EAST 2017

Our great lineup of speakers

Our speakers are industry leaders, market innovators and those passionate about creating success.

Imagine the goals you could achieve with a little inspiration, networking and insightful skills from women and men who’ve been there, done that and are willing to share what they’ve learned along the way.

Meet the AWC EAST 2017 presenters that we have lined up to date!

Maimouna Abass

Senior Agricultural Researcher/Marketing & Research Manager, Woods Empire Investments, Toronto, Ontario

Presentation Title:  Women in Agriculture – the Zambian Experience

Presentation Overview: Mai’s presentation will look at the challenges and issues that women in agriculture in Zambia face.  She will discuss the opportunities and skills that they have to succeed.

Maimouna has worked in agricultural research and quarantine for over 8 years and has over 10 years of experience in biological research. She is from Zambia, a beautiful peaceful country in Southern Africa. Under the Plant Quarantine and Phytosanitary Service, Maimouna provided services that prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests into the country whilst facilitating safe plant and agro trade. Through this work, she has interacted with both small scale and commercial farmers in Zambia and the Southern African region. She is an Alumni of the Australia Awards for Africa Scholarship for 2012 which she completed at Curtin University in Perth, Australia for her MSc. Maimouna is also a shareholder and a Marketing Research Manager for Woods Empire Investments Ltd. Woods Empire is an ecofriendly Zambian owned company supplying small scale farmers with IPM products and biopesticides and creating market access for them to Zambian supermarkets. Some career milestones for Maimouna include; participation in the Open ended Working Group (OEWG) on Implementations of ISPMs at Food Agriculture Organisation Headquarters in Rome in August 2014 and publishing the first official report on occurrence of a tomato pest Tuta absoluta in Zambia in October of 2016. During her time at the PQPS, she has interacted with several international organisations during implementation of funded agricultural projects. Some of these include the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Plant Protection Convention, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre among others. Through all this, Maimouna has gained expertise in regulatory and trade aspects of agriculture, agribusiness, agriculture in Zambia and the African region.

Q+A: Get to know Maimouna Abass >

Jaye Atkins

CEO, Agricultural Credit Corporation, Guelph, Ontario

BMO Financial Workshop Panels • Join the Conversation: Discussing the Unique Financial Needs in Agriculture and Wealth Management for Women

Jaye grew up on a family farm in southern Ontario close to where he resides today. He attended Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology, the University of Western Ontario where he obtained a degree in Economics, and has also attended and completed programs at the Banff School of Management and the University of Missouri. Jaye has held senior positions in a number of companies including National Director of Marketing for Farm Credit Corporation, CEO of the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board, CEO of FS PARTNERS –  a billion dollar company and one of the largest agricultural co-operatives in Ontario and VP of Government relations & Strategic Development for the Grain Farmers of Ontario.  Jaye currently is the CEO for Agricultural Credit Corporation, the second largest administrator of the Advance Payment Program in Canada. Jaye has held numerous directorships and holds designations as a certified appraiser and the highest designation granted as a professional Agrologist - Distinguished. Jaye is married to Karen, a Registered Physiotherapist and has two daughters,  Nicole who just completed her Masters Degree in Public health at Schulich School of Medicine, and Celine who is currently attending Ivey Business School in London.

Debra Brown

Executive Director, 4-H Ontario, Rockwood, Ontario

Presentation Title:  Growing Youth Leaders

Explore leadership opportunities and the role young women can play in their communities and workplaces; and how experienced women who have been in the industry for years can play a part as mentors or coaches of these young leaders.

Debra grew up in a few small rural towns across Ontario, and will always be a small town girl at heart.  Debra has spent her career creating programs and experiences with youth and young adults. Starting with summer camp, then after school programs, breakfast, children’s literacy programs, church youth groups, girls empowerment programming, a youth drop in center and overseeing a Youth Leadership Development Center. Debra is a strong believer in the positive youth development paradigm which views youth as individuals with assets, not problems to be solved.  Debra continues to support youth leadership development at 4-H Ontario.

Previously Debra had been with the YMCAs of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo working in community development with volunteers, youth and new Canadians.  In 2011, Debra received the Community Outreach Award for her work with cultural communities in Cambridge.

Prior to that, Debra managed the Erin Mills Youth Outreach Program in Mississauga where she was a Youth Minister and Community Outreach Director.

Debra currently reports to two boards of directors, however, she has served as a board director herself for her local church, and Community Health Center.

She has her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Peace and Conflict Studies from University of Toronto. She is also a graduate of the “Senior Leadership and Management in the Non Profit Sector” Program at Conestoga College.

Debra lives in Kitchener Ontario with her husband, daughter and rabbit.

Jolene Brown, CSP

Farmer, Author and Ag Champion, West Branch, Iowa, Sponsored by RBC Royal Bank

Workshop Presentation Title: “The Top Ten Mistakes That Break Up a Family Business!”™

We can prevent many daily aggravations and family business catastrophes if we learn from the mistakes of others. This eye-opening, fun filled presentation will highlight the top ten things families do that break up their business. We will discuss in-laws and out-laws, off-site family and estates, daily communications and important meetings. In this value packed workshop, you’ll receive take home tools to assist in the transition and succession of a family business. From conversations to contracts, from assumptions to clarification, from complaints to celebrations, we will open eyes and save fighting on the way to the funeral home.

In this generational diversity of needs and dreams, we have forgotten that sound and profitable business and transitional management must be based on more than genetics, tradition, assumptions and emotion. During my years of consulting with family businesses, I have learned the very sad lesson that most perpetuate ten disruptive behaviors. Therefore they end up broken, in financial distress and in emotional pain. There is a better way.

Plenary Presentation Title: "Let Go of the Rope!"

