Danielle Wildfong is merging entrepreneurial talent and opportunity to yield strong connections within the agriculture industry

Growing up in a farming family in Southern Saskatchewan, Danielle Wildfong has a natural talent for working in agriculture. After completing her B.Comm. from Edwards she was able to merge her two passions, agriculture and entrepreneurship, to create connections between business and farming leaders that are helping to grow the industry.

Edwards had the opportunity to sit down with Danielle Wildfong (B.Comm. 2008) to discuss her work as a leader in the Saskatchewan Agricultural industry. Danielle explained that one of her core values is connecting others in and with the industry through showcasing the entrepreneurial talent and opportunities the dynamic industry has to offer. 

How did you get into the agriculture industry, did you grow up in a farming family?

I grew up on a farm in southern Saskatchewan. At the same time my family ran a manufacturing company where we did custom harvesting. I spent a lot of my childhood summers in the states, Kansas or Colorado, doing custom work for farms. Then I moved to Saskatoon for university.

You were on the National Board of Directors for Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) in 2020 and held the Secretary Role 2021, what are your responsibilities in this position organization?

The core goal of CAFA is connecting and sharing knowledge between people working in the agriculture industry. We help to educate and empower agricultural clients and farmers with the right knowledge and network to create a community to share and learn from one another.

My responsibilities aid in making this connection. I work with members to identify different speakers for monthly lunch and learns we host in Saskatoon. I also help plan other events to engage members and farmers while promoting the history of CAFA.

What is your favorite part of about working with CAFA?

The people and the passion. There are a lot of passionate professionals who go above and beyond for their farm clients which creates such a great community. It’s very common for people who didn’t grow up on a farm or close to a farm to join the organization as a farm advisor. It’s a great opportunity for someone interested in the industry to get involved and bring in new perspectives.

You are the founder and host of Cultivating Connections, a mentorship and networking event that introduces students to senior leadership across the province. Tell me a bit more about this event and why mentorship is an important part of the agriculture industry.

Cultivating Connections is all about connecting. It’s an event that brings in high-level leaders and professionals who have started a business and feel the need to give back to the community. We host a brunch where speakers discuss their experience in leadership within the agriculture industry. These leaders are placed at tables with students, or young protégées, and given a theme to discuss. These protégées get to meet leaders, discuss different topics, and connect with people whose values align with their own.

The event connects people and gives them the accessibility to email, say, the Head of People and Culture at Brandt Manufacturing, who's hiring 2,000 jobs right now. They are not discouraged to do that because they have that connection from the event. Its all about opening doors and opportunities for people looking to get into the agriculture industry.

There is a huge amount of knowledge and wisdom in the baby boomer generation that we can learn from. Mentoring helps simplify the passage of information down to the next generation.

Your family-owned manufacturing company helps save farmers money by providing them with solutions to help optimize their operating equipment. Over the past year this company has tripled its growth. Tell me more about what your company does and the part you play in it.

My brother owns the company, Wildfong Enterprises, which manufactures alongside our family farm. My brother is the brains behind the operation, he’s an engineer and a natural problem solver. He would work on our farm equipment when it was breaking down or not running as smooth as it could be to make it run like new again. It started as a hobby of his but turned out that there was a big need for the work he was doing. We focus is understanding the problem, the equipment challenges, and how we can recommend settings or updates that won’t cost more money because equipment is expensive to replace.

I'm not full-time with the company, I help with the overall business planning, marketing strategy, and sales. Its very important to know your audience in this industry so we focus or efforts on traditional marketing techniques, mail and radio to name a few, and most importantly, relationship building.

On top of all this you are also an entrepreneur, starting Your Legacy Coach, which helps family enterprises transition ownership to the next generation. Why did you decide to start this company and how does it help support family farms?

A big problem in agriculture is the lack of long-term strategic planning so I create strategic plans for succession, transition, or continuity planning for family farms.

We look to answer the questions, "how will I continue my legacy once I retire?" Retirement can be a scary thing because you may feel like you've lost some purpose or sad you are no longer producing. For a farmer, their legacy is their last name and the land their family has been cultivating for generations. Farmers are very emotionally invested in the land. It's important to farmers to do the best job they can when farming. To produce safe and sustainable food and leaving the land in a better place so it continues to grow food for the next generation.

I help farmers and their families understand where they are at, where they are going, who they need, and who's going to do what when the time to retire comes. I help them understand how they can contribute beyond the farm and how their legacy can live on in a scholarship or a mentorship program or the next person that comes along.

You have your B.Comm. from Edwards School of Business. Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a student?

My entrepreneurship class, the professor told the class, "I want you to read this book, read it fast and then read it slow." I didn't get it at first but then it became clear. You can think fast and slow and it's about knowing the difference of when to use each one. At first glance you may think you know the answer because its an easy problem to you, but you could have biases influencing that opinion or you may not have thought about different options. Its always important to look at the problem slower because there could be more than one solution.

What advice can you give students or alumni looking to follow a similar career path as you or who are interested in getting involved with the agricultural industry?

Your degree teaches you how to learn faster, better, smarter, and to see things from different perspectives and viewpoints. That’s very important but I also think you need to put yourself in situations that challenge your typical thinking and problem solving.

For me, there was no clear path from my degree to where I am today. I jumped around a lot, I tried different things and I got a lot of different experience which helps you grow as a person and a professional.

My advice is to pick something that you're interested in and follow that. Business is all about adapting, you need to learn how to adapt and make your own path based off what motivates and inspires you, what you're passionate about, and the one thing that you would take a stand for. Tie all that together and you can do anything.

Also, learn how to write effectively, its extremely important in business.

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