I grew up on a beef and hog farm in Wallenstein, my Wellington County anchor. I also worked as a truck driver, bus driver and server before earning a Ph.D. in Plant Science at McGill University. In 2001, I founded the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada to coordinate university research and education pertaining to organic systems, across Canada. From 2011 – 16, I was the Loblaw Chair, Sustainable Food Production and Professor, University of Guelph. I retired in 2019.
Community service is central to my relationships with people and ecological systems. For example, I write op-ed articles (found here) and collaborate with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the Organic Science Cluster.
I feel like I have been training for this challenge all my life. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned how to listen and then move ahead with collaboratively developed agreements.
I am honoured to be a member of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Circle and Earth Song Alliance.
The following is a synopsis of my background and some of the important work I have done in my life.
My 17 years in the Ottawa area helped me appreciate wilderness from the sterns of canoes and hiking trails. Later, after two decades of serving as a professor in Nova Scotia, I developed an appreciation for Maritime music, long yarns and oceans. My daughter, Mariah, was born there and we are proud to maintain our connections to Nova Scotia.
My love of teaching grew unexpectedly in the 1990s and I appreciate how students teach me too.
As a truck driver, bus driver, server and farmer, I felt the lack of appreciation for essential tasks and yet did a good job anyway, of what actually needs doing. I know how to value every dollar.
My community experience includes founding the Living Earth Council, which engaged over 50 households in Truro NS to reduce electricity consumption. I also helped set up the NS Food Policy Council and served with Food Secure Canada, Science for Peace and numerous other organizations. It has been a joy to sing in choirs and participate in community events and to present 200 invited talks about sustainability at various community events across Ontario and Canada, since starting at the University of Guelph, in 2011.
As a scientist I know how to read and interpret research papers and then present this information to non-scientists in a clear, concise way.
As the Director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, I felt gratitude that all employees knew and lived our vision and mission. In our organizational culture they would tell me if they saw chances for us to improve. I also know what it is to feel the responsibility of meeting payroll, every two weeks, for good employees.
In the late 1990s when organic agriculture and food was still marginalized, I was able to use my diplomatic and sales skills to persuade AAFC to step up with the first $1million for organic research, across Canada. From a grassroots movement, I founded a federal funding foothold, the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada. Since then, OACC has steered tens of millions to education and research in organic agriculture in Canada. Both organic and non-organic farmers are the better for it and consumers are buying more Canadian organic products.
My appreciation for Indigenous ways of knowing has deepened with Miꞌkmaq teachers in Nova Scotia and Mohawk teachers in Ohsweken, Ontario. The Attawandaron and Mississaugas of the Credit sustained a living in Wellington – Halton Hills, not just for centuries, but for millennia. I am grateful for the legacies of Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Métis neighbours and recognize how addressing climate change, species loss and pollution requires partnerships with all indigenous people of this land.
Together we can restore ecological resilience, and continue the journey to reconciliation here and across Canada.