Mary Robinson on collaboration and hope for the future

Imagine trying to gain consensus on policy issues across all Canadian commodity groups and geographies.

That’s Mary Robinson’s job as president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and she’s heading into her second, two-year term after being acclaimed to the role last month.

As if the role isn’t challenging enough, Robinson has been leading the CFA during a pandemic, and before that, through rail strikes and blockades.

It’s been an interesting few years, to say the least.

It takes an exceptional individual to steer an organization of this size and scope, especially through such troubled waters, but Robinson draws on her background in human resources and her listening skills to get the job done.

Robinson says her leadership philosophy is a non-philosophy. “You need to use a whole bag of [leadership] tricks to seek out these roles,” she says. It’s key to be respectful of people and be driven by pure of heart. Robinson uses that as her guiding principle, surrounding herself with good people with a similar goal and vision.

When asked what she hopes for the future, Robinson does not hesitate. She wants to see greater diversity in agriculture at all levels, actual rural broadband connectivity (it’s quality of life, she says), and meaningful AgriStability changes. Robinson adds that while business risk management programs may seem boring or too big-picture for some, she really does see strong financial backstops for farmers as giving them the confidence to invest and expand their businesses, moving us closer to unlocking agriculture’s potential as outlined in the Barton Report.

“My end-game is to make it a little better for Canadian farm families,” she says.

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