Studying biology in Ohio on a soccer scholarship, Stephanie discovered her chosen career path. She realized there was nowhere she would rather be than at home in Alliston on her family’s potato and crop farm.
When she left for school, farming was not on her list of aspirations. While away for her first year of studies, she missed the farm a great deal. Stephanie transferred to Wilfrid Laurier University to continue her studies in biology, and helps on the farm whenever possible.
“I think the biology education led me to farming. I always loved the class in high school, and love every class I’m in at university,” says Stephanie, who adds she uses knowledge from her science courses every day on the farm.
This young “agvocate” (someone who advocates for agriculture), has been working to educate people about farming practices for as long as she can remember. Even going to high school in a fairly rural area, Kowalski found people at her school had misinformation about farming, and she did her best to answer questions and provide accurate information.
Once she began working on the farm more and began studying science at university, Stephanie’s voice became more confident as did her knowledge about specific farming practices.
“Now that I’m more educated on specific practices, application rates, etcetera, I have more strength to my arguments,” says Stephanie.
Stephanie says the main time she practices her agvocacy is during class or on campus. She finds a large number of her fellow students are attempting to apply the information they learn in class to food production, but do not understand the background for current practices.
Stephanie does her best to explain how many things need to be taken into consideration before reaching a conclusion about agriculture, especially in the conventional versus organic debate. On her family farm, as on many Ontario farms, an Environmental Farm Plan is in place to ensure environmentally friendly farming practices are used.
In an effort to educate people, Stephanie even wrote a letter to one of Ontario’s agricultural magazines, Better Farming, in response to a letter published by a high school student from Mississauga. She explains she noticed while reading his letter that he was quoting Farm Inc, an American-based documentary.
In her response, she addressed the fact that here in Ontario, there are programs such as the Environmental Farm Plan as well as groups such as Farm & Food Care to ensure that farmers are properly caring for their land and animals.
A degree in biology is a big asset on the farm, according to Stephanie, but at the same time she knows she will learn a lot from her father.
“The nerve-wracking part about taking over the farm is how much there is to learn, but I’m learning from the master.”