Opening Keynote: The Human Side - Part 1 - Friday Night

SPEAKER: Chris Cummins

Kick off Convention 2024 with a burst of inspiration! Chris has been digging deep, conducting heartfelt interviews with our AG society peers. He's ready to share these insights in today’s Opening Keynote, tackling our burning questions: How do we attract and keep younger members? What future are we building for our AG society? What do we each seek from our AG community? Remember, behind every interaction is a real person. Chris's talk is all about connecting authentically, blending real-world strategies, inspiration, and a dash of wit to reignite your passion for whats possible in our AG Society.

Let's face it, we've all been caught in the "busy" trap, mistaking motion for progress. Chris will challenge this notion, introducing practical productivity tools and communication enhancers. As we gear up for the next three days, let's redefine our collective goals and transform "busy" into genuinely impactful.

Closing Keynote: The Human Side - Part 2 - Saturday Night

SPEAKER: Chris Cummins

As we draw the curtains on AAAS 2024, Chris Cummins takes the stage once more.

Infused with fresh insights from this year's convention, Chris will unveil actionable strategies to offer value and forge deeper, more fruitful relationships — for you and your AG Society.

Embrace the power of your written goals, backed by neuroscience. Chris will guide us in reflecting on our individual and collective journeys, setting tangible 30, 60, and 90-day milestones. Leave reinvigorated, with clear goals and a renewed zest for your role in the AG Society.


Deep Track Community Conversation

SPEAKER: Penny McBride

Let's take a deep-dive look at meaningful community engagement through the lens of actual association member case studies and survey responses. In advance of the workshop Penny will send a short survey to the conferencee attendees to understand common areas of need in improving community engagement . She will also conduct phone interviews with 3 - 5 agricultural society members to create real-time case study exercises.

Grant Program - Stripped Down

SPEAKERS: Carmen Andrew, Monika Warring, Colin Goselin

Alberta Agricultural Societies Program (Agriculture and Irrigation)

This session will provide an overview of the Alberta Agricultural Societies Program; provide key updates; and feature mini-breakout sessions where you can discuss questions or issues one-on-one with program area staff (e.g. annual returns, grant applications, bylaws etc.).

Judging School

SPEAKERS: Joanne Holt, Evelyn Near

Do you have a Bench Show at your fair? Do you want to put on a bench show? Would you like to learn how to judge a Bench Show? This session will go over some of the basics of judging a bench show. Evelyne and Joanne are joining us from the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies and they do this session for the Fairs in Ontario. For people coming to the judging session they would like participants to bring one item of canning & 1 baking item (could be bread, pie, muffins, cookies, or non-traditional Canadian baked goods). The morning will start by going through the baking items and doing some hands on judging as well as a teaching session. The afternoon will go through canning and the different methods. The judges will have several samples to explain things they may encounter while judging. After the session the judges will provide written notes for all participants.

Meaningful Planning for Effective Governance

SPEAKER: Shari Hanson

A session for board members, this workshop will explore the importance of practical planning as a critical element of ‘being an organization’ and how this garners higher performance and engagement. Together we will frame WHAT strategic planning is, how it relates to Governance and participants will work together to inform and understand HOW it could be done more effectively within the context of agricultural societies. Shari will share her experience with engaging Multi-Groups through the process of strategic planning ONLINE, as one way to effectively and efficiently work through the task. This interactive session will tap into participants’ lived experiences, will provide resources and opportunity to network with colleagues for learning with and supporting one another. Come learn and share!

Engage and Inspire: Effective Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers

SPEAKER:  Ian Hill

This 1.5-hour workshop is designed for Ag Society leaders, volunteer coordinators, and team members who seek to enhance their skills in recruiting and retaining volunteers. The session provides a comprehensive approach to building a strong volunteer base, essential for the success of any nonprofit organization. Participants will explore innovative recruitment strategies, learn how to create an engaging volunteer environment, and discover the keys to maintaining long-term volunteer commitment. The workshop combines interactive discussions, real-life examples, and insights to equip attendees with practical tools and knowledge.

