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Lifelong learning, hard work key to success for Shearer brothers

Lifelong learning, hard work key to success for Shearer brothers

Written On: 22 July, 2019
Category: Agriculture Alumni
Related programs:  Agribusiness

With agriculture becoming an increasingly specialized field, farmers are erring on the side of caution and opting against being jacks of all trades and masters of none.

Wawanesa-based agronomists and brothers Mark and Derrick Shearer have headed Shearer Agronomy since 2009, with the Assiniboine Community College graduates keeping up their education since receiving their Agribusiness diplomas a couple decades ago.

The diplomas gave them a solid base of knowledge and experience, but Derrick said those in the constantly evolving agricultural industry can never rest on their laurels.

A Certified Crop Advisor, he has to maintain 40 credit every two years to retain his certification, which means continuing his education with both online course work and in-person courses and meetings.

As such, there’s no down season to agronomy, with much of his winters spent filling out his course work.

That, on top of the on-the-ground learning he does on a continual basis on his clients’ farms, all the while building up the base of knowledge he needs to advise his clients on herbicide and fungicide use, crop rotations and other variables that can make or break a growing season.

“Everyone gets tunnel vision in a lot of things, and if all you ever see is your own farm, at times you think it’s doom and gloom and times you think it’s all good, where we’ll see 40-50 different farms,” he said, adding that the broader perspective gives them a chance at greater success.

“If we don’t know the answer through the network of people we know, we can find the answer. Sometimes, a producer doesn’t know where to turn to get that unbiased advice.”

Although the sibling agronomists seek the best possible advice for their clients, they do so cognizant of the fact that there’s always something better on the horizon, which fuels their thirst for knowledge.

They duo follow two generations of farmers in their family, with agriculture running thick in Shearer bloodline. They are among four siblings, with their two brothers also employed in agriculture. Brother Brock works in agronomy out of Saskatoon, while Ryan farms with their parents Elwood and Pat back at the family farm.

Three of four siblings graduated Assiniboine’s Agribusiness program, whose work experience component Mark credits with giving him the firm foot in the door he needed to establish himself in the industry.

Following six-months work experience with Cargill, he landed permanent employment with the agricultural company before joining his brother at Shearer Agronomy in 2009.

The past decade has been a dynamic one, with ever-changing technology joining weather conditions in keeping them on their toes.

“Agriculture never stays the same, so when people think they’re starting to get it figured out, something else comes along and keeps it fresh,” Derrick said. “There’s a niche market for agronomists to venture out on their own for unbiased advice that’s not tied to a sale.”

With farms becoming larger and larger, he said that farmers are getting stretched thinner, which makes it tough for them to find enough time to become an expert on everything they need to be.

This, he said, opens the doors for agronomists and other specialist fields to find an increasingly firm footing.

Despite its growing relevance to the industry, agronomy isn’t for the lighthearted, Mark said, adding that in addition to constantly growing their knowledge base they’ve also had to diversify the type of work they do in order to handle the poor growing years, such as the very wet 2011.

“If the farmers don’t get their crop in the ground, we don’t have a job,” he said, adding that for poor growing years they find themselves relying more heavily on their other business ventures, such as landscaping.

Although both Mark and Derrick said that it remains to be seen what their combined six children (three each) will end up doing for a living, their advice has always been for them to follow their own examples and choose something they love to do.

“Work hard at it,” Derrick added. “Honesty and integrity go a long way. It’s a referral business. Bad news travels fast, good news travels slow.”

Mark said that he could see at least a few of them want to get into some form of agribusiness in the future, with a few of them already helping out on the family farm by driving the combine, baling hay and performing other odd jobs.

With three successive generations of the family having already devoted their professional lives to agriculture, the next generation following suit almost feels like an inevitability.

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