AFSC leadership on fact-finding mission in the south
This year, AFSC has been marking its 80th anniversary and a recent tour by AFSC’s Board of Directors and Executive Leadership Team to Southern Alberta has provided the perfect opportunity to justify the pride the Corporation takes in its achievements in support of the province’s agriculture and rural communities
“It was a valuable tool for the Board to see firsthand the diversity and the requirements in the province and how AFSC supports agriculture and rural Alberta,” said Board Chair Jennifer Wood.
The tour included several specialty and irrigated crop productions as well as agri-food operations. The majority of the stops showcased AFSC clients and how they make use of the products we offer.
For Board Member Peter Galloway, it was a great learning experience. “I have been in this industry all my life and I have learned an incredible amount on irrigation, potatoes and beans,” he said.
However, what was a lot more informative was how AFSC’s support to agriculture and rural communities was making lives better for more than only its clients.
“What we heard from everyone was that they wouldn’t be where they are today without AFSC, they wouldn’t be the size they were,” said Wood.
“Clearly there has been a spin-off to the community with AFSC’s support to the businesses; first in supporting the business and then in terms of jobs within the community.”
Board Member Jo-Ann Hall also stressed the contribution that AFSC support makes to the rural communities throughout the “value chain”.
Hall said she was impressed with the way the clients spoke in praise of the staff and services of AFSC.
“What we heard from several of the places we visited, which were all AFSC product users, was that they received a high level of service and that products that they used could be tailored to their operations,” Hall said.
Galloway was equally appreciative of what he described as “customization” of AFSC products in line with the needs of clients.
“In consultation with the industry, AFSC built a product that will deal with the risk requirements of the client, rather than pull it off the rack.”
“It was the collaboration between AFSC, the producer and the commodity group the producer represented to form and figure out what innovative product could work for the industry as a whole versus ‘here is a product whether it works or not’.”
And the proactive attitude of the AFSC staff in achieving the outcomes was praised by the clients to the Board and ELT members.
“We heard that AFSC staff were very proactive, especially on the lending side, where they came with proposals ahead of when they were required,” Hall said.
“I think that speaks to the high level of knowledge and understanding of the producers in their area and the needs they had.”
AFSC’s support to agricultural producers and agri-businesses may be helping the rural economy in other ways as well. As they have the insurance coverage for their crops and the borrowing opportunities, enterprising farming communities have also been venturing into innovation Galloway observed.
Referring to the specialty crop operations and irrigated crop production the Board visited during the tour, Galloway said: “Virtually every one of these guys was in the business of inventing technology and at no point did they say they would patent it and monetize it.
“They said ‘I’m going to share it with my neighbours’, the idea being ‘we are going to benefit from the collective wisdom of the community, so we are going to share it’.
“They are standing on each other’s shoulders.”
Positive feedback from the tour was not limited to the reflections of AFSC Board members.
Doug Dueck, AFSC’s South Area manager who also took part in the tour, reflected on how clients were appreciative of the services they have been receiving from AFSC.
“Paul deJonge from Broxburn Vegetables was appreciative of how AFSC came to the table and was willing to work with him with his first loan, providing him with an opportunity to begin his business,” Dueck said.
As for brothers Kyle and Casey Gouw of Gouw Onions, “They reiterated that AFSC’s insurance programs give them the backstop they are looking for in the event they are impacted by losses due to designated perils,” Dueck added.
The tour to Southern Alberta by the AFSC Board and the Executive Leadership Team was an exceptional learning experience as well as an opportunity to see first hand the support AFSC provides to agriculture in rural Alberta.