Individual Speakers

Thomas Willms - Dean of Academic Partnership and Development NVIT

Tom Willms is an instructor in the Environmental Resources Technology program at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt, BC. He is also a member of the Nicola Research Collaborative Committee and is presently researching the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-based thermal infrared imagery to detect groundwater upwelling in streams. Tom was raised in the Nicola Valley and is passionate about water sustainability and conservation of fish habitat.  

Trish Laugharne -Food Business Development Specialist Ministry of Ag

Trish’s formal training, practical farming, financial and statistics experience all roll up into a solid background in agrifood business management. Trish completed her B.Sc. in Animal & Poultry Science at the University of Guelph and subsequently farmed in Ontario on a 200 acre dairy and sheep farm. After farming, Trish worked for Farm Credit Canada where she honed her expertise in valuation and lending. To be closer to family Trish eventually came out west in 2007 and started working in the Ministry’s Corporate Statistics and Research Unit. Since January 2017, Trish has been leading the Farm Business Advisory suite of programs for producers and small-scale food processors.

Anne Skinner - Indigenous Business Agrologist BC Ministry of Ag

Anne received a B.Sc. in Animal Science from UBC many years ago and has worked in agriculture her entire career.  Most recently as a Regional Agrologist with the Ministry in the Okanagan, previously in rangeland management, field crops, rural organizations and two years working with a livestock development project in Thailand.  Anne looks forward to supporting Indigenous agriculture and aquaculture projects in the province and working to build capacity and relationships with First Nations communities.

Kevin Boone - General Manager BC Cattlemen's Association

Kevin Boon is the General Manager for the BC Cattlemen’s Association since November 2009. Kevin is proud to be a third generation rancher with over 40 years of experience in the cattle industry. Graduating from Olds College with a diploma of agriculture, Kevin has been able to bring both practical experience and academic knowledge to the Canadian beef sector. With a passion for beef marketing, Kevin has served as a volunteer on many non-profit Boards. He served as chair of the Beef Information Centre (domestic marketing) and a Director of the Canada Beef Export Federation (international marketing). Kevin was also involved in the National Check-off Agency. Before accepting a position with the BC Cattlemen’s Association, Boon was serving as Vice-President of the Alberta Beef Producers. Kevin has assisted the Association in successfully delivering several third-party programs with the BC government. These programs serve to address critical issues facing the BC cattle industry. Drawing on his own personal ranching experience, allows Kevin to truly understand the challenges ranchers face and help establish practical solutions. 

Cristina Esposto - RTown Sales Director

After moving from Hamilton, Ont to Vancouver, Cristina made her way to Kamloops, BC where she has called home for the last 16 years. She is a wife and a mother of 2 young boys -along with puppy named Lucy.  She is a volunteer for KidSport Kamloops and sits on the board as the Marketing and Sponsorship coordinator. An ‘intrepreneur’ in her own right, Cristina became a Regional Digital Marketing Strategist for RTOWN in 2014.  In her time with RTOWN she has helped over 400 local clients get the tools they need such as social media and website SEO to strengthen their online presence. She was promoted to Director of Sales for RTOWN in 2017 and continues to grow new markets. Her new roles allow to train and coach, bridging the education gap between marketing and digital marketing. RTOWN is a BC based Digital Marketing company whose focus is helping local business succeed by giving them access to tools generally available to only large companies. Cristina’s passion for helping local businesses get stronger is tied to her love for her community, her Italian roots and her zest for living an amazing life.

Luke Holdstock - New Gold Inc.

Luke Holdstock is the Senior Environmental Coordinator at New Gold’s New Afton Mine. He has been working in the mining industry for over 10 years, has a degree in Environmental Science and is currently an articling Agrologist. At New Afton, Luke is responsible for progressive reclamation activities during the operational phase and planning for full reclamation of the mine site once into the closure phase. Luke will be speaking about the planning process for mine closure, including; reclamation research, preparation of soil medium, selection of species, sourcing of native seed, establishment and follow-up monitoring.