Learning Outcomes:
1. **Innovative Recruitment Techniques**: Understand how to effectively identify and reach potential volunteers using both traditional and digital methods.
2. **Creating a Welcoming Environment**: Learn strategies for creating an engaging and supportive environment that attracts and retains volunteers.
3. **Understanding Volunteer Motivations**: Gain insights into the diverse motivations of volunteers and how to align these with organizational needs.
4. **Effective Communication and Feedback**: Develop skills in clear communication and providing constructive feedback to enhance volunteer satisfaction and performance.
5. **Building Long-Term Volunteer Relationships**: Learn techniques for nurturing long-term commitments from volunteers, including recognition programs, career development opportunities, and community building.


Accessing Lending - What you need to know


SPEAKERS:  Adrian MacDonald, Michelle Simoneau and Joy Cavin

This will be a panel discussion with Adrian MacDonald and Michelle Simoneau of AFSC. Come prepared to ask questions. Some of the questions they may go over are:

    1. Different Financing Options available for existing businesses & startups
    2.  What are some of the most important things to consider when approaching lenders for financing?
    3. What advice can you give with respect to contributing to a successful loan application process?
    4. When is the right time to approach lenders
    5. What advice can you share on how to best build and sustain a relationship with your lending partners?
    6. What elements of a business plan are key areas of focus from a lenders perspective?
    7. In your business experience what are some examples that led to strained lending relationships or business failures?
    8. What are some success stories you can share with the audience? 9. Is there collaboration amongst lenders?

Agriculture Lending with Servus Credit Union

Servus Credit Union

SPEAKERS:  Heather Karst, Adam Wolfe, Dennis Trozok

Session Description - This presentation will discuss farm succession planning key elements and how financing can play an integral role in those plans.

Buddy Up for Suicide Prevention


SPEAKERS:  Seth McVeity

In Canada, men have a suicide rate three times higher than women. Why? We have socialized men to be strong, stoic and self-reliant; showing emotion is a sign of weakness, as is asking for help. Men are dying in alarming numbers, all around us, alone. How can we change this reality? Everyone has a role in preventing suicide. Buddy Up is a campaign promoting authentic conversations and teaching how to support a buddy if they're struggling with thoughts about suicide. Join us for this session with the Centre for Suicide Prevention as we learn how to look out for your buddy and raise awareness for men’s suicide prevention.

Deployment of rural broadband Internet and the potential to realize economic stimulation for Agricultural Societies and Communities.


SPEAKER:  Dom d'Argent

* Description Coming Soon

Future-Proofing Your Events: The Simple Shift to Online Ticketing


SPEAKER: Jason Roy

Session Description - In this interactive session, we will discuss the easy steps to sell tickets online and the benefits it brings. Plus we will introduce simple tap-to-pay options for tickets at your events gates. Bring your questions and lets make sure you are ready for the next big step!

Keeping the "Family" in your Family Business

Grant Thornton

SPEAKERS:  Melanie Harty & Brett Pereira

Session Description - Coming Soon

Managing Insurance Costs in an Inflationary Economy – Learn what you can do to retake control of your insurance budget


SPEAKER: Perry Cramer

Session Description - Coming Soon

Solar Opportunities for Agri-Business and Ag-Societies

Great Canadian Solar

SPEAKER: Andrew Lundell

Session Description - How solar integrates with your facilities?
What available rebates, grant funding, and financing tools are available to you?
What the economic model could be for your project?

Why is Insurance So Confusing? Strategies for understanding insurance & how to get it working for you

All Insurance Ltd.


Session Description - Insurance policies always seem to be overwhelming when people try to understand them.
They are even more confusing when claims occur.
- What details are important to understanding insurance policies?
- What is co-insurance and why does it matter?
- How to not be over insured or underinsured – what are proper limits of insurance?
- How to choose a broker you can rely on?


60 Tips in 60 Minutes

SPEAKERS: Marla Calico

This is a fast-paced workshop with quick tips in every area of fair operations which can be implemented at any size fair. Operation areas covered include Carnival, Food & Concessions, Agriculture, Competitive Events, Sponsorship, Promotions, Marketing and General Operations.

Agricultural Societies: What’s your Role in our Local Food System?

