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Gala time with gala people is right up my alley

A guy can handle a “gala” evening out, only every so often
and I think I am good for a while. My wife and I were guests this past weekend
at the Ag for Life Harvest Gala dinner in Calgary. I figure I can look really
good about three times a year, so after my mother’s funeral, my daughter’s
wedding and now the Harvest Gala I am done until 2013.

The Harvest Gala dinner isn’t necessarily new, but Ag for
Life is a one-year-old initiative sponsored by a number of 


companies, geared
toward raising awareness about agriculture in the urban community, and it also

promotes farm safety. (Arleta Bowhay, at right, Miss Rodeo Canada, wasn’t at the Harvest Gala, but if you read on all will be revealed.) 

The first Harvest Gala dinner I went to several years ago, I
believe then was organized by Alberta Agriculture. I remember a very well
organized District Home Economist, Karen Hoover, was quite involved in that
one. Then the Harvest Gala shifted over to the Alberta Agriculture and Food
Council. One year the Alberta Chicken Producers invited me to join them at
their table. Nice meal and they gave me a very nice pen, which I still have
(navy blue banker’s pen that still writes). And then there wasn’t a Harvest
Gala dinner for a few years, and now Ag for Life has brought it back.

It was an evening of glitter and good-looking people, good food,
socializing and networking. We were guests of AdFarm this year. I do have to
correct the master of ceremonies David Sprague — he’s also the CEO of Ag for
Life — when he promised before the meal that no one would go home

hungry. And perhaps he was talking averages. Personally I could have used
another dollop of those Dauphinoise layered potatoes on my plate that came with
the Alberta grilled sirloin steak and the brandied cherry jus with confit leg
of chicken.

I know it is part of the food industry these days, but I
always get a kick out of chefs going to great lengths to describe in some
exotic detail what they made.

You can’t just have salad, meat and potatoes and pie. No,
you have fresh artisan greens, with Highwood Crossing Nexera Oil Vinaigrette, Alberta
grilled sirloin steak, the confit leg of chicken, the Dauphinoise layered
potatoes, and top that all off with harvest apple galette.

I don’t think my mom made a confit leg of chicken,
Dauphinoise layered potatoes, or an apple galette in her life, and she was a
pretty good cook. I knew I was missing something as a child. All we got was
meat, potatoes and pie. Life on the farm can suck sometimes.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford was at the Harvest Gala along
with Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olsen. The Premier was down the hall earlier
in the evening at a real black-tie military dinner and then she swung by the
Harvest Gala to tell the assembled crowd of 650 or so, just how important we
all were. I had a suspicion but it was good to have it confirmed.

But in the schmoozing I did around the floor it was good to
say hello to people I had not seen in a while.

First I had to elbow passed Remi Schmatlz of Decision Agriculture (DynAgra) and his wife, at the appetizer table. There wasn’t much cheese
left, and it’s survival of the fitness you know.

Some other Farm Business Communications people
(Grainews/Canadian Cattleman/Alberta Farmer publications) were there — Deb
Wilson and Will Verboven were looking glamorous. Anytime there is a free meal

Janet Kanters the new Western Editor of Top Crop Manager was
there. And the always vivacious Iris Meck of Iris Meck Communications was
there. Chances are if you attended any number of ag conferences in Calgary over
the years, Iris Meck was behind the scenes getting them organized and getting
the word out.

And then you run into scary people like Ray Dowbenko of
Agrium and Dr. Tom Jensen of IPNI. Ray has been with Agrium since they
discovered dirt. I haven’t talked to him for a while. He is an agronomist, he
was a key contact earlier when they launched their ESN product, and now he says
he just keeps a low profile, travels around the world, and no-one knows for
sure what he does.

Tom Jensen, always pleasant and a quiet spoken guy who
knows about crop fertility. I first met him years ago at Alberta Agriculture,
then he worked for Agricore United, and now he is regional director, Northern
Great Plains at International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). Still in the
crop nutrition business.

Another few steps around the room and there’s Steve
Vandervalk and his dad James Vandervalk of Fort Macleod, Alta. Steve and his
brother Brian operate the family farm, while their dad James, manages the
manufacturing business FalCan Industries Ltd. But all was good with them. It
was another great year on the farm for both yield and quality. Obviously a
family that lives right. Steve who is currently president of the Grain Growers
of Canada, also introduced Premier Redford at the dinner.

And then around the corner, I believe making an outrageous
silent auction bid on some original artwork was Norman Storch, who farms at
Hanna, Alta. He is still annoyed at what’s going on the Canadian beef industry
– concentration of processing, too much division and not enough co-operation
within the beef sector. All I said was hello, and I got this earful. Actually
Norman is a pretty good fella, good producer, with a sincere interest in seeing
the industry do well. It was good to have a chat.

Quick hello to Rick Istead, one of those old guys from the
crop protection industry who retires, but then doesn’t retire and keeps busy
working with producer associations like the Winter Wheat Commission. He was
chatting with Mark Kahn of Kahn Seed Farms at Red Deer, Alta.   

Finally made it back to our table, just before the meal was
served. And joining us at our table were ranchers Jim and Nola Bowhay of
Sundre, Alta (just northwest of Calgary). Jim is chairman of the Feeder
Associations of Alberta Ltd. an organization that lends money to producers
raising feeder cattle.

Their daughter, Arletta is just wrapping up an amazing year
as Miss Rodeo Canada (pictured earlier). It sounds like she just had a non-stop year or
engagements around the world representing Canada and the rodeo industry. Her reign
ends later this month and she expects to return to studies at Olds College
in 2013.

Jim says he has always been interested in promoting ‘the
youth” of agriculture whether it be in 4-H or some other level. He gave me
leads on a story or two involving successful young people in agriculture, which
I will follow up.

So you go for a gala dinner, and it becomes so much more
than a nice meal. Generally, I think I conducted myself pretty well — no real embarrassing social mishaps. All bodes well for being invited guest of someone next year.

Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at
[email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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