Heather O'Hara- Executive Director BC Farmers Market Association

Heather joined the BC Association of Farmers Markets in August of 2016. As an entrepreneur and food lover at heart, Heather believes deeply in farmers’ markets and small-scale farmers as a critical force in our regional food system. For 8 years, Heather served as executive director of Potluck Café Society, an award-winning social enterprise that creates jobs and provides healthy, fresh food for people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Heather continues to be active in social enterprise and social innovation development and has provided support to multiple social enterprises through the Vancity Community Foundation. Other recent projects include working with CityStudio as its executive producer, co-facilitating a next generation of change makers through SFU Change Lab and serving as tour coordinator and charity liaison for the Barney Bentall and Cariboo Express concert fundraising tour. Heather holds an MBA, a BA in International Relations and Native Studies and a Bachelor of Environmental Design, all from the University of Manitoba. To deepen her knowledge of farming, she completed the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School program.

  Stuart Anderson- Business Service Advisory CF North Okanagan 

Stuart Anderson is a Business Services Advisor at Community Futures North Okanagan and an Export Advisor with the Export Navigator program funded by the Province of British Columbia.  Stuart completed his undergraduate degree in Business at Simon Fraser University and was a CPA working in public practice with KPMG in Canada and internationally.  He was the CEO of an insurance managing general agency based in Bermuda that focused on executive liability insurance and reinsurance for businesses around the globe.  Stuart has also owned and operated his own businesses in the Lower Mainland and the North Okanagan.

Candice Appleby - Executive Director Small Scale Food Processor Association

Candice Appleby has been working with the Small Scale Food Processor Association (SSFPA) since 2004.  She brings a background as a small business owner / operator and has first-hand experience with the trials and tribulations of wearing the many hats required of small business owners. She enjoys working with the passionate and entrepreneurial individuals that are part of the small scale agrifood sector.  Her experience has offered her a unique vantage point to witness the evolution of the sector.   She appreciates the opportunity to share the knowledge she has gained.

Aasa Marshall - Communitications & Engagement Coordinator Co-operative First 

Aasa Marshall is the Communications and Engagement Coordinator with Co-operatives First, a business development organization focused on increasing awareness of the co-operative business model in rural and Indigenous communities across Western Canada. Our goal is to help groups build new businesses and support community development. Aasa has a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from the University of Calgary, and a Master’s of Public Policy from the University of Saskatchewan.

Jeff Lang - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Jeff is a Senior Industry Development Officer at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).  Prior to AAFC, Jeff was an Intergovernmental Relations Advisor with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada) and held business development positions leading up to and during the Olympic Games in Beijing and Vancouver.  Jeff is a former Canadian delegate of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations and holds a degree from UBC, an Associate Degree from Capilano University and diplomas from Suzhou University in Suzhou, China and the Diplomatic Institute of Studies in Cairo, Egypt.


Based in AAFC’s regional office in Burnaby, Jeff and his regional colleagues are the face of the department and work to support the sector by promoting AAFC programs and services and helping make them accessible.  AAFC is committed to fostering a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples and to advancing reconciliation through support for Indigenous agriculture.

Mehdi Sharifi-Summerland Research and Development Centre

Dr. Mehdi Sharifi is a research scientist at Summerland Research and Development Centre since 2016.

Most recently, for 5 years Dr. Sharifi was Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Agriculture and an Assistant Professor at Trent University’s School of Environment. From 2010 to 2012, he served as the Nutrient Management Research Chair and Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sciences Department of the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College).  Prior to that he did a two-year  postdoctoral fellowship at the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada in Truro, NS, (2008-2010) and a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at AAFC’s Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, NB, (2005-2008). Dr. Sharifi’s research is focused on sustainable nutrient management for perennial horticultural crops including grapes, apples and cherries. His interests extend to the use and management of cover crops, and of soil amendments in horticultural crops. He also has interest in “Indigenous Agriculture” and in 2017 organized a two-day transformative workshop on “Indigenous cultivation and food” in Vancouver, BC. 

