Influential Women in Agriculture Summit 2021
October 19, 2021 at
Overcoming challenges and adversity
- Simone Demers-Collins
- Crystal Mackay
- Kim Keller
No career is without its challenges, and given the unique nature of agriculture, adversity can feel even more difficult to overcome. Participants will share how they’ve worked through setbacks and the lessons they’ve learned as a result.
A former extension specialist-turned-independent consultant, Simone Demers-Collins immerses herself in everything food and drink in Edmonton, from its growth to its distribution and celebration. To some, she’s known as a leader for Alberta Food Tours, helping Edmontonians and Albertans feel more connected to the food grown in their province and encouraging growers to try new things. To others, she’s known as the face of canola, helping tell the story of the truly “made-in-Canada” grain through children’s graphic novels and educational displays at major events such as the Calgary Stampede. As a professional home economist, Simone uses her agricultural and government experience to assist growers, landowners and anyone with a question about food, nutrition and agriculture.
Ag advocate and entrepreneur Crystal Mackay wears many hats. For more than 30 years, she has helped develop and launch structures and programs to help Canada’s agriculture and food industry enhance and strengthen public trust. From her start as a summer student at the Ontario Farm Animal Council to the council’s executive director at age 34, Mackay has served as a representative both for and to the industry. Now as the founder of Loft32 and Utensil, Mackay’s work focuses on elevating people, businesses and conversations around food and farming, as well as equipping people working in the industry to be more confident as spokespeople.
Kim farms with her parents and brother in northeastern Saskatchewan. Despite growing up on the farm, she did not have any interest in farming or the ag industry. She went away from the farm to pursue her education and career in insurance, but in 2011 she realized that as much as she had fought it, farming and helping shape the industry was in her blood. So, in 2012, she co-founded SK Women In Ag with two friends. Her passion for the industry didn’t stop there. She also co-founded an agtech company called Farm At Hand. In 2015, she began raising awareness about mental health in agriculture with the launch of a t-shirt campaign. Following the acquisition of the company in 2016, she returned to the farm full time to follow her passion for both farming and helping her fellow farmers. Her work in mental health awareness in ag continues today as she co-founded the Do More Agriculture Foundation, which promotes a focus on supporting resources for farmers and breaking the stigma.
Darlene McBain is Manager of Industry Relations at FCC. She works closely with partners, associations and stakeholders to help grow the agriculture and food industry across Canada.
Darlene was raised on a poultry farm outside of Quebec City. With farming in her heart and her passion for the food industry, Darlene earned a degree in agricultural science at Laval University. After graduation, Darlene began her career in the banking industry as an account manager serving various agriculture sectors in French and English throughout Quebec before joining FCC in a leadership role in 2007.
Darlene has over 20 years of experience working in the agri-food sector. She volunteers in several community organizations, is a member of the Order of Professional Agrologists of Quebec and on the board for the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. She also sits on the governance committee of the Canadian Agri-food Sustainability Initiative and hosts the FCC Knowledge podcast.