationships with the community are most important– coaching Rosthern minor hockey and volunteering for the Rosthern Ag Society.

The vision for the farm is to nurture life. All while being a platform to bring people and the ecosystem together, focusing on nutrient dense food, water security and reducing the agriculture environmental impact. This should allow the farm and the planet to last another six generations.

Steve Kenyon, Mentor

Biography:

Steve Kenyon runs a custom grazing business in the Westlock, Alberta area under the name of Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. He currently runs just over 1,400 head of livestock on 3,000 acres of leased land. By using extended grazing techniques, he is able to pasture cattle year-round. This is done by using a combination of intensive cell grazing, dormant season grazing, swath grazing, crop residue grazing and bale grazing. Steve has become well respected in the agriculture community for his business management and innovative ideas.

Steve has been teaching sustainable grazing management for more than 15 years and has been a keynote speaker at many conferences and seminars throughout Canada and the U.S. He is a writer for the Stockman Grass Farmer magazine and also for the Canadian Cattleman Magazine. Steve has a very energetic personality, which compliments a very down to earth common-sense approach to farm business management. Yet he is still just a producer and presents in a very honest and straightforward style. Steve has developed and instructs the “Year Round Grazing Systems” Agricultural Business Management Course. This three-day course includes a human resource component, economics, finances, grazing principles, cell design and pasture rejuvenation. This course will take you right into design and planning of a year-round grazing system. Steve has numerous other schools including a school where he has partnered with Joel Salatin to instruct the Stockman Grass Farmer business school, “Take this Farm and Love It!”

The Mission statement of Greener Pastures is “Economic and Environmental Sustainability for Generations”. It is important to provide an enjoyable, profitable and sustainable business for future generations. They believe that to be profitable in the long-term, you must use sustainable agriculture practices. You have to work with nature, not against her. Greener Pastures is an environmentally sustainable ranch that improves the land. The focus is to maintain an effective water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and mineral cycle. Our wildlife habitats and riparian areas need to be preserved. The health of our soils and our soil organisms needs to be understood and protected in order to ensure that our agricultural businesses remain profitable and sustainable.


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Sarah Jensen, Mentee

Biography:

Sarah Jensen was raised on a commercial cow-calf and grain operation with Red and Black Angus, Charolais and Speckle Park cattle near Arborg, MB. At a young age, she enjoyed helping her family with cattle vaccinations, identification, feeding and leading cattle drives. In high school, Sarah was the Youth Board Representative for the Arborg Agricultural Society where she taught youth in her community the importance of agriculture and helped to plan the annual Arborg Fair and Rodeo.

After Sarah graduated from high school in 2017, she moved to Winnipeg, MB to pursue postsecondary education. Sarah studied Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba. During this time, she was an active member of the U of M Pre-Vet Club and the New Student Peer Mentorship program, where she mentored first year students. In 2019, Sarah received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Award and spent the summer assisting in beef cattle research at the U of M, which explored the use of strategic supplementation to improve beef cattle performance and expand the utilization of pasture based production systems.

Sarah maintained a part time work-position throughout her undergraduate education as an Animal Health and Welfare STEP Student through the Chief Veterinary Office of Manitoba. In this position, Sarah was fortunate to working alongside veterinary epidemiologists and she learned about the importance of One Health when raising food animals. Sarah was recently accepted into the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, SK and plans to become a beef cattle veterinarian and pursue epidemiological research. Sarah is looking forward to building connections in the CYL program and expanding her knowledge of the Canadian cattle sector.

Bryan Thiessen &
Stuart Thiessen, Mentors

Bryan Thiessen Biography:

Bryan Thiessen owns and operates Namaka Farms Inc with his brother Stuart. Together, they run a feedlot and farming operation located in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is a past chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council and has sat on multiple industry organizations over the years.

Stuart Thiessen Biography:

Coming soon!


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Scott Gerbrandt, P.Eng., Mentee

Biography:

Scott Gerbrandt was raised on a farm near Swift Current, SK. He obtained an Agriculture and Bioresource Engineering degree (with Great Distinction) from the U of S in 2010 and has been working in R&D in the ag machine design industry since. In 2015, Scott and his wife, Robyn, moved back to Swift Current to become more involved on Scott’s grandparents’ farm which was a small beef and hay operation.

Scott has enjoyed learning about the cow-calf sector and has worked on increasing their herd over the past few years. He focuses on keeping up with best practices from research results, record keeping, and trying to improve grazing techniques to increase production on the land they manage. He is proud of some of the changes implemented on their operation including eliminating confined feeding in the cowherd through the use of corn grazing, bale grazing, and calving on pasture, while simultaneously increasing their herd size. He is also proud to have the opportunity to share daily chores on their VBP+ operation with four active generations.

Scott is very excited for the networking opportunities through the CYL program. He is also looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the business management side of the beef industry, including the economics and marketing associated with grazing full season cover crops.

Brent Difley, P.Ag., Mentor

Biography:

Brent grew up on a ranch north of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He graduated from U of S with a BSA in Agriculture in 1980.

He joined Elanco Animal Health in 1980 and retired in 2015. Roles at Elanco include Sales, Sales Management, Strategic Accounts Management and Business Development. Following retirement from Elanco, Brent continues to manage a 500 head cow-calf ranch in Saskatchewan that operates as a Joint Venture, and consults for T&E Ventures Inc and Union Forage Ltd. He is a Director of Union Forage with a focus on Business Development.

Brent lives in Calgary and frequently travels to the ranch in Saskatchewan. He is a member of the Calgary International Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee and Past Chair.

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