Quarter Section's Creative Director, Sabrina McAllister, was recently featured in ACRES magazine, a North American publication produced by New Holland.
You Can’t Take the Farm Out of the Girl
Sabrina McAllister saw one of her dreams come true in 2012 when she married the love of her life. She’s also living two more of her life-long dreams – returning to farm life and operating her own business on the prairies of Western Canada.
A farm girl at heart, she now runs Quarter Section Creative, a graphic design and advertising company, out of the home she shares with her new husband, Wade, on his family’s grain farm near Red Deer, Alberta. With clients in the agriculture, food and oil and gas industries, she offers several creative services, including photography, videography, ad layout and design, corporate branding, logo development and web design.
“You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl,” says Sabrina. “I was getting very anxious to move back to the farm after living in Calgary for nine years. I was tired of the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city.”
Sabrina grew up just down the road at Kaun’s Seed Farm, a third-generation family business owned by her parents, David and Susan Kaun, and her uncle and aunt, Mark and Dianne Kaun. The Kauns grow 600 acres of wheat seed and 1,000 acres of barley seed and operate a large-scale seed-conditioning facility. Another 1,600 acres are devoted to commercial canola production.
The young Canadian, who has an older brother, Dalton, performed many jobs on the seed farm while growing up. “I drove the combines, fixed the teeth on the harrows and drove employees to and from the fields.”
Gaining valuable experience
Sabrina earned a Bachelor of Design degree at the Alberta College of Art & Design in Calgary. Upon graduation, it was her goal to start her own business. But to be successful at that, she knew she needed to gain experience and build a client list.
While continuing to live in Calgary, her first job was as an art director with a small advertising and design agency. She was offered that job after winning the Alberta Ad Industry Student Competition during her senior year of college.
Next she moved onto an art director position at a large, award-winning ad agency with a who’s who list of agricultural clients. True to her roots, she incorporated the use of New Holland equipment into her ad campaigns whenever possible.
“I really pushed to use New Holland equipment based on my familiarity with the machinery,” explains Sabrina. “For award-winning ad campaign for InVigor canola, we brought a New Holland combine to life. The design and overall pleasing aesthetics of the New Holland combine really helped the campaign. Farmers have a connection with their combines because it’s usually their prize piece of equipment.”
After studying, working and living in Calgary, she happily decided she would move back to the farm and build her own business – a move that coincided with meeting her husband, Wade, who was working out of the province at the time as a helicopter pilot and was contemplating his move back to the farm as well.”
A strong work ethic
Sabrina looks to the farm to inspire her work, and with 3,500 acres of wheat, canola and barley stretching out in all directions outside her office window, it’s not far away. “I felt very claustrophobic in the city,” she explains. “So getting out and being a part of the farm lifestyle and always having something new to learn keeps every day fresh. My surroundings inspire my creativity and help me to think openly.”
The young Canadian also credits her farm upbringing with helping her be a successful business owner. “The first thing it taught me was the importance of developing a strong work ethic. That’s something that is not easy to find in the creative industry. Getting down to business and grinding the gears in your head for concepts and ideas for extended periods of time is mentally exhausting, so staying focused and driven takes a lot of focus.”
She likens her career in communications to farming in many ways. “I value my relationships with the clients,” she says. “I’ve always seen the importance of having good relationships with your customers through my dad. His respect for his clients goes a long way.”
Another similarity: She doesn’t promise more than she can deliver. “When you’re running a farm, you have to do what you commit to doing. Likewise, I don’t say I can do more than I can and I always deliver on what I say.”And just as farming isn’t limited to 40 hours per week, neither is her business. “I try to always be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for my clients, because those are the hours they work, but the number of hours I put in beyond that varies with my workload.
“My work is dependent on having a certain amount of inspiration and I find that my creative brain starts ticking in the evening. I am constantly thinking of my clients and what I can do for them.”
Combines Play Cupid
When Wade and Sabrina McAllister married, her family’s two New Holland CR Twin Rotor® combines were parked outside the farm shed that had been transformed into a grand reception venue.
“Between me and Wade, it’s always goes back to the combines, so it was nice to include that part of our story in the wedding,” says Sabrina McAllister, who grew up on a 3,200-acre seed and commercial grain farm.
Even though each of their family’s farms border one another, the bride and groom didn’t meet until her families’ harvest party in October 2011. “My parents and grandparents knew Wade’s parents and grandparents, but we had never met.”
The McAllisters attended the annual harvest party at the Kaun’s Seed Farm for the first time in 2011 because they helped with harvest. “My dad and uncle needed some extra combining help because the forecast was calling for snow. They called Wayne McAllister and he sent his two sons, Wade and Scott, over,” she says.
The brothers drove their New Holland CR combines over and got to work. “They helped for three days just about non-stop to get the crop in,” recalls Sabrina. “During that week, my dad kept calling me in Calgary, saying ‘You really need to come home and meet these McAllister boys.’”
Sabrina made it home for the party, met Wade, and the two young people felt an immediate connection. “It was good timing for both of us. We had both been raised the same way, had many similar interests, wanted to farm and desired the same things out of life – those were all good roots to build a relationship on.”
Their shared zeal for New Holland is another bond they share. During an extended honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand, they visited a New Holland dealership in Australia. “Wade was ecstatic when he saw the dealership; we had a great visit with the folks there,” says McAllister.
Wade and his younger brother are taking over their family’s Antler Valley Farm near Red Deer, Alberta. They represent the fifth generation to farm the land. They grow 3,500 acres of wheat, barley and canola, with plans to expand.
“Now that both boys are home farming full time, they have the manpower to take on more. They’re definitely in a growth phase,” says McAllister, who runs errands and makes food and coffee for the farm’s workforce. “Part of my role here is providing moral support.”
She’s optimistic about the future and hopes to have children one day. “I am the daughter of a man who farms with his brother and now I’m the wife of a man who farms with his brother. I think that’s pretty neat.”