Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – The work and life of the late Reg Schellenberg is being honoured by the industry he loved so much with the creation of an award in his name recognizing the leaders of tomorrow.
The Reg Schellenberg Legacy Next Generation Award honours the former president of the Canadian Cattle Association, who passed away late last year.
Schellenberg was known for his large contributions to the Canadian cattle industry, including his support of the Canadian Cattle Young Leaders (CYL) program.
On Tuesday night, Dr. Carling Matejka, a veterinarian from Olds, Alberta, was named the inaugural recipient.
“It was a really big surprise even to see that I was nominated,” Matejka admits.
“I feel like Reg has always been a really big part of the Canadian cattle industry, and just knowing that I’m potentially someone who resembles that is pretty crazy.”
She says the cattle industry is a really big part of her life and credits it for being the driving force to pursue a career as a vet. She adds that the CYL program has allowed her to dive deeper into the cattle industry in Canada and the world.
“I’ve been able to meet people that I never thought that I’d meet before. I was able to interact with people like Reg. Definitely big idols in the industry that made a huge difference on where agriculture is and the name that the beef cattle industry has in Canada.”
Matejka says if she could do even close to what he did for the industry, that would be remarkable.
Roots Run Deep
The fourth-generation farmer from a peer-bred Angus operation in Ponoka, Alberta, says the CYL program has given her a little bit of a different voice and perspective.
“The CYL has been a big push for recognizing where I want to be in the industry and knowing that small animal is not something that I want to do and kinda rerouting me in a direction to know why I became a veterinarian. That truly is because I want to make an impact on the agriculture industry.”
Matejka keeps a busy life going back to the farm to help her parents when she can while serving in a number of volunteer positions, including helping plan this year’s Canadian Beef Industry Conference.
The list doesn’t stop there as she has an active role with 4-H, sat on the Cattle Trail committee at the Calgary Stampede, and judges scholarships through the Stampede.
She says all of the advice, teaching, and leadership she has received over the years has only deepened her resolve to give back to the industry, which she does by paying it forward.
“I think the least that I could do is give back to the next generation to be able to try to teach them and inspire them and give them life lessons. I’m really honoured to be able to do everything that I do.”
CYL Opens Doors
Matejka is a fierce advocate for the CYL program and the opportunities that come from it.
In particular, she highly recommends it for anyone who wants to be involved in the cattle and beef industry but aren’t quite sure where they fit.
“This is the perfect program to open up doors, to open up network opportunities where you can meet people who can give you a little bit more direction or introduce you to opportunities that you weren’t even aware of.”
She adds that coming to conferences such as the Canadian Beef Industry Conference, getting mentorship, and hearing about different people’s life journeys within the industry is a valuable experience.
“I think it makes you realize that it’s not a cookie-cutter approach and that just because you aren’t doing X, Y, Z doesn’t mean that you can’t do A, B, C.”
Her passion for helping the cattle industry is evident in the way she talks about helping the cattle industry grow, something she has in common with Schellenberg.