Making a first impression is one thing, but establishing and nurturing a connection into a true, meaningful relationship is something that will serve two individuals for many years to follow.

That’s what B. Pratyusha Chennupati found in her mentor the Honourable Ted Menzies.

Chennupati, who is known simply as “B.”, has been participating in the AdvancingAg Future Leaders Program for the 2018-2019 year sponsored by the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions. Working as a Registration Specialist for Nufarm Agriculture out of the Calgary office, she was paired with a very familiar face in Canada’s agriculture industry.

For nearly a decade, Menzies served as a Member of Parliament for the southern Alberta federal riding of Macleod. In his highest post, he was appointed to the Queens Privy Council as Minister of State for Finance, a position he held until his retirement from politics in 2013. That same year he became President and CEO of CropLife Canada. Menzies left that position in 2017 to focus on his farm and family, and thus, was more than ready to share his knowledge as a mentor for the AdvancingAg Future Leaders Program.

The mission of the program is to pair young agri-professionals and producers with industry leaders to impart knowledge and facilitate key professional development opportunities. Holly Nicoll, Marketing and Communications Manager for Nufarm Canada mentions that, “These programs help employees grow their professional potential. It’s not only a great experience for B., but also for Nufarm and the rest of the industry. She brings creative ideas to our boardroom, and along with her new connections that could lead to further advancements in Canadian agriculture.”

Since entering the AdvancingAg program, Chennupati and Menzies have spent hours on the phone, shared many emails and traveled to several conferences together. Chennupati says it was her first conference with Menzies when she realized the magnitude of his connections.

“We attended the Grow Canada conference in November 2018 in Ottawa, it was our first conference together going as mentor and mentee. I met almost 350 delegates who attended the conference,” she says. “I’ve never had that kind of experience before. I really want to thank Ted for introducing me to so many industry leaders, regulators, senators and the CEO of CropLife America. Ted is very well respected in Canada’s ag industry.”  

Menzies says that being paired with such an inspiring individual who is new to Canada’s agriculture industry just spurred on who he needed to connect her with. “It makes you think of all those who have made contributions to our industry. It totally revitalized me and inspired me to begin connecting her with those that I know who I thought could potentially help her in the future,” says Menzies.

As Chennupati’s time with the AdvancingAg program winds down this July, her next exciting venture is to participate in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) SDG school in Paris, France, July 1-26th.  She was chosen to join 100 young leaders from around the world who have educational backgrounds in science, math, engineering, arts, business and technology. From that group, she was then selected to be among 30 individuals that will work to bring a product from prototype to maturation stage during the last two weeks of the program.

Thanks to the sponsors and leaders of the AdvancingAg program, and especially for her mentorship with Menzies, Chennupati has met regulators, board chairs, presidents and politicians. For her, the bonus has been learning how these professional connections can have different ideas on the same topic or issue, and how their perspectives can help a person think differently.

Chennupati wraps up by saying, “The way I see agriculture today is not just at the farm level, but how the value chain works and what the barriers are to reach markets across the globe. It’s not the way I used to view agriculture before the AdvancingAg program. Thanks to Ted’s passion for the industry, and how he wants to promote agriculture in any way he can, it has made me realize he is a leader who leads by example, not just by words. And that is pretty inspiring!”