George Casimir- General Manager CFDC of Central Interior First Nations

George Casimir is a member of the Tekumlups te Secwepemc First Nation and his educational background consists of certifications in project management, horticulture and business development. George has been an entrepreneur owning and operating small businesses for the past 25 years and continues to support individuals in this area. George also served his community on Council for four terms primarily handling the economic development portfolio with many achievements in business development, corporate development and joint ventures along with being a strong advocate for his community in establishing new partnerships.

George is an avid hobby farmer.  His love for agriculture is apparent by the care and time he gives to his 8-acre farms of vegetables, orchard of fruit trees, honeybees, laying hens, pigs, sheet and goats. Georges interests have and will always include farming and agriculture.

Mojave Kaplan - The Seedy Project

Coreen Burrisford- Investment Agriculture Foundation 

Russ Chambers - Jora Composting 

Russ is a retired teacher who has been interested in agriculture all his life. The first 13 years of was living in Ladysmith on 5 acres with a few cows, an orchard and large vegetable garden. Russ’ first money earned as a kid was selling cherries on the highway.  His family moved to 28 acres of land in Victoria, with more cows and vegetables, before school every morning began with milking the cows by hand, he could not get away quickly enough.

His teaching career started in Fort St. John were 2 of them dud sine market gardening Taylor and the banks of Peace River. From this area, which will be under water if site c is built, Russ moved on to 5 acres in Rayleigh where he has raised beef, meat chickens and grew lots of cucumbers. “There is nothing more rewarding than planning a single seed, feeding and watering the plant to reap the fruits of one’s labour”.  For the last six years Russ has been involved with Jora Composters.  Nature continues to amaze Russ and he believes strongly, we must do all we can to nurture the soil.

“Be loyal to the soil, Compost”

Robert Atwood- Hummingbird drones

Hummingbird Drones was founded in 2014 by then students and initial attack wildland firefighters Robert Atwood and Richard Sullivan, who saw the untapped potential of drones to affect the way wildfire suppression efforts were conducted. Based out of the Kamloops Innovation Centre, Hummingbird grew to be a pioneer of the unmanned aerial vehicle technology in the wildfire space and has successfully engaged drones on the fire landscape since 2015. Since those initial days, the company has continued to explore the power of new technologies to solve life-threatening problems in the wildfire space and has evolved to offer equivalent applications for its technology and services in related industries, such as search and rescue, forestry, mining and civil engineering. Hummingbird services also include training and collaborating on a variety of projects.

Paula Cranmer-Underhill - Spapium "Little Prairie" Farms

Paula Cranmer-Underhill is ‘Namgis and Nłeʔkepmx, from Alert Bay and Spapium at Lytton. She has 20+ years of experience in Aboriginal economic development and has shared her knowledge with numerous Indigenous, Tourism, and Economic Development organizations throughout her career. She values continuous learning to improve her effectiveness and sharing what she knows with others. She is an Authentic Indigenous Artisan Practicing Cedar Bark Weaving tradition in Regalia and in wearable bracelets and Cedar hats and baskets learning over the past 25 years from many knowledge keepers. She was the Coordinator for Nlaka’pamux Traditional Wellness for 6 communities since December 2015.  She also managed the Rosie Skuki Weaving Centre. She operates Spapium ‘Little Prairie’ Farm, taking care of 3 one-acre gardens on the lands of her ancestors.  2018 marks her fourth season of growing.  Paula is the VP of the Lytton Two Rivers Farmers Market, and a member of the Lytton First Nation Agriculture Club.  She also assists on the Gold Trails Management Committee and is a founding Director and current President of the 2 Rivers Remix Society, an annual youth focused contemporary Indigenous music festival.  She is the President of the Sto:lo Business Association and is also a member of the First Nations Food Systems Advisory Committee

