March 8th is International Women’s Day. Women have been a critical part of farm and ranch operations across our province, and around the globe, for centuries. Today and every day, we celebrate and acknowledge the important contributions women make to our agriculture industry. RDAR would like to share a story about a family of exceptional women that are bringing positive changes to their rural communities in Northern Alberta.
The Katerenchuk family farms in the Wasel, Stry, and Spedden area in North Eastern Alberta. Valerie Katerenchuk (PEng, BSc. in Mechanical Engineering) is a hard-working mother to Alyson Katerenchuk, a 3rd year Engineering student at the University of Alberta, and Jessica Katerenchuk, who is completing her Master of Nursing at the University of Alberta.
Jessica has worked for Rural Health Professions Action Plan to support the retention and recruitment of rural health providers in Alberta and later this year Jessica will continue her journey into rural public health as she pursues further medical education. She is driven to be leader on her farm as well as an involved medical professional that will help transform the state of rural health care (particularly rural mental health) in the province.
Jessica and Alyson push themselves and each other beyond what they think they are capable of, and these ladies are a force to be reckoned with! “We girls use tools that will increase our strength—be it a longer snipe or battery-operated chainsaws and impact tools.” says Valerie.
All the Katerenchuk’s know how to operate heavy duty farm equipment including an 18-wheeler that they use to haul fertilizer and grain. Having a Class 1 Driver’s License and being able to drive a B-train takes huge stress off the farm at peak seasons. The family’s transdisciplinary approach to agriculture means that not only are they able to ‘greenlight’ their farm equipment but they also work hard to keep up their physical health as well. They take time to maintain their own physical activity by jogging, doing Pilates, and picking out rocks by hand to balance the long hours behind the wheel.
“We definitely approach everything as a team,” says Valerie, “I am one of those that believe you inspire others by your behaviour and not words.”
From the field to the classroom to the lab, these women, along with so many others, are helping pave the way for a stronger and resilient future for agriculture.