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My First Year as an Alberta Pulse Growers Director (PCN Spring 2017) MAR 28 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

John Kowalchuk, APG Director-at-Large (Non-bean), Chair of Extension Committee

Ever since I started growing yellow peas 16 years ago, I entertained the thought of getting involved in the Alberta Pulse Growers in some way.

I enjoyed growing new crops like peas and soybeans with such potential to change the way we farm by adding another plant type to the rotation. I really wanted to share my experiences with other Alberta farmers and help promote this great “tool” in our fight to help with short rotations.

I had stopped by the Alberta Pulse Growers booth in the past but felt I didn’t have the time or knowledge to be involved with an ag commission. I think many farmers feel the same way and this is what holds them back.

The fact of the matter is you do have to commit a certain amount of time, but it’s basically your decision how much. The more you give, the more you’ll get out of it stands very true for any ag group but there is no pressure. As far as not having the knowledge to contribute, if you’re willing to listen, discuss and share your opinion, you will do well on a board. Your life experiences are some of your most useful knowledge, not what you learned in school or post-secondary.

Then, at the farm show in Red Deer in November 2015, I made a point of stopping by the Pulse booth because I knew Sarah Hoffmann from my area had stepped down and the position of Director-at-Large (Non-Bean) was opening up. It just so happened that Allison Ammeter was helping out at the booth that day, and I was able to talk to her about APG and what it’s like to be on the board. After this discussion and taking some time to think about it, I knew I wanted to put my name forward for election at the AGM during FarmTech.

In January 2016 in Edmonton during FarmTech, I attended the Alberta Pulse AGM and got in front of a crowd of pulse growers to explain to them why I wanted to be a Director. I told my story of growing peas, and also talked about growing soybeans for the first time. I was very nervous having never spoken in front of that many people before, so it was a bit of a blur. I was happy to find out afterwards that I had been elected as a Director and was really looking forward to the year ahead.

The next year consisted of four board meetings where representatives from all five pulse zones in Alberta and the APG staff get together. Also, I volunteered for the Research Committee, as well as the Extension Committee. These are things I had a real interest in, and have been able to be in some very informative meetings.

I am starting to feel more confident in contributing to discussions. Alberta Pulse Growers uses a significant portion of levy dollars investing in research and also leverages those dollars with other funding dollars. Things like root rot and pea leaf weevil are issues we as pea producers face in Alberta, and are being researched through your levy dollars. Also, the other pulse crops have many new and ongoing research programs to help producers such as white mold research in dry beans and chocolate spot in faba beans.

The Directors on the board are all very hard-working, interesting people. I’ve had great one-on-one conversations with many of them and learned about pulse farming across our province.

Getting an opportunity to work with the staff at APG has been an eye-opener as well. These men and women bring a wealth of industry and producer knowledge to the table, and having the chance to learn from them about pulses has been invaluable. They do an amazing job of representing the Alberta Pulse Growers on a provincial and national stage and in helping to promote pulses. I have seen firsthand how committed they are to the success of all the projects that APG has taken on in the last year. They represent us well, and we are lucky to have every one of them.

I was re-elected in January at the AGM since Director-at-Large terms are only one year. The last few months have been a great opportunity to meet many interesting people from our ag community, and I have enjoyed the chance to learn from all them.

All of us in agriculture have many battles ahead and these grower groups will be there working alongside us to help with all the agronomic and social issues. My hope for all farmers out there is that you take the time to get involved in one of the grower groups. They do great work on our behalf and, once you get an inside look, you will better understand how much goes on behind the scenes to help farmers.

So, get involved if you have the chance, you’ll be amazed at how much you can contribute and the friendships and knowledge you gain in return.

A version of this story first appeared as a blog post at