To say that Amy VanderHeide has a lot on her plate would be quite an understatement.
A mom to three young boys, not only does Amy work on the family’s farm, she’s also co-founder of the Maritime Ag Women’s Network. But that’s not all – she’s also a board member with the Kings County Federation of Agriculture, a member of the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture committee, and a 4-H leader.
To top it all off, Amy’s an enthusiastic and dedicated agvocate.
“I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person,” she laughs when asked how she manages to juggle all her commitments. “I am always up for jumping in and trying something new.”
For Amy, that inspiring ambition is fuelled by a passion for the industry that started at an early age while she was growing up next door to her grandmother’s farm. Now working full-time on the broiler chicken and crops farm that she and her husband operate alongside her in-laws in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Amy’s passion for the industry has only become stronger over the years. And it’s that passion that led her to start agvocating.
“I love what I do, so agvocating isn’t really a job for me. I can’t imagine doing anything other than being on the farm or working somehow within agriculture. I think being passionate about something is the biggest driver for people. I know it is for me,” explains Amy, who also runs a small cow-calf operation with her husband.
“If you aren’t passionate or don’t love what you do, then it’s hard to be positive about it.”
Noting there is a substantial disconnection nowadays between farmers and consumers, Amy says that having more people in agriculture speak up as agvocates could help bridge that gap, while also giving the industry a stronger voice.
“There is such a disconnect, and it’s not necessarily helped by how some of our food is marketed. We need to be out there sharing our stories and making those connections on our own,” she explains.
“If we are the ones telling our story, showing how food is raised, the work it takes, and how we feed our families the same foods we give the world to feed their families, then it makes everything about the industry more real for people. And there are people out there who do want to learn about their food.”
Encouraging others to share their story is also one of the reasons that Amy helped co-create the Maritime Ag Women’s Network. The group formed in 2015 as a social media-based network where women in agriculture can connect and ask questions in a positive and non-judgmental setting.
“It’s a chance to help women in agriculture gain some confidence through other women,” explains Amy, adding that the group has grown to be something more than she ever envisioned possible.
“It’s helped our members see beyond just their farm or their family or their office, because agriculture isn’t just farming,” she says. “It’s broadened everybody’s horizon by showing them what happens in the industry as opposed to just what they are doing on their own farms or in their own jobs.”
Ambassador for Agriculture
As the Agriculture More Than Ever Atlantic Ambassador, Amy says she hopes to be able to inspire more people in agriculture to stand up and add their voice to conversations about food and farming. After all, “the more people who share their story, the more people we can reach.”
But it’s also understandable why some people might have reservations about speaking up. Amy notes that people shouldn’t think they need to have tons of social media followers to make a difference when it comes to telling the story of Canadian agriculture. Nor should they worry about trying to change every single negative perception about agriculture.
Amy feels it’s important to focus on being truthful and transparent, because when it comes to speaking up about all the positive and innovative aspects of Canadian agriculture, every little bit helps.
“Show how passionate you are about what you do, but make sure to tell your whole story and your own truth. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you, doesn’t mean you’re not doing it right,” she explains.
“Any impact you have on people, even the smallest successes or the one or two people who reach out and comment, you’re still making a difference.”