Keri caught a taste of organic’s potential during her six years in the United Kingdom, working in rural diversification. She returned to Alberta in 2003, just in time to replace the provincial organic specialist, who was retiring. Since then, she has been the go-to (and get-it-done) person within the Alberta government for anything related to organic agriculture. “I’m not an agronomy guru; I connect people,” she says. “That’s a part of the job I love. And being here as long as I have, it’s also something I’m good at.”
Early in her time as organic specialist, Keri played a key role in rebuilding the provincial organic association. Now called Organic Alberta, the association has become a strong partner in her work of building capacity in the organic sector. With Organic Alberta (and many others), Keri supported the 2009 shift from voluntary to mandatory organic certification standards at the federal level. Ten years (and a lot of work) later, she facilitated the same shift for organic goods produced and sold within the province. The resulting provincial act and regulation take effect in April 2019.
Keri has worked closely with industry players who sought help in building organic supply to meet exploding demand – with Clif Bar for oats; with Saputo (sold as Dairyland in Alberta) for dairy. The techniques used in those sectors to build farmer capacity and connect the various players in the supply chain have proven useful in the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative, Keri notes. “A lot of the approaches used in POGI were similar to things we experimented and played with in oats and dairy.”
What Makes Keri a Champion?
Keri is a quiet force in organics, a tireless behind-the-scenes advocate. She has rallied support for POGI at the provincial level and has contributed insights and ideas to the advisory teams and program staff. Keri is a big picture thinker – a visionary. We are fortunate that she has shared her talent with POGI.
“POGI has been amazing. It brought the best and brightest in the organic world together and put all that information down so we actually know who they are and what they’re doing and what’s out there. Some resources were already there, but no one knew. For the organic sector to have that as a base to launch from is really, really valuable. You can see that in the number of organic producers coming on. And with the resources they now have at their fingertips, the chance of success is far better. For the longest time, we wanted the provinces to work together. POGI has demonstrated that we are stronger together.”