Taralea Simpson, Shur-Gro Farm Services Ltd.

Taralea Simpson is a farmer, a mother, an entrepreneur, a passionate “agvocate” and CAAR’s 2018 Agronomist of the Year. Sponsored by Simplot, the award recognizes a CAAR member agronomist who consistently exceeds expectations through dedication to their field and their agronomic knowledge.

Simpson’s well-deserved recognition comes after over two decades on the job as an agronomist for Shur-Gro Farm Services Ltd. She joined the company shortly after graduating from the University of Manitoba with a degree in animal science. Although working with cattle was her first love, she mentored under the staff agronomists and soon discovered agronomy was a good fit for her.

“It just kinda happened,” she says with a laugh. “There was a lot of learning in those first five or six years, but I found that I enjoyed working with people and being outside scouting fields.”

In the 25 years since, Simpson has come full-circle and is now a mentor and a key point of contact for the Shur-Gro agronomy and sales staff, always making time in her busy schedule to provide information and give advice.

“There are many times throughout the season where a customer’s crop is not progressing or developing normally. Taralea always has time to help her fellow agronomists and new agronomy employees to find a solution,” says Rick Senecal, an agronomist at Shur-Gro’s Elie, Man. branch, who has known Simpson for 13 years.

Simpson’s influence extends beyond the Shur-Gro family, with many of her peers looking up to her as a role model for the industry. According to the team at Legend Seeds, Simpson exemplifies the true meaning of an agronomist and is a key and vital voice in agriculture for the Portage la Prairie area and beyond. In their letter of support for Simpson’s nomination, they praise her honesty, open communication, “second-to-none” work ethic and innovation.

Simpson’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed in the community either. In addition to receiving the Agronomist of the Year award from CAAR, Simpson was honoured in February with the first-ever Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award from the Portage and District Chamber of Commerce.

The accolades have come as a bit of a surprise to Simpson, who appreciates the recognition, albeit modestly.

“I don’t love being the center of attention, but it’s nice to be recognized,” she says. “You put in a lot of time, thought and emotion into your job every day – especially in ag where you do your best all the time and sometimes mother nature kicks you in the pants.”

By doing her best and treating her customers’ fields like her own, Simpson has developed a reputation amongst her customers as a dedicated, trusted advisor and it’s rare that a grower won’t follow through with her recommendations. Stephan Schirp, a long-time customer, has considered Simpson a pivotal member of his team for many years and says that he admires and relies on Simpson’s knowledge, enthusiasm and optimism.

“Not only is Taralea appreciated for her dedication to her work, but also for her approachable personality and optimistic, glass-half-full attitude,” says Schirp. “Her years of tenure are invaluable when it comes to knowing the history of the farm, the fields and the soil conditions, and she serves a pivotal role in the crop planning decisions for upcoming seasons.”

Not only is Taralea appreciated for her dedication to her work, but also for her approachable personality and optimistic, glass-half-full attitude. Stephan Schirp

Always Agvocating

In addition to her work in the field, Simpson tirelessly advocates for the industry and has taken an active role in introducing young people to ag. By talking to kids at local high schools, she hopes to dispel myths about the industry and promote jobs in agriculture as a dynamic and rewarding career option.

“So many kids now say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be a farmer,’” says Simpson. “But you don’t have to be a farmer – you can be an agronomist, you can be a grain marketer, you can be an ag lender, you can be a geneticist. You can be so many things and still contribute to agriculture.”

One of Simpson’s own contributions to agriculture is helping to address the growing gap in understanding between consumers and the people who produce their food.

Along with her sister Tracy, she recently purchased a property in the Portage area and has opened a Bed and Breakfast. During their stay at “Farm Away,” guests are exposed to rural life and, if they choose, can take part in hands-on farming activities. To include the younger generation, the pair will also be launching an ag-focused children’s day camp on the property this spring.

Do you know a CAAR member who deserves to be recognized? Click here to download application forms for the 2019 CAAR’s Choice Awards.

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