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FEBRUARY 2019 • COUNTRY LIFE IN BC


FCC targets women with new business program BC left out pilot run despite high number of female entrepreneurs


by MYRNA STARK LEADER KELOWNA – Women represent a


greater share of farm operators in BC than anywhere else in Canada, but Farm Credit Canada is piloting a new program it hopes will help other provinces catch up. According to the 2016 Census of


Agriculture, 37% of farm operators in BC are women, versus 29% nationally. To support the further growth of women entrepreneurs in the farm sector, FCC was given a mandate in last year’s federal budget to develop a new lending program. This spring, the new program will be piloted at FCC offices in Saskatchewan and Ontario. FCC brand manager Candace Hill has been leading the new program’s development, which has meant taking a deliberate and focused approach to creating something that doesn’t duplicate what’s already available. Consultations with industry stakeholder groups sought to understand overall needs and took stock of the work already done to support female entrepreneurs through organizations such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. Hill says the goal was to help fill gaps in existing programming and supports. “We’ve found there is a need for


already being done by various ag industry groups and women-in- business groups to provide support for women entrepreneurs,” she says. One of the new program’s solutions


may include curating these existing resources for easier access. FCC recently did something similar around mental wellness, producing an online and print publication highlighting resources available to producers. Typically, business training and seminars are held in urban areas, venues that aren’t always the easiest for time-strapped women to access. “Time and proximity to an urban


BC has lots of hard working women in agriculture, like Missy Dobernigg at BX Press Cidery in Vernon who says that while she wears many hats, her favourite is farm girl. MYRNA STARK LEADER PHOTO


increased access to capital to start and grow their business but also that women are looking for educational opportunities and inspiration,” says Hill, explaining that the new program will be as inclusive as possible by attempting to address larger common group issues, as well as some more specific individual needs. FCC will fill some of the gaps with its own program but also partner with other


groups. One of the issues raised during


industry consultations was access to information. Women need to know not just what’s available but how to choose what’s most pertinent or relevant to their specific needs. The challenge is one Hill has experienced while taking stock of existing supports. “I didn’t realize how much work is


centre are real barriers for rural women,” says Hill. “We heard that women feel overwhelmed about lack of clarity about where to go, who to trust … they’re looking for easy access, inspiration, how to build confidence, negotiation and leadership skills for example.” There may also be something that


helps women make connections to others in the ag business such as mentorship or networking. And, while the program is being designed with women in mind, Hill doesn’t anticipate all the elements being gender-specific because all genders can benefit from developing business skills.


Details on the new program will be announced by the end of March. The initiative will run for as long as the need for it exists.


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