Meet the neighbours.
Keep reading to be introduced to more of BC’s dairy farmers.
Sitting at her desk in a downtown Vancouver office over 15 years ago, Sarah Sache never imagined the life she lives today: working as a hands-on dairy farmer in Rosedale, BC, along with her husband Gene and brother-in-law Grant. Together they’re responsible for the feeding and care of their 335 dairy cattle, and tending to 170 acres of farmland. It’s a duty they love, and take seriously; their family farm, West River Farm, was recently recognized by Lactanet as BC’s top managed dairy herd.
As a farmer and mum to two young boys, Sarah already led a full and dynamic life, but in recent years Sarah has added to her already-full plate by taking on an active leadership role in BC’s dairy community. She is passionate about inspiring future generations of dairy farmers by sharing her story, and particularly so when it comes to encouraging women as leaders in agriculture.
Not from an agricultural background herself, Sarah graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and spent her early career working in corporate compliance and administration in Vancouver. As a child she aspired to be a fashion designer, and in university she thought she might want to be a diplomat. When she married a third-generation dairy farmer and moved to the farm 15 years ago, it amounted to a real plot twist in her life’s story.
Upon joining a farming family and working on the farm business, Sarah quickly realized that while there was no shortage of work to do, there was a shortage of child care available to suit farming schedules.
“I got involved in the farm where I could, frequently with kids in tow,” says Sarah. “ So I learned first-hand about the roles women often play in the success of farm businesses, not just as a support to their male counterparts, but as dynamic, skilled farmers themselves.”
A few years into her farming career, Sarah came across the Invisible Farmer Project, a project based in Australia documenting the often unseen role of women in food & fibre production. The project struck a chord with her, and inspired her to begin sharing her own story with others. “The more I became involved in the farm the more I wanted for others to be able to see my experiences and actually see me farming on my own terms.” Sarah wisely recognized that there was a growing interest in local food and decided to become active on social media sharing about her life as a farmer. She loved it, and soon built up an online community—but not quite the one she expected. “I thought I might connect with interested consumers, but it turned out the majority of the connections I made were actually within the Canadian dairy community. I got to know so many amazing women in dairy and what they accomplish on their farms, but when I looked to senior leadership of the industry at the time, I didn’t see any anywhere, so I felt like I needed to do something about it.”
In 2018 Sarah reflected on a question that has guided her throughout her life— “If not you, then who?”—and she did something about it. She applied her business knowledge, leadership skills, and somewhat unusual love for all things governance to run for the Board of BC Dairy, and was successfully elected. Although women had held leadership roles on the Board of BC Dairy in the past, in 2018 Sarah was the first woman to be included for a number of years.
“I was both really excited and really intimidated, not knowing any of the other members, or being sure of basic things like what to wear or where to sit at a meeting. But in time, my confidence has grown, and while I was the only woman at the time, the Board members welcomed me, and advocated for me. I’m extremely grateful to those who lend their support and help me continue to learn this complex business. ”
Sarah was recently elected by her fellow dairy producers to a second term as a board member at BC Dairy and by her colleagues on the Board to a second term as Vice Chair.
Today, Sarah does a lot of her farming from her desk, including all the farm’s bookkeeping and business functions. Last year she averaged 30 hours a month on Zoom fulfilling her industry leadership responsibilities. She also co-hosts a national podcast building connection and community among dairy farmers, and serves as a media spokesperson for BC farmers. Sarah also still raises calves, drives tractors whenever she can, and makes sure everyone is fed at harvest time. It’s a lot to manage, but Sarah’s commitment and efforts are making a real difference.
“The future is bright for women venturing into leadership roles. Since I’ve been elected to our board, two more women have been successful in joining, while we’ve also seen a general increase in the involvement of women farmers in BC dairy’s work. Our representation at National and provincial levels looks a lot different than only a few years ago. I’m really proud of all I’ve learned and been able to contribute to my family, our farm, our community and our industry, and hope the adventure for me on the leadership side is far from over. ”
Sarah operates a dairy farm in Rosedale, BC alongside her husband Gene and brother in law Grant. Together, they milk 150 cows with three robots and farm 170 acres. With over a decade of dairy farming experience, Sarah has a passion for communicating about modern dairy farming with consumers, partners and policymakers, and connecting with future generations around the importance of a sustainable dairy industry. Sarah serves as BC Dairy’s Vice-Chair, is a board member on the BC Agriculture Council, serves on the Agricultural Advisory Committee for the City of Chilliwack, and has been a delegate for Agrifoods International Cooperative Ltd. since 2016. Sarah is also an advocate for autism awareness, and volunteers for the annual “Saccomaniacs Agriculture for Autism” golf tournament, which raises money for the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN). In addition to her role on the executive of the board, Sarah is the chair of the Market Growth committee.
Keep reading to be introduced to more of BC’s dairy farmers.
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