As a hot air balloon is launched, the people on the ground must let go of the ropes. Hanging on too long has ominous consequences, in ballooning and in life. Not only will it keep you from implementing your goals, it can put you and your mission in a precarious situation. We need you as an active woman in agriculture, launched and ready to soar! It’s time for passion and purpose to light the fires because the pace, the people, the process and the products have all changed. Have we? With lots of laughter and real world stories, we’ll discover that letting go is the first step in soaring higher! Enjoy the journey!

Jolene Brown is a walking-talking spokesperson and champion for the people of agriculture. She's a farmer, author and professional speaker. Jolene's from West Branch, Iowa and her worldwide audiences appreciate her fun-filled spirit and valuable information. She's on a mission to share leading-edge best practices, appreciation, laughter and celebration to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. www.JoleneBrown.com

Q+A: Get to know Jolene Brown >

Fran Burr

Owner, Burr Consulting, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Presentation Title: There’s (Career) Life After Retirement

Presentation Overview: Retirement triggers many questions - one of which is, “Do I really want to retire?”. For most of us, we’ve planned, or managed, or thoughtfully reflected on every step of our career in agriculture. Why should it be any different for your post-retirement career?

Fran has been involved in the agri-food industry for many years and has acquired extensive experience in marketing, communications, and business leadership. Most recently she was the Executive Director for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops and prior to that, Fran retired from Cargill Ltd., where she was assistant Vice-President of Marketing for the AgHorizons business unit.

Fran currently operates her own consulting business, specializing in business and strategic planning, marketing, and project management.

Q+A: Get To Know Fran Burr >

Tara Conway

Tara Conway, Vice President, Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal, Brantford, ON

Tara Conway is most proud of the many different careers she has held, all within Bank of Montreal. Tara began her career as a teller in Drumbo, Ontario. In her 19 years at BMO, she has worked in various roles within personal and commercial banking, including many roles in sales and a short time in Head Quarters.

In her current position as Vice President, Commercial Banking she is accountable for financial services the Bank provides to its Commercial and Agriculture customers within the Brantford – Simcoe Markets.  Tara leads a team of ten Commercial Account Managers. Many specialize in financing a wide range of agriculture clients engaged in primary production. Agriculture customers represent more than 60% of the portfolio that Tara is accountable for.

She is a very passionate leader with a strong focus on employee engagement. Knowing that the employee experience impacts the customer experience, Tara strives to ensure all her employees reach their full potential.

Tara has an MBA from Dalhousie University, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers. She is a director on the national board for BMO Pride and is the Treasurer for Nova Vita, a Domestic Violence Prevention Centre in Brantford.

Amanda Elzinga-Pugh

North Eastern Alberta Account Manager, Farm Animal Business Unit, Merck Animal Health, Edgerton, Alberta

Amanda grew up on a dairy farm turned cow/calf operation in western Alberta. She has always had a passion for agriculture and when she finished high school she took on a job processing and pen checking at a local feedlot. She then went on to take her Animal Science diploma at Lakeland College and followed that up by completing her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the U of A. She is also a past graduate of the Cattlemen's Young Leaders program. Following her university graduation, Amanda went on to work as a nutrition / production consultant for a feed company for 4 years before switching to Merck Animal Health in 2015. Amanda ranches with her husband in eastern Alberta where they raise purebred Angus and Hereford cattle as well as a commercial herd. They show cattle across western Canada and host a bull sale the 2nd Tuesday in March annually.

Q+A: Get To Know Amanda Elzinga-Pugh >

Dianne Finstad

Communications Specialist, Red Deer, Alberta

Master of Ceremonies

Dianne Finstad is a communications specialist with a passion for all things agriculture. She spent over thirty years as a broadcaster and reporter, specializing in agriculture and rodeo coverage. Raised on a ranch in southern Alberta, she was able to combine her 4-H inspired interests in communication and ag into an interesting career, which now takes her to exciting places like Advancing Women in Agriculture conferences. Based in Red Deer, she began her career at CKRD-TV and radio. Her program ‘This Business of Farming’ was a staple in many rural households around the province. She also worked at KG Country Radio, providing daily farm reports and regular rodeo coverage. As well, Dianne has MC’d at events ranging from Farm Credit Canada Forums to national dairy shows. She works as both a show announcer and rodeo reporter at the Calgary Stampede. Her work has received numerous awards, and she is an honorary member of the Alberta Institute of Agrologists and the Alberta Human Ecology and Home Economics Association. Dianne is currently doing agriculture, rodeo, writing and speaking work across the country.

Q+A: Get to know Dianne Finstad >

Sheri Griffiths

Regional Vice President of Commercial Banking, Great Toronto Area – North

Sheri Griffiths is responsible for Bank of Montreal’s Commercial business in the GTA Region. Sheri brings over 25 years of extensive retail and commercial experience to this role. She has been with BMO for 15 years starting as a Service Leader in Scarborough then as a Branch Manager in Oshawa as well as in Scarborough. She left the Greater Toronto Division to be a Personal Banking Area Manager in 2007 and relocated her family to Stratford. She then moved to Chatham/Sarnia for her first Commercial leadership post in 2009 and was there 3 years before moving on as Vice President Commercial Banking for Windsor Essex 2 years ago. Previously she was with a trust company for 12 years where she started her career in banking as a Customer Service Representative. Sheri holds an MBA from Dalhousie University.


