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Volunteer brings a little piece of Texas to Timmins

Erin Rathbone's sharing her life-long love of agriculture with local residents

It was her childhood attending lively agricultural fairs in Southeast Texas that inspired Erin Rathbone to increase children’s participation in agricultural events in Timmins.

Born and raised in Southeast Texas, Rathbone has been actively involved in annual agricultural fairs since she was a kid. In high school, she was an officer in the Future Farmers of America (FFA), a volunteer organization that provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education.

“I just think that agriculture is such an understated, important part of our lives, because farmers feed people, whether you eat meat or eat vegetables, at the end of the day, they come from a farmer,” Rathbone said.

She continued her passion for volunteering and agriculture education when she moved to Canada in 2005 after meeting her now-husband, who's from Kapuskasing. They have an 11-year-old daughter, Brianna.

Rathbone is passionate about educating the younger generation, helping them improve their skills and helping them find what they wanted to pursue when they grow up.

Since moving to Timmins, she’s volunteered in four organizations, focusing on education, training, agriculture, animals or coaching children.

“I like contributing to the community, most of the things I joined, I joined to help make it change for things I thought needed to be addressed. I feel like you can’t make positive changes if you do not step up and help,” she said.

From 2014 to 2018, she volunteered with St. John Therapy Dogs in 2014 where her French bulldog, who died in 2018, brought joy to people in hospitals, libraries, schools, and events.

She found volunteering for St. John very rewarding because her only job was to make people happy.

In 2017, when the First Baptist Church needed a volunteer for their Sunday school she helped the children’s program. Rathbone said that she saw it as a “calling” when the church asked for volunteers. However, her contribution with the church stopped due to the pandemic.

Rathbone has also volunteered as a coach for the Timmins Ringette Association for the past four years, and her daughter is now part of the competitive team this year.

"I find coaching to be very rewarding because you get to watch the kids develop their skills throughout the year ... teamwork and learning new skills. I think being part of the team as a kid helps you transition better in society as an adult, you learn to work with other people — I find it a really good foundation for kids to have," she said.

Currently, she participates in two volunteer positions as the Timmins Ringette Association coach and as the Porcupine District Agricultural Society vice president, on top of her day job as a manager in Millson Veterinary Services.

Rathbone joined the agricultural society board because she wants to expose the younger generation to the importance of being self-sufficient and encourage them to get involved in agriculture. She even has a hobby farm that helps her daughter Brianna learn about farming first-hand

“We have a strong agriculture base here in Timmins, a lot of people are just not aware of it, so I just want to help out with that and make changes…All our board (members) are all very like-minded people, and we all share the vision on how we want the fair to go and grow,” she added.

She joined the Porcupine District Agricultural Society in January 2019 and focused on children’s education and participation in agricultural events.

“A lot of the ideas that I have stemmed from inspiration from when I was growing up,” Rathbone said.

In Texas, one of the biggest week-long events was the Brazoria County Fair, which many local families attended and children, like herself, got to participate in.

“I would go yearly. The Brazoria County fair is one of the largest county fairs in Texas, and I kind of just wanted to bring a piece of that here in Timmins,” she added.

During her childhood years, the Texas County fair and the FFA showed her a different side of farming that she has not appreciated until she arrived in Timmins. 

When she joined the agricultural society, she proposed that they introduce a petting zoo, agriculture exhibits and expand its Grower Program from raising chickens to four more species of livestock.

The Grower Program encourages children and their families living in the countryside to raise one animal to bring to the fall fair to showcase how well they did raising it.

Before, the children and families raised chickens. It's since expanded to include piglets, lambs, turkeys and rabbits.

“I think the biggest thing that I have done is to expand the program, related to animals, and the kids. We get a lot of positive feedback this year, (and) we expanded more than any year before,” she added.

All of this year's animals have been assigned to children and people will be able to see the progress during the Timmins Fall Fair on Sept. 10 to 11.

“The (other) children who will attend the fair will get to learn something, and hopefully they walk away with a love of agriculture,” she said, adding that she hopes these children will remember their experience, and it somehow shapes their future to get them involved in agriculture.

Rathbone encourages new members to join the agricultural society and contribute if they have new ideas.

Rathbone’s vision for the agricultural society is “expanding and adding new members that are like-minded or even if they are not like-minded, that they have other ideas. … I’m always trying to encourage younger people to come out and get involved and if they have ideas, come join us."