Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture

5 questions with PIC executive director Ashley Honsberger

Council's new leader shares her future plans and thoughts on the industry.


February 27, 2020
By Monica Dick
Women in AG

In December, Ashley Honsberger became the new executive director of the Poultry Industry Council (PIC). Before starting that role, she worked extensively in the agriculture sector with experience in delivering training and learning events for Ontario farm and agri-food processing businesses. We asked her five questions.

Tell us about your career.
My first position in agriculture was at an agri-tourism farm that now resides underneath the 407 highway. Since then I’ve worked in other agri-tourism venues, greenhouses, as a relief milker and, after university, for a crop inputs company. It wasn’t long before I landed in the non-profit sector working at the Agri-food Management Institute, where I was for the previous seven years.

How did you get into the ag industry?
My career in agriculture took off because I met a few open-minded people who didn’t have an expectation that to be able to work in agri-food I had to have grown up on a farm. I also had a genuine interest in the sector and to learn and broaden my knowledge. I spent a lot of time in my previous roles learning about the complexity of managing a modern-day agricultural operation.

What are your goals in your new position?
PIC plays a vital role in connecting poultry producers to ongoing information and training that helps the sector keep skills and knowledge up-to-date, so it’s my role to facilitate the connection between the needs of members and the programming, projects and resources we deliver. My goal is to ensure we are keeping our fingers on the industry’s pulse and really mobilize resources effectively.

What are your views on collaboration?
I took time off from my previous role to pursue master’s studies in capacity development and extension at the University of Guelph. The biggest takeaways for me are that collaboration is best, and that facilitating sustainable change requires dialogue and understanding. At the end of the day, everyone working in agri-food is rooting for the same thing: A sustainable sector that produces safe, high-quality agri-food products. The agricultural field is too complex and interconnected to go it alone on any one issue, so the more aligned we are as organizations, the more resilient the sector will be.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for the poultry industry right now?
We are seeing a lot of tensions between perceived consumer demands and production practices that put downward pressure towards the farm. The distance along the value chain has also decreased, meaning change management throughout this system has to increasingly be more organized and collaborative. By supporting organizations like PIC that work in the capacity-building space, the sector will continue to have access to ongoing information in a timely manner.