2020 Speakers

The best, the brightest, the bold.

Past Speakers & Presentations available Here

KeyNote Speaker

Gerry Friesen
The Recovering Farmer,
Rural Manitoba

Gerry grew up on a farm and in 1983 took over the family farm. He operated the farm until 2007 when other interests demanded more and more of his time. From 1990 to 2005 Gerry was heavily involved in agricultural “politics” serving on the boards of Manitoba Pork Est., Manitoba Pork Marketing, Canadian Pork Council, and Keystone Agricultural Producers.
Gerry’s passion is in helping others find solutions for the various issues that life throws at us whether that is conflict or stress. Aside from his private practice Gerry provides mediation services for Farm Debt Mediation Services and the Automobile Injury Mediation office and is a conflict management specialist with Backswath Management Inc. He enjoys presenting and facilitating workshops on a variety of topics under the umbrella of conflict and stress management.
Gerry is a recipient of the Manitoba Pork Friend of the Industry award for “providing emotional support and expertise to help farmers cope with financial and emotional stress in their darkest days”. A combination of his own life experiences, training in conflict resolution and intensive counseling training provide him the tools to help others who are struggling. To learn more about Gerry visit his web site at www.gerryfriesen.ca.

Luncheon Speaker

Darby Allen
Regional Fire Chief,
Fort McMurray, Alberta

In times of crisis, how can we do our jobs, stay strong, and lead with compassion?

During the catastrophic Alberta wildfires, fire chief DARBY ALLEN shot to global acclaim for guiding the 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray to safety with no loss of life—the largest evacuation in Canadian history. Now, he offers guidance on how to be a stoic, quick-thinking leader in tough situations. We all face emergencies and crises—Allen shows us how to overcome them.

Known as the face of the Alberta wildfires—and widely celebrated as a national hero—Darby Allen is an exemplar of selfless courage and level-headedness under pressure. Currently teaching a program in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, Allen was Regional Fire Chief of Wood Buffalo, an area that encompasses the community of Fort McMurray. In spring 2016, he spearheaded the evacuation of the city’s entire population while the rest of the world watched. Throughout the ensuing weeks of operations, he worked tirelessly with first responders and volunteers, who came from across the nation (and globe) to assist. His updates to the media were not only a means of reliable information, but a source of optimism—Allen provided calm reassurance as the lead spokesperson throughout the rescue efforts.

Prior to his role as Regional Fire Chief, Allen worked as a firefighter for the New Hampshire Brigade and the Calgary Fire Department. In Calgary, he moved up in the ranks to Training Officer and Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations, before transferring to Fort McMurray Fire Service. He served as Assistant Deputy Chief, Deputy Chief Operations, and finally, Regional Fire Chief during his tenure.

Spuds & Suds Entertainment

Mike Sacharko
& the Mike Sacharko Band,
Brandon, Manitoba

Brandon Manitoba’s own Mike Sacharko has been bringing the party to Western Canadian audiences for over 20 years. No stranger to the show, Mike has shared the stage with many prestigious recording artists such as Little Texas, Aaron Pritchette, Charlie Major, and Chad Brownlee to name a few. Mike is known for his stellar vocal ability, entertaining crowd interaction, and rockin’ lead guitar.

The Mike Sacharko Band keeps the dance floor bouncing all night long with current and classic, rock and country dance floor hits from Keith Urban, Brothers Osbourne, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash and many more. MSB is chock full of talented Manitoba players and is ready to bring the party to you!

Technical Speakers

Ryan Barrett
Research & Agronomy Specialist
Prince Edward Island

Ryan Barrett is the Research and Agronomy Specialist with the Prince Edward Island Potato Board.  His role includes working with researchers from across the country to facilitate research that aligns with the priorities of PEI potato growers as well as communicating research results back to growers in multiple different ways.  He is the Project Lead for the Agronomy Initiative for Marketable yield (AIM), a partnership between processing growers, Cavendish Farms, the Province of PEI and AAFC to improve marketable yields while ensuring economic and environmental sustainability.  He is also the lead for three activities as part of the AAFC Living Lab in Prince Edward Island for the next four years.

Ryan received a B.Sc. (Agr) from the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture and an M.Sc. from the University of Guelph.  He is a Professional Agrologist and a Certified Crop Advisor for the Atlantic region.  His family owns and operates a dairy and beef farm in western PEI and Ryan remains involved in the purebred dairy industry in his spare time.