Alberta Barley chairman stepping down, but not stepping away from agriculture
Matt Sawyer has been Alberta Barley’s chairman since 2010 and Region Two director since 2009. Prior to that, he was a delegate for six years. In the more than a decade since he joined the organization, Sawyer has achieved much in his agricultural career, while overseeing the complete restructuring of Alberta Barley.
“Working with the board and that close relationship between the board and the staff, with all that respect in place, it’s unbelievable what we were able to do and how we were able to represent producers,” Sawyer said. “It’s been a pleasure and a real life-changing experience for me.”
Sawyer was born in Spirit River, and now lives northwest of Acme, where he has been farming with his family for more than 20 years. The Sawyer farm has been in his family for generations, established in 1903 by Sawyer’s great-grandfather. Today, Sawyer and his wife Tara grow barley, wheat and canola, while also raising commercial Angus cattle.
“I’m involved in an industry and a country that produces some of the best-quality food in the world,” he said. “Being a producer of food is certainly a noble occupation, and I think that’s what I like about it.”
In addition to his work with Alberta Barley, Sawyer is vice-president of the Grain Growers of Canada, a director with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and a member of the Acme and District Agricultural Society.
Sawyer came to Alberta Barley after a neighbour encouraged him to get involved, but he said his now-extensive organizational involvement in agriculture was inevitable.
“I believe that farmers need to have a voice and I believe in getting involved and helping to move the industry forward,” he said. “If you don’t get involved, somebody else is going to make decisions for you that you might not like.”
Later this year, Sawyer’s four-year term as chairman will come to an end, but he is hopeful that his involvement with Alberta Barley will continue.
“I’d like to continue my relationship with Alberta Barley somehow,” he said. “Those relationships that we built, I don’t think they’re just going to end.
“I’ve enjoyed the people. I’ve enjoyed the learning, the education. It’s unbelievable how much you learn by getting involved. I’ve had the opportunity to represent our province, and our nation, as a producer, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.”
Over the years, Sawyer’s achievements with Alberta Barley and on his own farm have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, he and his wife received an Outstanding Young Farmers of Alberta Award. Then, in 2014, they received a BMO Farm Family Award at the Calgary Stampede.
“It certainly is exciting,” Sawyer said. “We’re very honoured to receive those awards and my whole family believes in the importance of moving agriculture forward.”
With his time as chairman winding down, Sawyer said his new focus will be expanding the farm while maintaining his commitments to the organizations he represents. He is also looking forward to spending time on other pursuits, such as coaching his son’s school volleyball team and helping his children with their involvement in the local 4-H club.
Sawyer and his wife have three children: Emmett, 14, Cassidy, 12, and Quin, 10.