Our sister paper the Northern Horizon received more than 5,500 nominations overall for its Heart of the Horizon stories over the summer.
Jess Verstappen received about 3,500 of them.
While Holland is where she was born, since 2008 High Prairie is her hometown.
She attended Lakeland College in Vermilion and completed a diploma in Environmental Science and Agribusiness, majoring in livestock production.
“I liked the studies and campus environment and, being able to bring my horses - it was a bit different, but I felt at home.”
While partially still in school, working on farms, assisting on her own family farm and a full-time career at Cargill, her interests remain in livestock and forage production - and the real-world business decisions that go into the day-to-day operation of a family farm. She largely helps with the livestock on her operation and runs a purebred and commercial red and black Angus herd, and a flock of sheep.
A former High Prairie Elks Professional Rodeo Queen, Ag for Life Ambassador, Bashaw All Breeds mentor, 4-H Ambassador and 2014 recipient of the 4-H Premier’s award, Verstappen says 4-H, College and travelling, has brought many new experiences and people into her life. She continues to volunteer her time to 4-H and many other organizations to help youth grow their passion for agriculture.
“I have been fortunate I have met inspirational people who have mentored me, and who still support me today,” she says.
“4-H provided other youth and me, the opportunity to get out and see some of the country while meeting amazing people and developing new skills.”
She mentions Tracy Gardner as a true influence.
“Tracy has allowed youth in agriculture to find their own path and offer opportunities we may not have been able to find on our own. I met Tracy through participating in Summer Synergy.”
Verstappen says agriculture can be challenging as it is dependent on numerous variables that are always changing it is also filled with opportunity. The industry is striving to improve marketing options, public perception and educating consumers while continually refining our production methods.
She says the focus of agriculture is getting broader in scope, there is a growing demand for food, and we must keep up to that demand. In Canada we are producing more beef, but herd numbers are decreasing, this speaks to our efficiency in our animals and how we are constantly advancing genetic selection, feed efficiency and the way cattle are raised and handled,” she says.
“We want to gain a more positive public perception of farming and continue to work on making the industry more sustainable and finding new ways to market our products,” she adds.
“Some major corporations are great supporters of the industry and it is important that we maintain and continue these partnerships. I truly think that the agriculture industry is a one of a kind, it is an amazing feeling to be a major part in providing food to our communities.”
Verstappen says she is an advocate for agriculture whenever she gets the opportunity to do so.
“I try to point out to youth and the public that the agriculture industry is positive, surprising, powerful and full of opportunity.”