Sarab Hans

President, Hans Dairy Inc., Mississauga, Ontario

Women Talk Panel Speaker

Presentation Title: Everyone wants to help JUST ASK

Presentation Overview: The move from the corporate banking world into a family run dairy business… you can’t get more opposite than that!  One phone call from my father asking if I wanted to run the business or he would sell it and I leapt at the chance but I had no idea what turning my life upside down really entailed.  It’s not all milk, eggs and butter, the dairy business is complex.  I had to learn how to navigate in a supply managed sector, how to engineer equipment, how to smell a good batch of milk from a bad batch (I’m not kidding, there’s a class for that) and how to be the boss.  But to my surprise, help was usually a phone call (or two) away. At first I was hesitant but I realized quickly that I couldn’t figure this out on my own. I asked anyone for advice and everyone was more than happy to help. For me asking for help has been an asset and one of the most useful learning tools.

Sarab Hans is the President of Hans Dairy Inc., a family business that focuses on providing authentic and natural dairy products to the South Asian community. Since joining, Sarab has been in charge of developing and manufacturing ethnic dairy products that provide a taste of home. Their current product lines are available in all the major Ontario retail grocers. In 2015, Hans Dairy relocated to a new 22,000 sq ft facility which gives them the space needed to expand the business on a national level and develop new and innovative ethnic offerings. Prior to joining Hans Dairy, Sarab worked in the investment banking sector for 6 years. She has a B.A. from University of Western Ontario and a M.B.A from McGill University.

Q+A: Get to know Sarab Hans >

Rachael Harder

Shadow Minister for the Status of Women for the Conservative Caucus, and the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge

Presentation title: Championing Women in Entrepreneurship

Elected in October of 2015, Rachael Harder serves as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Lethbridge.

Ms. Harder entered public life, first and foremost, to serve her constituents. She believes in putting people first and seeks to understand how their personal experiences form their perspective. As a dedicated listener and skilled advocate, Ms. Harder offers a fresh perspective and a strong voice for her community.

As a member of the Conservative Caucus, Ms. Harder currently is the Shadow Minister for the Status of Women and sits on the House of Commons Standing Committee for the Status of Women. Previously, Ms. Harder was appointed by Rona Ambrose to be the Official Opposition Critic for Youth and Persons with Disabilities as well as the Deputy Health Critic. During this time, Ms. Harder sat on both the Health Committee and the Status of Women Committee.

Before entering political life, Ms. Harder travelled across the country, working as a Youth Sociologist and Consultant who focused on the values and beliefs of Canada’s emerging generation. She holds an Associate of Arts Degree in General Social Sciences from Briercrest College and a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts with a General Social Sciences Major in Sociology, Political Science, and Psychology from the University of Lethbridge.

Raised on a small farm in southern Alberta, it didn’t take long for Ms. Harder to demonstrate her lively entrepreneurial spirit. Writing a business plan at the age of nine to prove to her parents that she was serious about opening a dog kennel and raising puppies was not an unusual demonstration of knowledge and grit for the middle child who grew up with three brothers and one sister. The young free-marketer turned her small kennel into a successful eight year venture that covered the cost of four humanitarian trips and funded her postsecondary education.

Giving back to the community through volunteerism has always been important to Ms. Harder. Prior to being elected, she was a member of the Community and Social Development Committee (an advisory committee to City Council) and served on the Canadian Mental Health Youth Anti-Stigma Leaders’ Steering Committee. She also volunteered for the Lethbridge 2019 Canada Winter Games bid and the 2015 Alberta 55+ Winter Games. She continues to volunteer at her church and enjoys supporting as many community events as possible.

Ms. Harder has been and will continue to be a strong voice at the federal level for those in the Lethbridge riding.

Anita Heuver

Owner/Manager, Eagle Lake Nurseries Ltd., Strathmore, Alberta

Women Talk Panel Speaker

Presentation Title: "Yes I do Grow Flowers"

The first question I usually get when I say I own a nursery is, oh that’s so nice, so you grow flowers… yes I do grow some flowers but as a wholesale nursery that grows in one of the most challenging climates in Canada, my days are full of equipment breakdowns, customer requiring solutions to their construction site concerns, effectively leading a team of over 70 seasonal and fulltime employees, and wishing I could control the weather. I find I spend very little time smelling the roses.

Anita Heuver is the owner and manager of Eagle Lake Nurseries Ltd. in Strathmore, Alberta, a second generation family owned nursery that produces trees, shrubs and perennials for customers throughout Western Canada. The nursery has about 1000 acres in the production. The original parcel of land was dry prairie grassland, the neighbors told the founder he was crazy to think he could start a nursery in this location, but determination, access to irrigation water, and ever improving production practices, has been part of the nurseries success over the past 47 years.

Anita has worked at the nursery for over 25 years, but like most farm children she started working on the farm at a young age taking on daily chores and duties. Her love for the nursery, lead to studying horticulture at the University of Guelph, where she graduated in 1988 with a Diploma in Horticulture, she successfully challenged the provincial apprenticeship exam and became a Certified Landscape Gardener Apprentice. She spent a year following college working in the nursery industry in Holland, and meeting her huge extend Dutch family.

Anita is the Past President of Landscape Alberta, and currently represents Alberta on the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) Board, and has just started her term as Nation Growers Chair for the CNLA. Anita is also an active board member on the Canadian Nursery Certification Institute and the Western Nursery Grower Group. In June 2016 Anita was appointed to the Olds College Board of Governors.

Q+A: Get to know Anita Heuver >

Trish Jordan

Public & Industry Affairs Director, Monsanto Canada Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Sponsor Panel Speaker

Trish Jordan is passionate about agriculture, farmers and enhancing agricultural awareness with the non-farming public.

In her current role as Public and Industry Affairs Director with Monsanto she is responsible for media relations, issues management and providing strategic communications support to core business activities. Trish also manages Monsanto Canada’s Grower Advisory Council as well as the company’s ongoing efforts to engage with consumer audiences to share the Monsanto story.

