Day Two of the 2019 CAAR Conference featured a sensational speaker program, plenty of networking opportunities, CAAR’s always-popular Pro-Ag Investments Auction and ag retail's biggest evening: CAAR's Choice Awards Banquet.

Roundtable Networking Discussions

The morning started bright and early, with a select number of conference delegates enjoying a working breakfast during Roundtable Networking Discussions. Attendees pre-registered for one of four discussion topics: Retail Management, Safety and Training, Technology and Services and Sales and Customer Services.

Brian Downie, manager of Shur Gro Farm Services Wawanesa branch, called the Retail Management discussion a great way to start the day with inspiration from hearing a variety of perspectives in his group.

“The discussion went very well. I was seated primarily with new contacts. It was good to hear perspectives from different retails, different companies and think about how I can maybe take some of these ideas home to my business,” says Downie. “It was definitely very valuable.”

The Value of Speaker Sessions

Bob Krutzfeldt of Northpoint Distribution Inc. says he’s been coming to the CAAR conference since its inception, and before that he attended the conferences of CAAR’s predecessor groups. In over three decades, he says he’s only missed two conferences.

With that many conferences to reference against, Krutzfeldt says he was especially impressed with the morning’s speaker program and the range of topics covered: pertinent industry updates, farmer customer insights and mental health awareness.

“I thought it was a great lineup of presenters,” he says. “They covered these different issues and I thought there was really something for everybody.”

Industry Updates

CAAR was pleased to welcome Cassandra Cotton, Vice President of Sustainability with Fertilizer Canada, Erin Armstrong director of regulatory affairs with Canterra Seeds and Dennis Prouse, Vice President of government affairs with CropLife Canada to in-depth looks at some of the most pressing issues in their sectors.

Although a range of topics was covered, a common thread presented itself: retailers play an extremely important role in the industry. Agri-retailers are, as Cassandra Cotton of Fertilizer Canada put it, “one of the most important sources of information” to their farmer customers. “The majority of growers rely on your for information,” she says.

Farmer Panel Discussion

Three Manitoba farmers, Danny Penner (Altona, MB), Colin Crockatt (Argyle, MB) and Dwayne Leslie (Oakville, MB) shared their insights and experiences in a diverse range of topics including advancements in technology usage on their farms, what they need and want from their retailers and their thoughts on recent mergers and acquisitions.

A few key themes emerged from the discussion. First, farmers are bombarded with sales pitches of new technology, new products and new services on a weekly and monthly basis. Crockatt says he’s looking for his retailers to help him “sift through the weeds” and identify the truly valuable technology and solutions for his operation.

Secondly, the panelists indicated that they aren’t daunted by the numerous mergers and acquisitions ongoing in the industry, as long as the same boots are on the ground.

“If it’s still the same people in the building, I’m still loyal,” says Leslie. “If all the people I dealt with are gone within a year, to me that says something about the new corporate culture.”

Danny Penner agreed, saying “Sometimes large companies get arrogant. But we’re all just people dealing with people. Brand is nothing to me. It’s all about the people you deal with every day.”

Mental Health Awareness in the Ag Retail Industry

Lesley Kelly, Saskatchewan farmer and Do More Ag Foundation co-founder began her presentation by asking the audience three questions about mental health’s impact in their lives, asking the audience to stand that applied to them personally. As a noticeable hush fell over the room, nearly every audience member stood over the course of the three questions, demonstrating that everyone has been in one way or another affected by mental health issues.

Kelly says she often starts her presentation with this straightforward exercise, and it accomplishes several important things.

“We have just created community. We think that we are alone, and that our mental health only impacts us. But that is simply not the case,” she says. “We have created more awareness. Everyone in this room can be a support for each other.”

Kelly directed retailers to Do More Ag’s resources to share among their teams and farmer customers, saying that the first step to getting help is knowing where you can access it. Along with supporting their growers, Kelly reminded retailers to take time to prioritize their own physical and mental health.

“You are the most important asset in your business. To have a healthy business, you need to take care of yourself,” she said.

CAAR’s Pro Ag Investments Auction

After a networking lunch to process the morning’s speakers, CAAR’s annual Pro Ag Investments Auction kicked off! This time, crowd favourite auctioneers Dallas Ballie and Sheldon Matsalla were joined by special guest Ralph Eichler, Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture.

Eichler, a former livestock auctioneer, took the stage and challenged Ballie and Matsalla, both from Saskatchewan, to a little interprovince competition. In the end, Eichler successfully auctioned off his item, identical to Ballie and Matsalla’s, for $300 more.

Thank you minister for taking time out of your busy schedule to help raise money for CAAR through the auction and showing your support for the CAAR Conference.

“I’m a big supporter of retail in agriculture. Being a farmer and retailer myself in a previous life before politics, I understand the importance of events like this,” says Eichler. “CAAR is an important association

The friendly competition helped to boost the competitive spirit in the room, culminating in a grand total of $97,000 raised! Thank to all bidders and donors for your generous support of CAAR through the Pro Ag Auction.

CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet

No CAAR Conference is complete without the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet. This year, CAAR was honoured to welcome Reg Helwer, MLA for Brandon West, to bring greetings on behalf of Manitoba Ag Minister Ralph Eichler. Helwer welcomed attendees to Manitoba and shared some of his personal connections to CAAR as a former board member and chair. Thank you Reg for your continued support of CAAR!

Each year, the banquet is an opportunity for retailers to come together to celebrate those individuals and companies who go above and beyond, giving us all something to be be proud of. CAAR is pleased to congratulate the following winners:

CAAR’s Choice Awards Winners (Recognized for the 2018 Year)

4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer Award - Sponsored by Fertilizer Canada
Nutrien Ag Solutions

Agronomist of the Year - Sponsored by J.R. Simplot AgriBusiness
Taralea Simpson (Shur Gro Farm Services Ltd.)

The Chairman’s Award
Grant Larocque (Orchard Transport Ltd.)

Retailer of the Year - Sponsored by Bayer CropScience
South Country Co-op

Retailer Hall of Fame - Sponsored by Univar Canada
In memory of Wayne Deschouwer

Congratulations to our five CAAR’s Choice Awards Winners! Your dedication to business excellence, sustainability and supporting your communities and industry is second to none.

Following the banquet dinner and awards presentation, attendees were treated to uproarious entertainment from comedian James Cunningham, known for appearances on Just for Laughs, Last Comic Standing and as the host of the Food Network Canada’s Eat St.

Registration Desk Hours: Thursday Feb. 14

If you’re just joining us for the final day of the conference, be sure to pick up your conference pass at the registration desk! Registration will be open from:

7:30 am - 12:00 pm

Day Three Agenda Highlights

This is just a selection of the informative speakers and exciting events lined up for Day Two of the 2019 CAAR Conference!

8:10 – 9:10 am: Unleashing Your Disruptive Behaviour
Graham Sherman, Co-Owner of Tool Shed Brewing Company
Sponsored by BASF Canada

9:20 – 10:20 am: Panel Discussion: Mergers & Acquisitions
Panelists: Bayer CropScience Inc., Corteva AgriScience, BASF Canada and Nutrien

11:00 – 11:50 am: Does Your Lender Understand Your Business Needs?
Dean Klippenstine, Meyers Norris Penny
Sponsored by Rempel Insurance Brokers Ltd.

12:45 – 1:45 pm: The Future of Canadian Agriculture
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sylvain Charlebois - 'The Food Professor'

2:00 – 3:00 pm: CAAR Member Forum
Hosted in the Millennium Suite, 2nd Floor, RBC Convention Centre

Click here to view the full conference agenda.

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