SPEAKER: Terra Pombert

In this workshop, attendees will learn about a community engaged research project on agricultural societies. Participants will learn about the potential and realized outcomes of this research and how the findings could help your agricultural society strengthen its connection to agriculture. Terra will share details of the research such as data collection, findings, challenges and opportunities. Terra will share how she had to be creative to obtain funding through MITACS enabled by a partnership with the University of Alberta,  AAAS, the Beaumont & District Agricultural Society and the City of Beaumont. She will highlight the benefits of partnering with students and educational institutions to conduct community engaged research in their community. As well as how her research contributed to the development of local policy and the potential future outcomes of partnering with the City of Beaumont to support policy goals. Terra will share her knowledge about local food initiatives and trends in Alberta, Canada and globally that are supporting local food production and new farmers. Including strategies that social economy organizations like agricultural societies are using to support economic development in rural areas and address the challenges small and medium scale farmers face in a global a food system. You will learn how this research has facilitated access to a grant which supported the development of the Food Forest Enhancement and Education Project (Completion date June 2024) designed to bring value to society members and educational opportunities to the Beaumont region.

This workshop will include interactive opportunities to share what attendees are doing in their community and how they see themselves within the provincial vision of agricultural societies.

Attendees of this workshop will:

Learn strategies other societies are using to support local food producers
Learn examples of successful Canadian Food Hubs
Gain ideas on how to leverage students to engage with and learn community needs
Share ideas on how you could grow your connection to your local food system on a budget
Consider how to align initiatives to local policy and social trends to obtain funding
Attendees will identify ways they can contribute to the provincial vision and momentum of small and medium scale food production
Take-away of grants and partnerships opportunities

Board Members: Do You Know Your Responsibilities

SPEAKER: Melanie Harty

Being a board member goes far beyond its job description of attending meetings, understanding policies and financials, and participating in budgets, financial reporting and statements. Did you know: board members are legally responsible for upholding the organization’s mandate and can be held personally liable for not fulfilling responsibilities? Learn how to master your board member role and reduce personal liability with sound financial management.

Bringing it back home: Farm succession planning and rural community development

SPEAKER: Elliot Bridgewater

This session, entitled Bringing it Back Home: Farm succession planning and rural economic development will discuss the basics of farm succession planning from a business and estate perspective as well as community investment as a potentially overlooked financial tool for succession planning. The session will discuss the current opportunities and challenges of community investing and introduce a new initiative, Community Investment Solutions, that is working to make community investing an easy and practical investment choice for farmers and rural residents across Alberta.

Creating Positive Behavior Change

SPEAKER: Chris Cummins

Say goodbye to the outdated "feedback sandwich" and hello to a new era of transformative conversations. Today's feedback demands awareness, not just of the message, but of the many factors influencing how it's received. Master the art of delivering feedback that doesn't just get heard, but sparks real change. Chris will guide you in creating the right environment for this powerful model to thrive, empowering you to inspire growth in your family, team, community and AG Society.

Control Freaks Anonymous

SPEAKER: Penny McBride name is Festival Planner and I'm a control freak. To be a success in the event world, one has to be a detail-oriented professional who makes sure hundreds of other people get everything done in time to open the gates. But the Control Freak style of management can quickly lead to burn out, lack of engagement, trust issues and stagnant growth. This 8-Step Program can help curb those tendencies to create dynamic teams inspired by a visionary leader, versus managed by a box-checker. Learn to delegate authority over tasks, build peer accountability, provide meaningful feedback, reward big-picture thinking and create the next generation of leaders that will sustain your event.

Community Resilience- How the Hell Can a  Co-Op Help?

SPEAKER: Dan Ohler

Is there a need in your community for one or more of the following: restaurant, hotel, car wash, housing, day care, after school care, bakery, hardware store, gas station, taxi, convenience store, grocery store, abattoir, clothing store, or health care facility?
If so, isn’t it time you learned about how a Co-op can support you, as a community, to fill those needs. A Co-op operates in your community, for your community, and by your community.
We all know “the calvary ain’t comin’ to save you” so join the dialogue to explore the Co-op model, where it fits, and how you can start one – in your community.

