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The Successors, Ep 10: Breaking down silos, brave choices, and being a nerd for the food system

By: Kara Oosterhuis

May 12, 2022

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The Successors is a RealAgriculture podcast series hosted by Kara Oosterhuis focusing on agriculture from the perspective of the up-and-coming generation.

How do you make a choice to change your career, when you have committed to a certain track? What can you do to unite the industry, and break down silos within agriculture? Why is it important to determine what self-care looks like for you, instead of looking at others?

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Lauren Martin, lawyer-turned-lobbyist for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), and board chair of the Do More Agriculture Foundation, helps us answer these questions (and more) in the latest episode of The Successors podcast.

Martin, who grew up on a grain farm in southern Ontario, went to university to become a lawyer. She completed the process, got her designation, and realized this wasn’t quite the life she had signed up for.

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Her ‘a-ha’ moment — when she knew that she needed to follow a career into agriculture, was when she was in a world food politics course in her undergrad studies.

(Lauren Martin)

“As soon as I found that, I was like, this is what I want to spend the rest of my career doing. It’s so deliciously complicated. There’s so many things that you can unpack and uncover. And certainly throughout my career, I’ve found that I’ve worked in Ottawa, I’ve worked in the organic industry, I’ve worked in the seed industry. And I’ve worked for the cattle industry,” she explains. “And every time I go to a different vantage point, I feel like I’m starting at ground zero.”

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Choosing a career at 18 — or earlier — can be difficult. Half of us don’t even know what we’re eating for supper tomorrow, let alone what we want to do for the rest of our lives. So what do you do when you realize that the choices you’ve made may not make you tick like you had hoped?

Martin breaks it down into two words of advice for anyone feeling this way: be brave.

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“I think it takes quite a bit of bravery to look at your choices. Look at the career and the path that you’ve committed yourself to — whether or not you’re in second year of undergrad, and you’ve spent money, or wherever you’re at. And you’ve told everybody that this is what you’re doing, when they’re all proud of you, and they’re happy for you. And they want to check in and ask how you’re doing. It takes quite a bit of bravery to look that in the eye and say ‘Well, I actually don’t really like it. And I really want to change.'”

The other piece of advice Martin has is to take the time to be miserable. Sit in the mud. Look at what you are doing.

“Take the time to be miserable and reflect on the lesson that being miserable is sending you. I do always say that the best thing I did was spend a year in the practice of law being miserable, and really hating it. Hate is a strong word, because honestly, it taught me stuff,” she says. “Being brave enough to look at those choices and say okay, fine. It doesn’t matter that I spent nine years getting this designation, getting this degree, spending this money. It’s okay, because if it’s not making me happy, I can, and I need to change.”

Listen on for a conversation on why Martin is dedicating her “off” time to mental health and wellness, why we need to stop designating agriculture as special, and so much more: