This week in our meet the team series, we’re getting to know Casey Vander Ploeg, who is our master of research and fact gathering. With his background in political science and reporting, he pays the kind of attention to detail required when it comes to advocating for the feedlot industry and policy making.
Casey didn’t spend his childhood on a farm, but coming from the small town of Vauxhall, Alberta, he grew up knowing a lot about farm life. He spent time on farms with his father, whose electrical, plumbing and heating businesses served the agricultural community around the town. And many of his friends were the children of farmers, and even feedlot operators. He spent many weekends helping his friends with pen checking.
Between high school and university, Casey worked as an aide to long-standing Alberta MLA, Ray Speaker. Then, after graduating from the University of Lethbridge with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he worked as a reporter with the Taber Times, followed by 22 years with Canada West Foundation (CWF), an independent policy think tank.
True to his penchant for research, during those years with the foundation, Casey published about 100 research reports, articles, and book chapters on various issues from constitution reform and Senate reform to tax policy and infrastructure issues.
When Casey joined us at the ACFA, he was helped by the experience he’d gained researching agricultural issues for CWF, and also stories he’d written for the Taber Times. “When I was considering the position,” he said, “I did wonder if I had enough knowledge to fit into the role. I had a lot of policy and research expertise, but had never worked professionally in agriculture. There has certainly been a learning curve, and I am still on that curve. However, it really is true that you don’t have to grow up on a farm to work on a farm!”
When asked what he loves most about his work with the ACFA, Casey had this to say:
I love having the chance to learn new things. I have a lot of opportunity to gather facts and data about the industry and its historical development and future potential. There are opportunities to learn about emerging trends and the latest research. All of that feeds into a process where I can then help others (government, the public) better understand the importance of our industry.
When Casey isn’t working, his favourite hobby is puttering around in the garage and working on cars. He has several classic muscle cars he plans to restore. He also plays the piano, and enjoys cheering on his kids at school sports such as volleyball, basketball, and soccer.
You can learn more about who we are and what we do in previous posts such as ‘5 must-know facts about the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association’ and ‘the making of a cattle feeders’ association: major milestones in our history’.