Emergency Planning

SPEAKERS: Brad Andres

Recent events in Alberta, throughout Canada and internationally have heightened the need to provide event planners with the tools and processes to guide them in recognizing, mitigating, and responding to incidents during their events. The session will focus on how to develop an emergency plan for events hosted by your Agriculture Society. We will use a planning guide developed by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to cover the main points needed in your plan. Some of these key points are:

Identifying the need for a joint community/event planning group
Assessing risks prior to the event and building pieces into the plan which will limit or mitigate these risks
Establishing the linkages between the event and community emergency managers

This guide and the best practices information was gathered from the two major municipalities of Calgary and Edmonton, alongside federal and provincial government departments. The intent was to build a guide that can be used by any community, event planner or venue operator to develop an event Emergency Response Plan that will ensure the safety of the public has been addressed and planned for.

Fear of Growth, Fear of Change and What to Do About it

SPEAKER: Chris Cummins

Every achiever, no matter how successful, knows fear. But the secret lies in transforming this fear into a signpost for growth. In his presentation, Chris Cummins spotlights our shared fears and silences those inner critics that whisper doubts and stifle momentum.

Together, we'll confront these shadows, crafting action plans that bring transformative change to our organizations and lives. It's more than goal-setting; it's about taking those crucial first steps toward a future defined by courage and clarity.

Fortifying the Rural Mind


A Resilience Workshop for Men" is a dynamic, 1.5-hour workshop specifically designed to address the mental health needs of men in rural and farming communities. This engaging session acknowledges the unique challenges these men face, often obscured by a culture of stoicism and self-reliance. The workshop's primary goal is to equip participants with practical and effective strategies for self-care, tailored to their specific lifestyle.

Throughout the workshop, participants will be immersed in interactive discussions, learn from real-life leassons, and benefit from experienced guidance. This comprehensive approach aims to provide deep insights into stress management, emotional resilience enhancement, and the development of a supportive community ethos. This isn't just an educational seminar; it's a transformative experience aimed at strengthening the mental well-being of men in rural areas, fostering a culture where resilience and support thrive.

Learning Outcomes:
1. **Understanding Unique Stressors**: Participants will learn about the specific mental health challenges and stressors faced in rural and farming communities, including isolation, economic pressures, and limited access to healthcare resources.
2. **Practical Self-Care Techniques**: Gain practical skills in self-care techniques specifically suited for rural lifestyles, including mindfulness, stress management, and healthy physical routines.
3. **Building Emotional Resilience**: Learn strategies to cultivate emotional resilience, helping to cope with the uncertainties and pressures of rural life.
4. **Fostering Community Support**: Understand the importance of community support systems and learn how to build and maintain these networks for mutual mental health support.
5. **Resources and Help-Seeking**: Equip participants with knowledge about available mental health resources and encourage proactive help-seeking behaviors.

Future Proof Your Fair/Ag Society Leadership

SPEAKER: Marla Calico

Planning now for inevitable transitions of leadership, whether board or staff, along with understanding best practices in successful programs of managing volunteers will help better position your fair/organization for the next generation.

Getting More out of Google

SPEAKER: Shawn Gramiak

Sure, you Google stuff all the time, but Google is much more than just search. Join us for a fast-paced hour-long talk about how much more Google has to offer. From Contacts to Calendars, and from Gmail to Docs, Sheets and Slides, this class will give the participant a little taste of everything and show them how all the apps can work together to help them get the job done! We’ll even compare Google to Microsoft 365 and the iCloud, so you’ll have a few more tools in your toolbox!

Getting Your Board Onboard the Cloud!

SPEAKER: Shawn Gramiak

“The Cloud” is scary to some, but nowadays, it is where business gets done. This hour-long session will discuss how you can use Cloud-based services like the Google apps and Microsoft 365 in your work as a Board Member. Participants will be taken through a series of examples where they can see how using these services can help save your organization time, paper and hopefully money. From sharing agendas and meeting minutes, to creating feedback surveys and other collaborative projects, this session is for those who are still a bit hesitant when it comes to technology. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it fun, simple and straightforward!

Is Your Board, Bored ?

SPEAKER: Penny McBride

Dynamic governance and organizational alignment don’t just happen. It takes skills-based recruitment, thoughtful evaluation and continuous leadership development. This session is intended to help organizations get the very most from their board and committees by leveraging collective human capital around shared goals. We’ll take an unvarnished look at the tell-tale signs of board dysfunction and proven strategies for improvement.