Trish started her career in agriculture with Alberta Wheat Pool, a farmer-owned grain co-op based in Calgary.  After 12 years in a wide-variety of communication-related roles with Alberta Pool, she assumed the position of Director of Resources and Communications with Canadian Foodgrains Bank – a Christian-based non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Winnipeg. She also worked for a short period of time in advertising and media relations with the Canadian Wheat Board before joining Monsanto in January 2001.

Trish donates her time to a number of boards and committees, including Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba, the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame and CropLife Canada’s Advocacy, Communications and Trust committee.  In 2013, Trish was honored to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her leadership in agriculture; advocacy for innovation and competitiveness; and her commitment to community service.

In her time outside of work, Trish is an avid competitive golfer and passionate curler. She also enjoys NFL Football, curling up with a good book, and spending time visiting friends on the farm.

Q+A: Get to know Trish Jordan >

Kay Kuenker

Owner, K2Kinetics, LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

Workshop Presentation Title: To Coach… or To Be Coached…..? That Is The Question!

Have you ever wondered if you could benefit from a coach?  Have you ever thought about being a coach?  Coaching has been around for a long time, but there are many different definitions, styles and processes.  How do you know a coach is a good fit for you?  How can you tell a ‘good’ coach from one that’s not so good?  Regardless of the end of the spectrum you’re on—coach or coachee—this workshop is designed to answer those questions.  Coaching is all about helping people realize and achieve their innate potential by exploring the possibilities.  Join us for a fun and insightful session!

Kay Kuenker is a business management consultant and executive coach.  She started her business, K2Kinetics, in 2016 after retiring from a 29+ year career at Dow AgroSciences.  In her current capacity, Kay works with senior leadership within organizations to develop and refine business strategy and provides coaching to individuals at all levels.  She earned her Results Certified Coach credential through the NeuroLeadership Institute and her Associate Certified Coach credential through the International Coach Federation.  She also continues her focus on agriculture, consulting with various biotechnology companies and serving on several industry boards.

For the previous nine years, Kay served on the executive leadership team for Dow AgroSciences and held three different global Vice President positions:  VP Business Development, Business VP Europe, Middle East and Africa and VP Government Affairs, Public Affairs and Sustainability.

Kay joined The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) in 1986 as a math modeler primarily focused on reactor design, pharmacokinetics and environmental risk assessment. She became part of Dow’s agricultural business in 1988 with roles focused on manufacturing plant optimization for agricultural chemicals.

In 1989, she relocated to Indianapolis and became leader of the Research and Development’s Modeling and Information Sciences Lab. She held various positions in R&D and IT until 1999, when she joined the Plant Genetics and Biotechnology division as a Project Success leader for corn and corn biotech traits.  Subsequently, she held a variety of commercial jobs including marketing specialist, licensing leader for Corn Traits and Germplasm and global business leader for Corn and Sorghum. In 2005, she relocated to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to serve as President of Dow AgroSciences Canada. In 2007, she returned to Indianapolis and was named Global Vice President, Business Development.  In 2011 Kay relocated to Europe where she held the position of Business VP Dow AgroSciences Europe, Middle East and Africa. She returned to US in mid 2014 and was named Global VP of Government Affairs, Public Affairs and Sustainability.

Kay is a member several boards including BioCrossroads, AgriNovus Indiana, IN State Workforce Innovation Council and the Women in Agribusiness Advisory Board. She previously served on the Executive Committee of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), Food and Ag Governing Board for Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Purdue University Burton Morgan Entrepreneurial Center), Executive Committee for the National FFA Foundation and CropLife Canada.  Kay has also served as adjunct faculty for Butler University MBA program and has served as Ag Entrepreneur in Residence at Purdue University.

Kay received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in mathematics from Central Michigan University.

Q+A: Get to know Kay Kuenker >

Sherry Lees

Sherry Lees, VP of Finance, Parrish & Heimbecker Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Presentation Title: Leadership Lessons Learned

From a small town farming community to the Boardrooms of large Agricultural businesses, this working mom will share what she’s learned about being a female working in Ag over the past 25 years.

Sherry Lees is a seasoned financial professional who grew up on a family farm in Southern Manitoba working hands on as many farm families do. A Chartered Professional Accountant and Chartered Accountant, she is someone who has worked through the ranks over the last 25 years as an Auditor, a Financial Analyst, a Divisional Controller, a Corporate Controller, a Corporate Treasurer and today is the Vice President of Finance for Parrish & Heimbecker based in Winnipeg, MB. Ms. Lees has learned as much about leadership from raising two fantastically different children as she has in the meeting rooms and boardrooms of the Agricultural companies she has helped to lead.

Q+A: Get to know Sherry Lees >

Faith Matchett

VP, Operations, Atlantic and Eastern Ontario, Farm Credit Canada, Moncton, New Brunswick

Presentation Title: Writing Our Own Story

There is great power and energy in writing our own story. Moving from destiny, history and the desires of others to intentional focus and action, including using reflection and self acceptance to learn, chose and grow into ourselves as we move through our life story.

Responsible for the overall operations in the Atlantic and Eastern Ontario regions, Faith joined FCC in 1999 and has held a number of positions. Previous to FCC, she held accounting and controller positions in the construction, mining, printing and agriculture sectors. As a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and also having been awarded an FCPA, Faith holds a Business degree and a Masters in Education from the University of New Brunswick.  Faith also has a coaching certification from the Hudson Institute and is currently working on a social science doctoral degree from Royal Roads University.

Faith is a Director on the Board of CPA New Brunswick and the Board of the Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation.  She is an active member of the Moncton chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women. She has attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York City twice. Faith is also active with Global Villages with Habitat Canada, having been in El Salvador and the Yukon. Faith and her husband have two wonderful daughters, one who has completed her university education and is now working full time and one who is attending the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton completing a Master’s degree.

