Why Ag needs more Kim McConnells…

I could start by listing off all of the accolades and awards that my good friend Kim McConnell has received over the years. And he’s 100% deserving of them.


Most recently, the Inspiring Business Leader Award from the Haskayne School of Business and Calgary Chamber of Commerce.


Instead, I’d like to tell you about the personal side of Kim and why I respect him so much as both a friend, mentor and agriculture advocate.


Let me start by telling you about how I met Kim. Years ago, we were at an event for the Bayer Advisory Board and Kim was the facilitator. My son, Bentley, was only 6 weeks old and Theresa had accompanied me on this trip. We were 29, in a room of 50-year-olds, and felt a bit out of place. 


Kim immediately befriended us and could empathize with having a newborn while traveling and working. He spent time talking to us about parenthood, the ups and downs we were going to experience and the great joy we would feel as we watched our kids grow up in a rural community. 


Kim had also grown up in rural Manitoba; his farm was located just two hours east of Moosomin. We had an immediate bond. He understood the daily toil and dedication of running a family farm. At its heart, he realized that running a farm is an entrepreneurial enterprise.


But he also knew that agriculture needed to market itself better. He went on to launch Fieldstone Marketing in 1984 which later became Ad Farm and the rest is history, as they say. Kim has worked with some of the most high-profile agriculture clients and campaigns, always striving to accurately tell the story of farming while advancing the industry.


In his later years, Kim moved from running a business to becoming an inspirational leader, mentor and cheerleader for the agriculture industry.  You can’t attend an agriculture event in western Canada without running into Kim. He’s in high demand as a speaker, facilitator and panelist. 


When Kim takes the microphone in a room, everyone listens. His booming voice, energetic style and knack for asking the hard questions have made him one of the most inspiring leaders in our industry.


He possesses a real gift for delicately balancing what farmers need to hear with what corporations and CEOs need to hear, and remarkably rarely seems to tick anyone off! That’s a gift.


He does not accept excuses from the agriculture industry (which we hear often) while at the same time keeping big companies in check so they don’t walk all over producers. He is always striving to find a positive way forward for the industry.


In addition to speaking, he spends much of his time mentoring and coaching future leaders. Even those of us who call him a friend feel like we get a mentor!  It’s a package deal with Kim. 


“Kristjan, have you thought about this…why don’t you try this?” He’s an energetic fellow with a constant supply of good ideas and is always pushing me to be better at what I do.


I’m hoping I can attend in person to celebrate Kim and all that he’s done in his career.


Kim and his wife enjoy receiving our Christmas cards every year – they’ve quite literally watched our kids grow up. Six-week-old Bently is now 12 and Ivy is 10. Kim always makes time to ask about family and personal relationships first before delving into business or strategy discussions.  In fact, everytime Bentley is playing hockey in Calgary Kim wants the schedule and is sure to show up for a game or two.


Not only is he a savvy business leader and agriculture advocate, he is a kind and caring person who focuses on building and nurturing personal relationships. We could all take a few lessons from Kim on this and other things in life. 


Moral of the story? Offer to hold someone’s baby once in a while…you’ll never know where it may lead.