Empowering Rural Women


A Journey to Mental Well-Being" is an immersive workshop tailored for the unique mental health needs of women in farming and rural areas. This program highlights the often-unseen struggles these women face, such as managing overwhelming mental loads and the distinctive stresses of agricultural life. It seeks to illuminate and tackle the deeper psychological challenges more prevalent among rural women than their male counterparts.

Participants will be equipped with practical self-care techniques, effective stress management strategies, and resilience-building tools. Each element of the workshop is carefully crafted to resonate with the realities of rural life, offering a transformative experience. This isn't just a learning session; it's a pathway to empowerment, designed to uplift and fortify the extraordinary women in our rural communities.
Learning Outcomes:
1. **Recognize the Unique Stressors**: Identify and acknowledge the unique stressors of rural life.
2. **Practical Self-Care Strategies**: Learn practical and achievable self-care routines
3. **Building Emotional Resilience**: Strategies for developing emotional resilience to cope with the stresses of rural life, including how to navigate feelings of isolation or financial strain.
4. **Strengthening Social Networks**: Emphasizing the importance of social support and community connections for mental health and well-being.
5. **Promoting Open Communication**: Reducing stigma, and fostering an environment where seeking help is normalized.

Exploring Agrotourism in your area: An Open Farm Days Case Study

SPEAKERS: Tannis Baker & Nicola Doherty 

Join us as we explore growing your region, exploring partnerships, and building a stronger community. This session will focus on the goals and opportunities within Open Farm Days, and what you can do as an Ag Society to support your region. Marketing and media insights will be included to help you realize what you and your region can start to do on a grass roots basis. We will also be sharing other local Ag Society initiatives to get you thinking about ways to get involved in the program.

Grant Writing


This workshop will discuss emerging trends in funding, expanding the funding universe, how to imagine a funding ecosystem, and, of course, hints on building the strong application possible. Klay will bring several case studies to discuss as well as focus on dealing with as many of your questions as possible during and after the workshop.

Put Your Best Flowers Forward- Alberta Horticultural Association Resources for Ag Society Bench Shows

SPEAKERS: Karen Berglund

Calling all bench show volunteers! Whether you’ve been convening your Ag Society’s show for years or you've just stepped up to help, join us to learn how the Alberta Horticultural Association (AHA) can help your bench show flourish. With the renewed interest in growing our own food and gardening, bench shows are regaining popularity as an excellent way to highlight what can be grown in your community and to attract new volunteers. The AHA is an organization of horticulture and agriculture societies and individuals. One of our mandates is to foster bench shows by sponsoring accredited horticulture judges, promoting local shows, setting exhibiting standards, and connecting with horticulture bench show coordinators. Learn about several practical resources, have your questions answered, share your successes, meet other people excited about bench shows, and go home with new ideas and renewed enthusiasm. Our AHA judges travel the province and are endlessly impressed with the work you do!

Tips and Tricks to Getting your Grant Application done right the first time

SPEAKERS: Monika Warring

A session on how to make the most of your grant application and getting everything right the first time. In this session Monika will go over Tips and Tricks to help you get your Annual Grant Application done right the first time to hopefully eliminate rework on your part. Please come prepared to ask questions. This session will be done in 2 parts to give her lots of time to answer your questions.



We all know that continually working on our strategic thinking skills are important not only in the work force but also for your agricultural society; this thinking is fundamental to your society reaching its objectives. As a leader, investing time in this area should be some of the most fun and rewarding things you do. Always in demand are people like you who are inquisitive, open to new ideas, aware of what’s going on around them, comfortable with challenges and, even more, creating action orientated solutions. Strategic thinking and planning are the cultural foundations for the legacy that you want to leave for others to carry on.

Whether you are new to the conference or have joined in these discussions with Max over the past few years, this 2-part session will be rewarding, fun and a meaningful use of your time. You are welcome to join in both sessions or only one if time does not allow. Max will also be making his lunch hour available if you wish to discuss topics in greater detail or have specific situations that you want to explore. Strategic topics of interest can be highlighted by emailing them to or by placing a note on the “crowd sourcing board” by the coat check starting on Thursday.