Change is scary. At its core, change is about doing away with the familiar and pivoting towards the unknown.

Melody Garner-Skiba knows all about pivoting. The owner of the Rocking Heart Ranch in Waterton, Alberta, Garner-Skiba has thrived as a third-generation rancher by embracing change, swallowing fear, and coming out stronger on the other side.

Garner-Skiba and her family are no strangers to the tragedy, trials and tribulations one faces. The Rocking Heart Ranch is her family’s legacy, having been in operation since the early 1900s. Some 30 years ago, the family moved the operation from Saskatchewan to Southern Alberta, where they discovered the land wasn’t suited for crops. That was the first pivot, with the family deciding to focus primarily on its cow/calf operation while building additional revenue sources on-site.

Then, in 2009, tragedy struck. Her father suffered a massive heart attack. He survived, but his health forced the family to have a difficult conversation about the future of the ranch. Garner-Skiba says that was the second pivot.

“We had to decide at that point what we were going to do. We were running cow/calf, we had the gravel pit, we had horses, we had the sub-division, plus we built my mom an antique and craft gift store on the corner of the ranch. It was just too much for my folks at that point.”

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The family scaled back and focused solely on breeding horses.

Then, in 2017, one of the most devastating events the family had to deal with forced the third pivot: the Kenow Wildfire.

“It took out our whole ranch. We lost the house, buildings, the arena. We lost pretty much everything. But, we didn’t lose people and we didn’t lose livestock. Still, we were staring at a blank, yet charred, canvas and we asked ‘What’s next?’ So, again, out of tragedy, the family sat down and we talked about what the future looks like.”

Her father was adamant about rebuilding. The family opted to focus purely on equine learning and tourism while continuing with the breeding operation.

Adapting and embracing the fear brought on by change is the focus of Garner-Skiba’s presentation at the Advancing Women Conference: AWC West 2024. The event takes place in Calgary from March 17-19. She will talk about her journey where she swallowed her fear and embraced her power to pivot, grow, mentor, and lead.

One of the tangible messages she wants to instill is that while change is scary, it also presents an opportunity.

“Change is inevitable. You can either fight it or you can embrace it. Make the leap, swallow the fear, and make it work for you,” she says. “What I want to do is encourage women to look at change as a way to embrace their power. The power to accept that change, to pivot, and move in a different direction. There’s nothing stopping you but air and fear.”

Garner-Skiba says it’s time we all did away with the notion of “we’ve always done it this way.” Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon it or change it altogether.

“Every woman in agriculture should look at their role and determine if it’s working for them. If it’s not, that’s ok. Take the time to reflect on that, and see what you need to do to make it work for you – pivot, change, and move. Life is too short.”



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