Q+A: Get to know Faith Matchett >

Mary Lou McCutcheon

Vice President, Southwestern Ontario Agriculture, Royal Bank of Canada, Woodstock, Ontario

Sponsor Panel Speaker

As Vice President, Mary Lou McCutcheon leads RBC’s team of Agriculture Specialists in South Western Ontario, serving Agribusiness and Agriculture clients.

Mary Lou has worked in business for over 15 years with a focus on Agriculture and Agri-business. Her experience has also involved Trade and Agriculture Commodity Organization Management.

Mary Lou, is past president of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Mary Lou and her family reside in Perth East Ontario.

Q+A: Get to know Mary Lou McCutcheon >

Carly Minish-Wytinck

CEO, SMAK DAB, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Women Talk Panel Speaker

Carly Minish is the CEO of SMAK DAB Foods, a manufacturer of specialty foods that established in August 2014, and crafts a line of gourmet mustards. They source natural Canadian and Manitoban ingredients, which in turn helps support businesses across the country as well as ensuring that SMAK DAB has a local, high quality product. They have six different flavours of mustard in 60 retail locations across Manitoba and in 75 retailers across Canada.

With a Red Seal Chef turned entrepreneur at the helm, Carly uses her knowledge of flavour profiles and recipe development to create delicious flavour combinations, such as Honey Horseradish, Beer Chipotle, Canadian Maple, Curry Dijon, Hot Honey Jalapeno, White Wine Herb, and Cranberry Wine Mustard.

SMAK DAB aims to break the mould of how people perceive the humble pantry essential. It is imperative to have customers realize that their mustards can be used in a variety of applications beyond just a condiment. The products transform marinades, salad dressings, meats, cheeses, and dips. SMAK DAB wants customers to realize the potential of turning good food into great food, and their mustards are an integral place to start.

Q+A: Get to know Carly Minish-Wytinck >

Debi Pratt

Public Relations Specialist, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario

Presentation Title: Cultivating a Career in the Canadian Wine Industry

Presentation Overview: Forty years of reflection, insight, strategies and opportunities on transitioning from a primary school teacher to becoming a successful Canadian Wine Industry professional. From the playground to the vineyard!


  • Born in Toronto, raised and educated in St. Catharines
  • Graduated from St. Catharine’s Teachers College; B.A. in Psychology and Education from Brock University
  • Taught primary school for 16 years in Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Assisted at Inniskillin Winery on a part-time basis since its inception in 1974; 1986 full-time status
  • Initial responsibilities were three fold: managing the Wine Boutique, Special Events and Tour Programs; handlingPublic Relations; calling on LCBO, hotels and restaurants throughout southern and northern Ontario as an Ontario Sales Representative
  • Winery career developed as Inniskillin Wines grew to 250,000 visitors annually and became internationally recognized
  • Retired July 1, 2014

Past Winery Positions, retired 1975- 2014

  • Winery Public Relations, Niagara Estates, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario until July 2014.
  • Handling media relations for Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs, Le Clos Jordanne from Inniskillin Winery, NOTL
  • Liaising with the Inniskillin Marketing Team and Inniskillin Public Relations Companies in Western Canada, the US and Europe
  • Organizing and hosting VIP visits/events at the winery for media, government, senior executives, trade and celebrities from around the world
  • Hosting Export initiatives, Theme Dinners, Wine tastings, Government delegations, internal training, licensees etc.
  • Conducting wine presentations/seminars and speaking engagements (corporate, educational institutes, general public, service clubs)
  • Authoring various Inniskillin, tourism and wine industry related articles
  • Promoting Ontario/Canadian Wine as a whole through wine and culinary tourism initiatives

Current Organizational Roles

  • Present and Founding Committee Member, Cuvée – an annual fundraiser for Niagara Community Foundation, celebrating Excellence in Ontario Wines (1989-present)
  • Niagara College Public Relations Advisory Committee (1999-present)
  • Niagara College Photography Advisory Committee (20010-present)
  • Member of the Riesling Experience Committee, CCOVI (2007-present)
  • Niagara Community Foundation Committee Member for Niagara on the Lake Fund (March 2016-present)

Past Positions

  • Wine Council of Ontario Tourism Committee
  • Past Founding Chairman, Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries Marketing Committee (13 years).
  • Niagara Wine and Food Classic Committee Member (4 years)
  • Board of Governors, Niagara College (2004-2009)
  • Terry Fox Run committee member and Dream Team Member (9 years)
  • Member of the Tourism Committee and various Special Events, NOTL Chamber of Commerce
  • Past Chairman, TEMCO, NOTL Tourism and Economic Management Corporation (3 years)
  • Past Co-Chair, Shaw Shivaree Fundraiser (2 years)
  • Past Board Member, Niagara-on-the-Lake Elderhostel
  • TIDC (Tourism Industry Development Centre) Steering Committee (8 years)
  • Town of NOTL Branding Committee (2012-2013)
  • Member of Niagara Regional Tourism Education Advisory (2012-2014)
  • Town of NOTL Traffic & Safety Committee (2000-2014)

Awards, Honours

  • Grape Growers of Ontario, Award of Merit, April 2015.
  • Living Landmark Award, Niagara Foundation, Niagara-on- the-Lake, ON, Nov. 2014
  • Pratt Vineyard, naming of 90 acre vineyard in Niagara on the Lake by Constellation Canada in recognition of retirement and 40 years of service, 2014
  • Gold Award-Educator, OHI (Ontario Hostelry Association) 2014
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013 TIAO (Tourism Industry of Ontario) Awards of Excellence, 2013
  • RBC Wine Business Citizen of the Year, Niagara Wine Festival, 2013
  • Binational Star Award-Women in Tourism, 2009
  • Exceptional Hospitality Award Ontario Wine Society Committee, 2009
  • Promoter’s Award, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) Brock University-Educator Award, 2006
  • Honorary Member Les Clefs d'Or, 2004
  • Niagara Business Woman of the Year, 2003
Q+A: Get to know Debi Pratt >

