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.

Dr. Robert P. Larkin
Research Plant Pathologist
Orono, Maine

Robert Larkin is a Research Plant Pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), New England Plant, Soil, and Water Laboratory, Orono, Maine, and has been there for over 20 years. He works mainly with potato and organic vegetable production systems. His primary areas of research are in the biological and cultural control of soilborne diseases, disease-suppressive rotation crops, sustainable cropping systems, soil health, and soil microbial communities, and has authored more than 200 publications. Previously, Dr. Larkin was at the USDA-ARS, Biocontrol of Plant Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, where he worked on the biological control of wilt diseases of vegetables. Dr. Larkin also did post-doctoral research on various aspects of soilborne diseases at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, and at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. He received a B.S. degree in Environmental Sciences-Biology from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, an M.S degree in Ecology from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Dr. Larkin is originally from the Midwest, and grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. He is married and has two daughters.

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.

Dr. Neil C. Gudmestad
Professor of Plant Pathology
North Dakota

Dr. Neil C. Gudmestad is a University Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at North Dakota State University. He is a native of North Dakota and a graduate of NDSU (Ph.D., 1982). Dr. Gudmestad is a worldrecognized authority on the biology and management of potato diseases. His nearly 43 year research career has focused on pathogen biology and genetic diversity of a number of pathogens that cause foliar and soil-borne diseases of potato. His research laboratory is focused also on the development of molecular detection tools for potato pathogens and fungal mutations that convey resistance to fungicides. Most recently he has focused on invasive pathogens affecting the potato industry in the U.S. such as zebra chip and potato mop top virus. Dr. Gudmestad has received numerous recognitions throughout his research career and most recently he has received the highest honor from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the 2014 Partnership Award that recognizes mission integration of research, education, and extension. He is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society, an Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America, and he has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Potato Congress for his contributions and dedication to the global potato industry. In 2014 the United States potato industry established a $6.3 million endowment in his name and he is the first recipient of the Neil C. Gudmestad Endowed Chair of Potato Pathology at NDSU.
We are honored to have Dr. Gudmestad present at MPPD 2020 as it will be his last official act as a faculty member at NDSU!

Todd Forbush
Agriculture Engineer

Todd Forbush received his Masters degree from Michigan State University in Agricultural Engineering in 1989. While at MSU Todd studied the effects of ventilation on the process quality of chip potatoes out of storage under the watchful eyes of the late Dr. Burt Cargill and Dr. Roger Brook. Following graduation he continued to apply this work to the commercial potato storage industry at Techmark, Inc. “The most enjoyable part of my job is working with the producers, they are the backbone of this industry and I really like solving problems with them”, says Todd. His faith in God, his wife Kristen and his three children Tyler (wife Jessica, grandson Evan, granddaughter Madison), Taylor (husband Aaron) and Morgan give him stability to address the tough questions that are posed each day in the potato industry. Todd is active at the Williamston Free Methodist Church, and an avid outdoorsmen.

Tracy Shinners-Carnelley, PhD, P.Ag.
Vice President, Research & Quality
Carman, Manitoba

Tracy Shinners-Carnelley is Vice President, Research & Quality at Peak of the Market. She leads the research program at Peak which is focused on variety evaluation, improved pest management, and optimization of agronomic practices for fresh market potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. Tracy also spends time working with growers in their fields and packing houses, supporting activities in these same areas.
She has a passion for working closely with the industry on challenging crop protection, pest management and production issues, both provincially and nationally, and does so through her involvement with the Canadian Potato Council and Canadian Horticultural Council.
Prior to joining Peak of the Market, Tracy spent 10 years with Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives, first as Plant Pathologist then as Potato Pest Management Specialist. Tracy is originally from Nova Scotia where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Pest Management) from Dalhousie University. She completed a PhD from the University of Alberta (Plant Science) before settling in Carman, MB.

Eugenia Banks, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Eugenia Banks received her B.Sc. degree in Agronomy from the University of Chile, and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Pathology from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. In 1990, she started working as a Potato Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Her mandate was pest management: Colorado potato beetles, late blight, common scab, Verticillium, Fusarium and any other emerging disease or insect problems in growers’ fields.
In 1991, Eugenia developed the potato IPM program for Ontario. In 1995, she organized the first Ontario Potato Conference, which has become the most important winter event for Ontario potato growers. She edited The Potato Field Guide: Diseases, Insects and Defects, which was published by the Ontario government in 2004. It is still in print. In 2007 she organized the First International Common Scab Conference in North America, a conference that focused on the latest research to control what is the most serious disease problem in Ontario.

In 2016, Eugenia was recognized as a SpudWoman by Spudman magazine.
In 2018, Eugenia was invited to speak on Late Blight Spore Trapping at the World Potato Congress held in Cusco, Peru.
Conducting on-farm variety trials, training potato scouts, producing factsheets and organizing the Ontario Potato Field Day were also important activities in Eugenia’s agenda. Since retiring in 2016, she has continued to conduct grower-oriented research trials for the Ontario Potato Board.
2013 – Potato Woman of the Year from HZPC, Netherlands
2016 – Award of Merit from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association

Luc Bourgeois, M.Sc., Ph.D.
Stewardship Lead

Luc Bourgeois was born and raised in France and studied Agronomy in Lyon, France.  In 1990 Luc came to Winnipeg to the University of Manitoba where he completed a MSc in Agronomy in 1992 and a PhD in Weed Science in 1996.

Luc started with Bayer in the fall of 1996 based in Guelph in the field development team and led the Development team in Horticulture and Row Crops from 2001 to 2016.  He was involved in bringing to the market a number of Bayer products that are familiar to potato growers: Titan, Emesto Silver, Luna Tranquility and Velum Prime.

Since January of 2017 Luc has moved to Ottawa to lead the Bayer Stewardship and Compliance team.  One of his main tasks is to defend the registration of neonicotinoids and to advocate for stewardship rather than a ban of these crucial tools for the control of insect pests in potatoes.

Tom Wolf, Ph.D., P. Ag.
Research & Training
Saskatoon, SK

Tom Wolf (Owner, Agrimetrix Research & Training) is a spray application specialist, based in Saskatoon. He grew up on a farm and studied agriculture at the University of Manitoba and the Ohio State University. Tom conducts research to support better spray application and consults within the industry to help introduce improved products and practices. Tom is a co-founder and contributor of the world’s number one sprayer website, Sprayers101.com.