Agriculture’s up-and-comers: Sara Kate Smith

The 2018 list of achievements of this Barriere, B.C., young farmer reads like the bio of someone well beyond Sara Kate Smith’s 19 years: youth representative at the Canadian Agriculture Minister’s meeting, B.C.’s provincial 4-H ambassador, B.C. rep on the 4-H Youth Advisory Committee, and received the 4-H Canada Leadership Award of Distinction (LEAD).

Sara Kate joined the Yellowhead 4-H club as a second-generation club member and credits the organization for enabling her to excel. LEAD recognized Sara Kate for community engagement and communications, and included a four-year $20,000 scholarship.

“Part of why I think I got the scholarship is because in 2016, I ran a communications conference in B.C. called Speak Out Loud, targeted to B.C. 4-H members,” she explains.

At that conference, she networked with people in her community as well as the speakers, many of whom came from various parts of agriculture. In 2017, she was North American representative at a Global 4-H Network Summit and conducted a workshop on the importance of personal branding.

Today, she’s in year two of a political science degree and contemplating a masters program, but feels her career path isn’t set. This past summer she helped organize a 600-delegate global trade show for international wood buyers, a role that also fits her since her family owns a third-generation sawmill called Gilbert Smith Forest Products Ltd.

In addition to the university scholarship, LEAD paired her with mentor Mandy Rennehan. The Nova Scotian founded Freshco, Canada’s first full service, 24-7, on-call retail maintenance provider.

“She scares me just a tiny bit. Our first phone call was emotional for me because she really understood exactly what I was going through. We had never met and yet it felt like she really knew me.”

Agriculture is never far from Sara Kate’s mind. In October 2018 she represented Canada at the five-day United Nations Committee on World Food Security event in Italy. It’s a huge accomplishment, given there are 70 independent-country 4-H programs and over 7 million 4-Hmembers worldwide.  

“The public sector attending this UN plenary meeting expressed an interest in having a youth voice, and 4-H was selected for its esteemed youth programs and connection to international agriculture,” she says.

“Doors open all the time and opportunities can change your path. This trip to the UN, for example, could change the trajectory of my career.”

“Doors open all the time and opportunities can change your path.” Here’s how 4-H helped open doors for a young B.C. farmer.

Q&A:

Do you use social media?

Honestly, the best connections I’ve ever made have come from introducing myself to people in person and then following up by email.

What are some of your favourite reads?

The Preston & Child novels for fun, and biographies like those of Arlene Dickinson, Sophia Amoruso, and Sheryl Sandberg. One of my favourite business books is one my dad gave me. It’s Rain: What a Paperboy Learned About Business by Jeffrey J. Fox.

What’s your dream job in agriculture?

I can see myself working with people – farmers and producers – in a role that somehow would support the industry.

Who do you admire in agriculture?

The people I admire most are the people involved in making positive change and those providing food every day for Canadians.

How do you prepare for big events like the one in Italy?

I researched the topics of the event and the next steps the UN will be taking toward food security.

What would you say to encourage an urban 11-year-old to join 4-H?

I’d share the opportunities that I’ve had. You get to try so many things in a fun, supportive environment. It’s one of the best youth development organizations in the world.

What’s something important your mentor has taught you?

My mentor is also helping me learn balance, that is, saying no. Admittedly, that’s something I am still working on!

From an AgriSuccess article (January 2019) by Myrna Stark Leader.