CAAR Communicator chatted with Blaine Cochrane, Sales Manager with Shur-Gro Farm Services in Brandon, Manitoba to learn about the person and career, his leadership within the ag retail sector, and why he decided to become a part of the CAAR Board team. Oh, and something about mountains.
Q: What is your current role in the ag retail sector?
Blaine Cochrane: I’m the Sales Manager for Shur-Gro Farm Services in Brandon, Manitoba. We have 13 crop input retails across the province. I have been in this role 11 years, this fall.
Q: Can you describe your ag retail journey?
Blaine: I was born in the town of Hamiota, in western Manitoba and attended Assiniboine Community College studying business administration. I was talking to my mom one day about school, when she mentioned a job at Cargill Nutrena Feeds in Brandon that might be right up my alley. It was a front counter job selling bagged feed, animal health supplies, and running the little retail store we had, ordering product, stocking shelves, writing invoices, etc.
I had grown up on a mixed grain and livestock farm outside Hamiota, and I had worked at the local IGA grocery store in my last two years of high school, so I had a bit of experience. Somebody believed in me and gave me a chance at Cargill. I have never forgotten that. Everyone needs a start or a chance, or a boost in life. What you do after that is up to you. I have tried to reciprocate or pay it forward in the various roles I have had.
I spent four years with Cargill Nutrena Feeds, 20 years with Landmark Feeds and now 11 years with Shur-Gro, in various sales and management roles.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Blaine: : I like to hike, tournament fish for walleye, and mountain climb. I like the competition of tournament fishing and seeing how you fare up against the best. I do like regular fishing, but nothing gets you going like the shotgun start at a tournament or catching a big fish with money on the line.
I have mountain-climbed with various expeditions throughout the world: Mt. Rainier in Washington State, Aconcagua in Argentina, Cotopaxi and Cayambe in Ecuador, Orizaba in Mexico, and
Mt. Elbrus in Russia.
Q: Fascinating! But how does someone from Manitoba get the mountain climbing bug?
Blaine: I was watching Discovery Channel one night in 2009, and there was a documentary based on International Mountain Guides (IMG) and their climb of Mt. Everest. I thought to myself “Mountain climbing, that’s pretty cool.” I googled IMG and its webpage asked: …so you want to climb a mountain?
I researched further and IMG said that if you want to learn, sign up and climb Mt. Rainier. So, I did in 2011. I was fortunate to get to the summit on my first attempt. At our wrap up meeting they said after this, you will either go one of two ways.
1) I will never do this again in my life! Or
2) Where to next?
I chose option 2.
I enjoy it because its tests you physically and mentally. You must be in great physical shape to begin with, but you will also have some tough times on the mountain, and you have to persevere and keep going (safely). The saying “Your mind will always give up before your legs” is so true.
It has been life changing for me as it got me off the couch and into shape. I’ve seen some great places around the world, experienced fabulous cultures, and met some great people. The other thing I learned, is you don’t have to be having fun, to be having fun. Some of the hardest days have turned into great memories.
Q: How does mountain climbing relate to your day job?
Blaine: : We don’t always have our A-game every day when climbing, so you’ve got to dig deep and figure it out. I also like being around like-minded people. Mountain climbing is a combination of solo and team. Only you can get yourself up and down that mountain, but we work together as a team in all aspects from cooking, hauling group gear, and encouraging our teammates. It’s the same but different for work, sometimes solo, but always pulling together as a team.
Q: Why do you enjoy working in the agriculture sector?
Blaine: It’s the people, from customers to staff—all great people who want to help feed the world. We are always striving to get better and always looking to help their neighbour/co-worker.
Q: If you could change one thing about the agriculture sector in Canada, what would it be?
Blaine: I would change the perception of agriculture in the general population. Farmers are stewards of the land. If they take care of the land and their animals, they will take care of you. If the farmer is successful, so will we all be.
Q: What is your role in the CAAR Board?
Blaine: I am the Finance Chair and have been part of the executive committee for two years.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your role on the CAAR Board?
Blaine: I would like to see more retails be involved with CAAR than before. Always growing and evolving to bring more value to our retail partners. Advocacy is paramount so we have to be the voice for our ag retail partners.
Q: What role do you see CAAR playing in the agriculture industry moving forward?
Blaine: Ag retail needs to have a voice so we can help lead agriculture in a more positive and sustainable way. CAAR is the Canadian voice of ag retail.
Q: Why did you join the CAAR Board, and how do you apply your industry experience to
Blaine: I am a firm believer that we all must take a part, get involved, and support our industry. I have been in ag retail my entire career, both in the livestock and crop input sectors—different businesses that have a lot of similarities. I can take a lot of best practices and ideas from each sector and utilize for a successful outcome.
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