Project helps women in agriculture become more independent
'They want to have full capacity to do everything on the farm'
About a dozen women gathered in Summerside, P.E.I., on Saturday to do some hands-on mechanical and technology training that will help them on their own farms.
Organizers say they hope it will break down some barriers that have historically existed in agriculture.
Staff at Green Diamond Equipment showed them everything from basic tractor maintenance to advanced GPS technology used in the fields.
The mechanical workshop is part of a training series called Level the Field, which looks at eliminating systemic barriers in agriculture.
Kelly Hughes, who has a dairy farm, said she isn't typically involved with the equipment and wanted to learn more.
"Knowledge is power.... It's good to have that basic knowledge going in."
I think I would like to be a little bit more independent, and say, 'Hey I can change that filter, I can do a service on that tractor.'— Kaylin Kuratli
Kaylin Kuratli, who runs a dairy farm with her husband, said she wanted to be able to do more of the work herself.
"I think I would like to be a little bit more independent, and say, 'Hey I can change that filter, I can do a service on that tractor.'"
The agriculture training program is a Canadian Federation of Agriculture national project that is being tested on the Island.
Karolyn Godfrey, the organizer of the program and owner of Winding Path Inc., said women are underrepresented in the agriculture sector and haven't always been given the same opportunities as men.
"It's a very significant thing that's happening in Prince Edward Island," she said.
"Girls and young women tend to be encouraged to focus on animal care or domestic tasks and boys and young men receive very valuable skills training connected with mechanical equipment," she said.
Keisha Rose Topic, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, works on her family's potato farm. She said it's been great for women to get together and think about their roles on the farm.
"Workshops like this help that along," she said. "It just creates a comfortable setting among peers.... They want to have full capacity to do everything on the farm."
She said it also makes sense in times of labour shortages to expand their roles and change historical habits.
"The work won't have to stop because there's not someone there to do it," she said.
Godfrey said a manual will be developed with a step-by-step training program that organizations all over the country will be able to use.
"They are going to have a package put in their hands so they can immediately duplicate what we've done here in Prince Edward Island."