One local veterinarian has been selected to participate in a national advisory panel on agriculture.
Dr. Carling Matejka will be among the 25 members of the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council (CAYC), which was officially announced by the federal minister of agriculture and agri-food Marie-Claude Bibeau on July 24.
The CAYC was created earlier this year with more than 800 eligible Canadians applying. The process included applicants providing their background in agriculture or agri-food along with a short essay on a significant issue facing youth in the sector and how they proposed to address it.
Those selected represent a diverse mix of sectors across the agriculture and agri-food industry.
Dr. Matejka is pleased to have been selected and given the chance to be a voice not only for young people, but on issues that affect rural farm life as well as the agricultural sector as a whole.
“I am passionate about agriculture and with also being a vet, I felt I would be able to speak out loud about various issues as I see things from a farming perspective as well,” said Matejka, who works at Ponoka’s Central Veterinary Clinic and still works on the family’s purebred Angus farm.
“I can speak to the rules and regulation side of things, but I can also see the farm side and the city side of things.”
Matejka was raised in and around Ponoka with her parents instilling that being a part of the greater community is an asset, something she admits is part of why she became a vet and why she felt the need to be on this advisory council.
“My parents were always involved in the community and I wanted to help make an impact as well,” she said.
“They were committed to nature and really preached to us about sustainable agriculture. Having gone away to school and lived in big cities for seven years, I heard many things from people about farms.
“There were so many that misinterpreted what farmers do and what agriculture does and provides to us. I soon realized how to talk to them about it in a non-judgmental way to help people change how they think and truly let them know where their food comes from.”
Matejka was also involved with 4H growing up, which helped educate her further on other aspects of agriculture, and led her to earning both a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine — both with majors in food animals.
“Being on this council is different, as I get to interact with people and policy makers on a national level, bringing forward issues along with brainstorming and troubleshooting problems as well as presenting solutions,” she said, hoping the team can collectively make a large impact on some pressing issues.
“For me, I think I bring a unique perspective as a fourth-generation farmer raised on a small family farm who got her hands dirty and knowing how hard it is to operate a farm these days.
“As a vet — I think I’m the only one on the council — I have the ability to really talk about how business operations and the industry think on issues such as antibiotic resistance and how that relates back to farm and animal health. I can also speak how changes and new regulations will affect or benefit the industry and provide opinions on other issues that would be valuable to everyone.”
The first meeting of the CAYC is slated to be conducted online sometime this month and Matejka has a couple of priorities she would like to bring to the table.
“My first priority is to focus on contributing to the creation of sustainable agriculture and encouraging the involvement of more youth in the industry,” she said.
“Secondly, I want to assist in educating the population and removing the misconceptions about agriculture, so society can gain a better understanding about the industry.
The federal government created the CAYC, which will provide consultation to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, earlier this year to help identify problems and propose solutions on matters that affect agriculture and other topics such as business risk management, market diversification, mental health challenges in the industry and how this pandemic is altering agriculture.
“I’m looking forward to virtually meeting the members of the first-ever Canadian Agricultural Youth Council,” said federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, in a release.
“Each of these young leaders will bring a unique experience and perspective to the table. Together, the members will help shape the future of Canada’s sustainable agricultural industry.”