Jodi Roelands

Co-Founder and Owner, Roelands Plant Farms Inc., Lambton Shores, Ontario

Women Talk Panel Speaker

Presentation Title: Confessions of a Faker

Presentation Overview: Managing the daily needs of an agri-business and a family of five young children, Jodi looks back at the end of the day and asks herself: Am I making the right decisions for my business? Am I making the right decisions for my kids? Can I do better? She often jokes that her motto is ‘Fake it ‘till you make it’, because in life you will not always feel confident in your choices, but over time, through experience, deliberate learning, and some self-forgiveness, you will come to the realization that it is possible to ‘make it’. And really, that’s what you’ve been doing all along.

Jodi is co-founder and owner of Roelands Plant Farms Inc., a 12-acre propagation greenhouse that custom grows seedlings for vegetable production greenhouses. The business has been running for just 4 years, but has tripled in size since the beginning, and currently employs between 100 and 160 people seasonally.

Jodi, along with husband Adrian, oversee the daily operations of their business and of their handful of children. It’s a toss-up to decide which takes more time and skill.

They were honored to be chosen as Outstanding Young Farmers for Ontario in 2016.

Jodi grew up on her family’s poultry farm, but before entering the greenhouse sector took a hiatus from agriculture, working for the Canadian Coast Guard doing Search and Rescue Operations and then as a constituency staffer for her local Member of Parliament.

She holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Western Ontario.

Q+A: Get to know Jodi Roelands >

Dr. Marla Shapiro, C.M.

CTV News Medical Consultant, W5 Contributor, Toronto, Ontario

Presentation Title: Work Life Balance – an Oxymoron?

Presentation Overview: In this busy life, we are all balancing our work ball, our life ball and our personal ball. Dr. Marla takes you through her own personal journey of achieving work life balance. You will learn the impact of stress and the unique tools to help achieve work life balance.

Dr. Marla Shapiro is one of Canada's most trusted guides to personal health and well-being. A warm, compelling, and compassionate speaker, she gives practical advice on developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Shapiro offers specialized talks on women and family health care and discusses the pressing issues at the forefront of today's news.

Dr. Marla Shapiro completed medical school at McGill University and trained at the University of Toronto for her Masters of Health Science in Community Health and Epidemiology. She trained in Family Medicine and is certified by the Canadian College of Family Practice. She concluded her specialty training in Preventive Medicine and Public Health, receiving her Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. She holds a Fellowship in Family Medicine and is a North American Menopause Society credentialed menopause specialist.

Since 2000, Dr. Shapiro has been the Health and Medical Expert for Canada AM. In addition to her weekly appearances on Canada AM, Dr. Shapiro is seen regularly on CTV News Channel and as the medical consultant on CTV National News. In 2012, she hosted CTV News Channel’s Dr. Marla & Friends, a weekly series examining the most current and news-driven medical topics and stories. In addition, Dr. Shapiro has contributes topical, medical investigative documentaries for CTV’s W5, Canada’s most-watched documentary series. In 2003, she began hosting Balance: Television for Living Well, a refreshing daily health and lifestyle show seen across North American households.

In 2015, Dr. Shapiro was named a member of the Order of Canada, for contributions as a family physician and trusted source of health information.

Dr. Shapiro has written a regular column for the Globe and Mail. She currently writes her weekly blog on the CTVNews.ca website. Dr. Shapiro is the Founding Editor of ParentsCanada Magazine.

Additionally, Dr. Shapiro is a member of several committees and advisory boards including the Board for the Canadian Foundation for Women and Health, Research Canada and The North American Menopause Society. She was on the original Board of The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer having stepped down after 6 years.

Dr. Shapiro was honoured at the 150th Bayer Anniversary among 22 leading scientists and researchers for her work in Women's Health and contraception, and she was also named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women by Women of Influence Magazine in Canada. In 2011, The Israeli Cancer Research Fund honoured Dr. Shapiro at their Women of Action Luncheon for her personal and professional dedication to supporting innovative cancer research. She was the recipient of the 2010 Peter R. Newman Humanitarian Award in recognition of an exemplary commitment to the welfare of individuals or the community, at home or abroad. Dr. Shapiro was the recipient of the 2005 Media Award from the North American Menopause Society for her work in expanding the understanding of menopause. She won the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada/Canadian Foundation for Women's Health Award for Excellence in Women's Health Journalism in 2006 for her documentary, Run Your Own Race. The documentary was written, presented and co-produced by Dr. Shapiro, and won numerous industry awards including the New York Film Festival and the Columbus International Film and Video award.

Dr. Shapiro received an Award of Excellence from the College of Family Physicians of Canada for her lifelong commitment and dedication to family medicine in 2008. As well she was awarded the Excellence in Creative Professional Activity in 2008 by the University of Toronto, Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Her national best-selling book, Life in the Balance: My Journey with Breast Cancer, was released in Fall 2006.

Q+A: Get to know Dr. Marla Shapiro >

Jennifer Shomenta

Managing Director, Cargill Ag Supply Chain North America, Cargill, Wayzata, Minnesota

Sponsor Panel Speaker

Jen Shomenta serves as Managing Director of Cargill’s Ag Supply Chain North America. She has management accountability for all farmer facing and end use customer activities in North America including grain origination, crop input sales, risk management product sales, as well as grain and agronomy advisory services.

