By Trish Jordan
I am on the road to Sochi, Russia and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. As I sit in the Frankfurt airport waiting to board my flight, I am reflecting on how I came to be in this fortunate spot. Like most of the really great experiences I have had working in agriculture for 30 years, it all started with a farmer.
It was 2007 and Monsanto Canada had already begun building a connection to the sport of curling through a national sponsorship relationship with the Canadian Curling Association. Curling – like hockey and all other sports on ice – is a sport embraced by rural residents in Canada of all ages, and that includes farmers.
It’s not that urban folks don’t curl as well. They do. The difference as I see it is that in many farming communities the curling club serves as something more than just a place to curl. It also serves as the social gathering place for community residents of all ages.
As an agriculture company, Monsanto seeks to support those activities or programs that farmers are passionate about. In Canada, curling is definitely one of those passions. Consider that an average viewership for an NHL Hockey Game in Canada is 482,000. The average audience for a curling game is 516,000. As I saw someone write recently, “deal with it!”
Lorne and Chris Hamblin, farmers who were leading the local organizing committee that would host the 2007 Manitoba provincial women’s curling championship in their community, approached me about the possibility of Monsanto becoming involved with curling at the local level. And with that small request, I was exposed to the importance of curling to farmers, rural residents and their communities.
It was also in 2007 that I first met Team Jennifer Jones, a team from the city of Winnipeg that went on to win the provincial championship that year. I didn’t have much contact with the team at that event, other than to present the winners with their crests and trophy and say thanks to the volunteers and congratulate the community for staging such a terrific week-long event. But later that summer, I got a call from members of Team Jennifer Jones who asked whether we would be interested in coming on board as a team sponsor.
We really hadn’t thought about sponsoring a curling team but thought “what can it hurt to have the girls in and hear about their goals, their dreams and what they were hoping to accomplish as amateur athletes?” So we invited them to our office, they won us over and we became one of the first corporate sponsors of Team Jennifer Jones that summer of 2007.
And what happened after that? Well, they went on to win the 2008 Manitoba provincial championship, the Canadian national championship and the 2008 world championship. They won the Canadian national championship again in 2009 and 2010, as well as many World Curling Tour events and much more. They fell short of their Olympic dream to represent Canada at the 2010 Olympic Games but they regrouped, refocused and set their sights on Sochi in 2014, a full four years later.
And that is why I am sitting in the Frankfurt airport, waiting to board a flight to Sochi, Russia. I am following a dream that started back in 2007 for a group of incredible women, with impressive talent who needed a bit of help to pursue their dreams. And I want to see that dream come true for them with a spot on the Olympic podium.
Along the way, Monsanto has received more than it has given– particularly me, who has learned to love the sport of curling as much as farmers and other rural residents. Who has been welcomed into the curling family in small town rinks across Canada and thanked endlessly for Monsanto’s support for their communities. I have met my best friends through curling and I have learned to love the sport and the people who are close to it.
Monsanto has also been welcomed into the inner circle of Team Jennifer Jones (Dawn Askin, Jill Officer, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jennifer Jones and their coach Janet Arnott) – all of whom are now Canadian Olympians. Over the course of the past six-year relationship with the team, their parents, their sisters and brothers, their husbands, and their kids have become family to me. It has been their friendship, their gratitude and their willingness to share their passion for the sport, and include Monsanto, that has brought me here.
And so today, my Olympic journey begins too – not as an athlete but as a proud Canadian and a proud Monsanto sponsor who has, in some small way, helped the team on this journey to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
I thank the farmers who introduced me to curling and this incredible team. I can hardly wait for the games to begin.