Darcy Smith-BC Land Program Manager Young Agrarians

Darcy Smith was raised with her hands in the dirt sowing seeds and harvesting backyard veggies. With a background in communications, this farm enthusiast found her path when she started writing about and working with farmers. Darcy is as passionate about plants as she is about words, and a brief stint as an urban farmer drove her to focus on projects that empower new farmers with much-needed resources. She feels very fortunate to have spent the last two years as a farm matchmaker connecting farmers and landowners, growing the YA Land Matching Pilot in the Metro Vancouver region. Darcy is thrilled to see the Land Matching Program grow to other regions, and can’t wait to see many more landowners and farmers connected across B.C.. In addition to her role with Young Agrarians, Darcy edits the BC Organic Grower, a quarterly magazine dedicated to showcasing organic farmers across B.C.

Tessa Wetherill-Okanagan Land Matcher Young Agrarians

Tessa Wetherill has been farming full-time and with all her heart for 11 years, first in an urban context in Vancouver and for the last 5 years in the North Okanagan. This season she is growing pure joy in the form of cut flowers on unceded Syilx territory in Vernon, B.C. She loves all the things that grow; plants, people, and communities and what really lights her up are relationships and collaborations  that form strong, diverse human ecosystems. She is so excited to step into the new role of Land Matcher Okanagan Thompson with the Young Agrarians and support the growth of this vital network.

Paul Michel - Executive Director TRU Aboriginal Affairs

Paul belongs to the Secwepemc Nation and he is traditionally from Hust’alen (Adams Lake First Nations). Paul is honored to be working as Aboriginal Executive Director at Thompson Rivers University and he recognizes that this wonderful university is situated in the traditional territory of Tk’emlups. Paul has broad-based Aboriginal experience in the areas of administration, student support services, university instruction, Aboriginal research and governance. Paul is responsible for the successful campus-wide implementation of Aboriginal education and he will correspond with students, elders, staff, faculty, administrators, researchers and community partners to enhance the quality of Aboriginal Education at TRU. Paul respects, honors and empowers the Thompson Rivers University vision to make this the university of choice for Aboriginal learners.

Caroline Chiu – Extension Services and Outreach Program Manager Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, KPU

Caroline graduated with a Masters of Food and Resource Economics at UBC. She worked in the Statistics Unit with the BC Ministry of Agriculture as a Research Associate before starting her position at KPU. She was involved in the Southwest BC Bioregional Project where her work included data research, survey facilitation, report writing and economic analysis. With her growing expertise in farm school development and farm business management, she was involved in developing the business plan for the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Teaching and Working Farm Program. While working at KPU, she enrolled in the Richmond Farm School program to increase her knowledge in agriculture production and upon completing the program, she took part in the Incubator Program and became and an owner-operator of a small-scale mixed vegetable farm for two years. She currently manages the two farm school programs, Richmond and Tsawwassen, which includes financial management, resource allocation, curriculum development, program promotion, and community engagement with Tsawwassen First Nation. With ISFS’ vision of offering agriculture extension services, Caroline is working closely with the Director of ISFS, Kent Mullinix, on developing this unit of the Institute. She is passionate about advancing the local food system through supporting agriculture education and supporting aspiring farmers. She finds the biggest fulfilment of her job is seeing the students gain a whole new perspective on the food system and gain confidence to become farmers.

Vince - Prince Nak'azdli Whuten Greenhouse Project

Vincent is a member of the Nak’azdli Whut’en, son of the late Nick and Irene Prince. Vincent is currently living and working in Prince George and Nak’azdli. The bulk of Vincent’s employment history is in the area of Community and Economic Development, Tourism and Residential Construction. Vincent’s volunteer experience includes the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, UNBC, CNC, Nezul Be, and several other community organizations. Vince is a current member of the CNC Board of Governors, an External Advisor with the UNBC Community Development Institute and a Director with the Aboriginal Business Development Centre.

Vince has been working with Nak’azdli Whut’en for the past year in the development of year round growing systems in the community.

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