Shomenta joined Cargill in 1992 as a commodity merchant, managing supply chains for Cargill’s processing facilities and river terminal market for export. In 2000, Shomenta joined the Strategy and Business Development group, working as a project team leader in business strategy, corporate development and acquisition work. In addition, Shomenta held commercial management and business development positions for Cargill’s Food Ingredient Systems Platform before returning to the Cargill Ag Supply Chain Platform in 2008 as General Manager for the North American Biodiesel and Softseed Processing businesses. Most recently, Shomenta was Commercial Leader of Cargill’s Ag Horizon’s business unit.

Shomenta graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana in 1992 with a degree in Business Administration and Marketing. She and her husband, Dave Maki, live in Southwest Minneapolis with their three children.

Q+A: Get to know Jennifer Shomenta >

Linda Smart

Vice President Commercial & Agriculture Banking, National Bank of Canada, Toronto, Ontario

Sponsor Panel Speaker

As Vice President Commercial Banking, Linda is responsible for the growth and operations of the Commercial segment for the Province of Ontario.

Linda brings over 30 years’ experience in the Banking industry, with a proven ability to lead successful teams, develop business and execute growth mandates. Linda has been with National Bank of Canada since 1989 and has successfully held the positions of Branch Manager, Commercial Account Manager and Senior Manager serving customers, from small businesses to large corporations in a wide range of industries and specialized markets.

In addition to her professional activities, Linda volunteers with various community organizations; serving as an Advisory Board member for Providence Healthcare Hospital and a Director at Junior Achievement of Central Ontario for the past seven years.

Ms. Smart has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto, FICB from the Canadian Bankers Association and is a graduate of the Canadian Board Diversity Council, Get On Board Program.

Q+A: Get to know Linda Smart >

Michele Spector

Vice President, Human Resources, Parrish & Heimbecker, Limited, Cambridge, Ontario

Sponsor Panel Speaker

With 25 years of experience in the Human Resources field in a variety of industries in both Canada and the United States, Michele Spector brings a practical view to managing a company’s greatest asset. She has a passion for helping people reach their full potential and for creating and implementing programs that drive employee engagement.

Michele holds a BA in Commercial Studies from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) and a post graduate program in Human Management from Seneca College. In 2016, for the first time in her career, she moved into the Agricultural Sector and accepted a position with Parrish & Heimbecker, a privately owned Canadian company, founded in 1909. She leads the Human Resources function as VP of Human Resources, with over 1,500 employees across the country with several divisions such as flour milling, feed milling, grain marketing, transportation and logistics.

Michele lives in Brantford, Ontario with her husband Tom, two children, Danielle and Nic and two awesome dogs, Rocky and Pebbles!

Q+A: Get to know Michele Spector >

Patricia Thompson

VP Sales and Marketing, King Cole Ducks Ltd., Stouffville, Ontario

Presentation Title: Ducked!

Presentation Overview: How does working with family, being women in a man's world, adapting to the changing markets, trends and business "fly" with this family...just ducky! We'll share "a day in the life of a duck farmer" and how it takes us with confidence into markets here and around the world.

Patti Thompson is one of four sisters, now operating Canada's largest duck producer, King Cole Ducks Ltd. This 66 year old family operated agri-business is a farm to fork operation with breeding, hatching , growing, processing, research and development, cook plant as well as a feather operation and composting operation. With over 180 staff, many second generation co-workers, , the sisters value the skills, talent and dedication of an amazing team that is taking the business into the next decade. Commitment to continuous improvement, the environment, a natural farming philosophy and marketing everything but the "quack", makes this a unique company with a great story to share to customers in their own backyard and around the world. Patti's education in public relations launched her career with CBC but her heart remained "at the farm" . Having done every job in the business from egg collection to plant management, she used her education and farm- life experience to build a sales and marketing program for the company. Today as VP of Sales/Marketing, she works with customers from tiny bistros to cruise ships, world-wide. Patti is sports enthusiast cycling "to the farm" in the summer, competing with Mid Ice Crisis, a synchronized skating team through the winter. As a volunteer, she is a "wish grantor" for Make a Wish Canada, participates in the 200 km Ride to conquer cancer and helps with a variety of community events. Most important in her life is family: sisters, parents, in-laws, outlaws and especially, her three children.

Q+A: Get to know Patricia Thompson >

Debbie Travis

Chief Creative Officer, Debbie Travis Branding, Montreal, Quebec

Presentation Title: Dream it. Do it. Live it. How to Make It Big

Dream It. Do It. Live It. That’s the essence of Debbie Travis’s success: and there’s a lot to learn from this deceptively simple approach. In this powerful keynote, Travis lays all her cards on the table. Want to make it big? Well, you’re going to have to work hard, she says. You’re going to have to make sacrifices. You’re going to fail, at least sometimes. But if you keep pushing forward, and if—above all else—you have passion that you believe in, you can get there.

With great humour and depth, Travis shares her rags-to-riches life story. Going from working-class England to one of Canada’s most recognizable brands—just walk into any Canadian Tire store to see the walls of Debbie Travis merchandise—has not been an easy journey. But her relentless entrepreneurial spirit continues to push her into newer territory. There’s no possible limit to success, she says. But there are no shortcuts: you have to put in the hours and chase every opportunity with passion, gumption, and creativity. You have to find your happiness. You have to create something. Including hands-on advice on building relationships, branding, and marketing, this talk is not only exceedingly inspirational, it’s practical, too. And, it’s an absolute joy to watch Travis on stage.

“Dream it, do it, live it,” says DEBBIE TRAVIS, the entrepreneur behind the largest celebrity brand in Canada. In her talks—delivered with great humour and optimism—she shares her keen sense of branding, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and her enviable facility for juggling work and a rich family life. Exceptionally charismatic and down to earth, she is a real pleasure to both watch on stage and work with behind the scenes.

Debbie Travis is a design superstar, a television icon and producer, a best-selling author, and the centre of a business empire. Equipped with a brilliant sense for both design and business, Travis is a highly sought-after public speaker. She talks about how she grew her business and found phenomenal success—all while juggling a busy family life. With few peers, Debbie Travis is a sterling example of business growth that is completely in line with personal happiness.

Travis’s shows are seen in over 80 countries, her syndicated newspaper column reaches over six million readers weekly, and her nine books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. An Art College graduate and one-time model, Travis worked as a producer for several British networks. After moving to Montreal at the age of 30, she started a painting and design business which quickly flourished. In 1995, she merged her two passions, design and TV production, by creating one of North America’s first decorating shows, Debbie Travis’ Painted House, which ran for thirteen seasons. This was followed by Debbie Travis’ Facelift, the first reality design show, as well as two primetime shows, From the Ground Up and All For One, and now a documentary series on the restoration of a women-only boutique hotel in Tuscany, Dolce Debbie.

Travis has just announced a strategic alliance with Sears Canada, which will be distributing her extensive product line in all of its stores across the country, its websites and catalogues. As an Executive Producer at her production company, WAM, she has produced hundreds of hours of award winning lifestyle series for a variety of networks—including CBC, Food Network, PBS, Discovery Networks, Global, HGTV, Oxygen, and W—and has garnered over 40 Gemini nominations, including four wins. She is also the author of Not Guilty: Working Hard, Raising Kids, and Laughing Through the Chaos, a humorous account of how she coped with juggling a busy career, building a successful business, and raising her children. On top of all this, Debbie Travis is the proprietor of a boutique hotel where she holds her women’s retreat, and an 800-tree organic olive farm in Tuscany. She has appeared on OprahThe Today ShowRegis and Kelly and countless other venues, and is a regular contributor to The Marilyn Dennis Show.

Q+A: Get to know Debbie Travis >

Deborah Whale

Deborah Whale, Vice President, Clovermead Farms Inc., Alma, Ontario

Presentation Title: What will Your Successful Life Look Like Fifty Years from Now?

Presentation Overview: You define it. You achieve it. You enjoy it!

Deborah Whale is a trailblazer and a passionate advocate for the Ontario agricultural sector. Her contributions and commitment in the boardroom and at the podium have made immeasurable improvements in the industry, especially in the animal health sector pertaining to disease control, prevention and emergency preparedness. She was Director and often Chair of over twenty committees and boards, including the Board of Directors of Farm Credit Canada (2004-08);  as Co-Chair of the Minister`s Advisory Committee for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency  (1999-2001);   and as Vice Chair of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission (2004-15) .

Deborah has always recognized the value of research, and worked tirelessly to ensure that agriculture receives its fair share of provincial and national research budgets. She was the Chair of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario; the Chair of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatchewan; the Chair of the Investment Committee for Guelph University Alumni Research and Development Inc., Chair of the Research Committee of the Poultry Industry Council; and on the Board of the Poultry Research Centre, University of Alberta. In her role as Chair of the Poultry Industry Council (1999-2006), she lobbied successfully for an Animal Health Act for Ontario, including funding and authority for the Chief Veterinary office in the province. During her tenure as PIC chair, a poultry research team was established at the University of Guelph, collaborative projects with poultry researchers across Canada were funded, and emergency preparedness for disease outbreaks was initiated with the four feather boards.

Deborah was a founding Director of the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council and chaired the Livestock and Poultry Disease Insurance Committee to develop production insurance for the livestock industry. The OLPC also facilitated important linkages between other industry groups and agencies working on biosecurity initiatives to control and manage livestock and poultry disease. She then extended her biosecurity advocacy to the equine industry through her involvement with the Grand River Agricultural Society and the Grand River Raceway, ensuring that GRAS philanthropic funds were directed to establish an Equine Biosecurity Program through Equine Guelph.

Deborah is Vice-President of Clovermead Farms Inc., a commercial dairy, crop production and biogas business in Wellington County in partnership with her husband Bruce and son Korb. The farm is currently in its seventh generation of continuous production. Since their first Environmental Farm Plan in 1993, they have instituted numerous environmental sustainability initiatives which earned them the Dairy Farmers of Canada Dairy Farm Sustainability Award in 2014 for their extensive efforts in environmental stewardship.

As an agricultural ambassador, Deborah`s impact has been far-reaching. She has spoken to innumerable groups over many years including three Anti-Microbial Resistance conferences on the reduction and control of antibiotics in livestock and poultry; and the One World One Health Conference in Beijing China (2010) on livestock health extension services. She has hosted many farm tours to explain to politicians, foreign visitors and urbanites the immense value of livestock agriculture to Ontario , and in 2010 hosted the Canadian Association of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine planning exercise at Clovermead. She has sat on a wide variety of advisory committees such as the Animal Health Emergency Management Think Tank to prioritize key initiatives for animal disease prevention and preparedness; the Advisory Committee for ``Foresight for Canadian Animal Health ``for animal health emergency management; and the Advisory Committee on Emergency Management Research priorities for Ontario. She even gave a TedX talk on `Building a Future for Agriculture in Canada.` Deborah was also given an Honorary Professional Agrologist award in 2011  by the Ontario Institute of Agrologists for her work in finding mentors for new Canadians trained abroad as agrologists.

Deborah Whale`s leadership and vision has greatly benefitted Ontario agriculture and she is a deserving candidate for recognition by the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Q+A: Get to know Deborah Whale