Business Bootcamp Speakers

Posted by Alex on August 29, 2021

The Business Bootcamp for New Farmers features a carefully selected team of exceptional speakers that will help you get your farm business off the ground! Learn from these amazing first-generation farmers and business experts.

Note that all these speakers have contributed content to the Business Bootcamp but some may not be present during the live sessions due to scheduling conflicts. 

Shelby is passionate about systems change, building community, and food. Shelby’s career, volunteer work, and education have focused on supporting vulnerable and marginalized populations, and building food justice capacity in communities. She has worked on food programming and research taking place across Canada, into the North, and internationally. Shelby was born and raised in Calgary/Mohkinstsis, where the Elbow River meets the Bow River. In her free time, she enjoys the challenges of gardening under the Chinook Arch and doing mountain sports in the Rockies.

Born in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), Kyla is a community builder and maker of Métis-Dominican descent. The granddaughter of farmers (grain and cattle in Alberta, and banana and vanilla in Dominica), Kyla has always valued the relationship between community, culture, food, and justice. It was through years of working in the Edmonton food and coffee scene that she noticed the potential of change making across tables and bar tops. Kyla recognizes the importance of healing our connections with the land and has been slowly developing her skills around growing food and harvesting. Kyla Pascal currently lives and studies on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil Waututh, and Squamish Peoples (Vancouver).

Shauna Fidler is a graphic and permaculture designer with a deep-rooted passion for growing food, community and farm economies. Her creative agency, DESIGN FARM, works almost exclusively with food, farm and community-service / not for profit organizations. Shauna has years of experience developing community scale and regional initiatives, events and programs focused on building a more resilient food system. Shauna and her family have a permaculture smallholding on a sunny mountain side in Winlaw, Sinitx Territory.


Shini grew up in Japan and China before moving to Canada, where she completed her engineering undergraduate degree and worked as a software developer for a number of years until she discovered her passion for growing food. In 2021 she moved from Toronto to rural Ottawa area to start Bao Bao Farm with the goal to serve local, fresh, organic veggies that are culturally relevant to her community. Growing East Asian crops is a way of reconnecting to her heritage and culture. She shares her farming journey along with her unique, playful lifestyle on her social media. She hopes to reclaim the narrative around East Asian crops and foodways via farming and sharing cooking tips.

Tad Hargrave is a hippy who developed a knack for marketing (and then learned how to be a hippy again). Whatever the reason, for almost a decade, he has been touring his marketing workshops around Canada, bringing refreshing and unorthodox ideas to conscious entrepreneurs and green businesses that help them grow their organizations and businesses (without selling their souls). He runs Marketing for Hippies and posts regularly on his YouTube Channel about all things marketing and storytelling.


Laurie Trigg is a bison, pork and chicken rancher from Mayerthorpe, AB. Laurie and her husband Chad run Backwoods Buffalo Ranch and sell their products by means of farmers markets and farm gate sales through their on-site farm store. Laurie prides herself in educating the public on where their food comes from and loosely throws around the term “become a responsible omnivore.” Hosting individuals from around the world year round, through varying agriculture education programs, is something Laurie is passionate about and has helped to expand their community based around food. She is proud to be a farmHer in a profession predominantly navigated by men.

Gelaine Santiago is a social entrepreneur, writer, and content marketing consultant. She specializes in empowering Black, Indigenous, and founders of colour to scale their e-commerce businesses and build wealth to uplift our communities. She’s the co-founder of Cambio & Co., an ethical fashion company that provides sustainable livelihood for artisans in the Philippines and empowers Filipinos in the diaspora to #WearYourHeritage. She’s also the co-founder of Sinta & Co., a socially conscious Filipino wedding boutique. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, Huffington Post, CBC, Rappler, Metro Style and ABS-CBN. Gelaine was also a recipient of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award in 2019.

Chris Bodnar farms vegetables with his wife Paige in Abbotsford. Their business, Close to Home Organics, sells to wholesale buyers and through a Community Shared Agriculture program at Glen Valley Organic Farm. He provides business coaching and development support to farmers as a consultant through the BC Agri-Business Planning Program and mentorship through the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Program. He developed and taught the Business of Agriculture course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Sustainable Agriculture program for seven years. Particular interests include co-operative development in the agricultural sector.

Michelle Rigney grew up on a grain and cattle farm near Lamont Alberta. She completed a B.Sc Agriculture degree at University of Alberta in Edmonton. After graduation she got a job as an Ag Lender with TD Bank & has been involved in Farm & Business Lending ever since (over 20 years). She lives on a beef cattle farm near Westlock with her husband & 4 teenagers. She has worked for Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) since 2014 and transitioned from a Lender to a Lending Coach in the spring of 2020. She is enjoying the new challenge & especially “helping more lenders to help more farmers”.

Thanu of Wild Bee Florals sees the world through many different lenses, one being the intersection of evolutionary biology and informal education. Her passion for growing flowers bloomed naturally alongside her curiosity for learning about ecosystems around us, especially insect biodiversity. Over the past few years, Thanu has grown flowers for market and floral subscriptions in Vancouver and North Vancouver. At the end of 2020, Thanu moved to the Comox Valley to pursue flower farming full time and co-founded Wilder Floral Collective. You can connect with her through Instagram (@wildbeeflorals), Website ( or Email:

Mike Kozlowski from Steel Pony Farm has been market gardening and providing families in Central Alberta with chemical-free produce since 2011. He is a self proclaimed soil worshiper who feels a deep sense of awe about ecosystem function, soil biology and plant metabolism. He pursues his mission, just outside of Red Deer, of leveraging these biological processes to grow the highest quality crops so that they can support the health of all people who eat them.


Blake Hall is a first generation farmer. He grew up in Red Deer, Alberta and after working on farms and ranches across Canada and the northern US, purchased cattle in 2010 and started his own farming business: Prairie Gold Pastured Meats. Him and his wife Angela primarily raise grass-finished beef which they direct-markets to over 200 families in Central Alberta. Blake also has experience with swine rearing, sheep tending, and poultry minding. Blake is also a graduate of Olds College’s meat processing program and works off the farm part time as a mobile butcher harvesting beef for local farmers throughout Central Alberta.

Andrew , a city slicker turned haskap fruit farmer, runs Rosy Farms. He has slowly grown his 27 acre orchard since 2016. His desire to build our horticulture community has guided him to be the founder of Haskap Alberta Association, founding shareholder, board member of North 49 Fruit Corp and 2020 Nuffield scholar. His mission is to make haskaps our everyday food, move over blueberries.

Loren grew up in Vernon obtaining her Bachelors of Business Administration Degree from Okanagan College and her CA designation in 2014. Loren has been with the firm since 2011 and concentrates on audits of municipalities and not-for-profit organizations, notice to reader engagements, tax planning for individuals and small business as well as corporate and personal tax returns. Outside of work, she enjoys soccer, snowboarding and boating on Kalamalka Lake.

Maddy Clerk is a market gardener, chartered accountant and financial planning manager. She co-owned and operated City Beet Farm for 4 seasons, focusing on running an 82 person CSA, a weekly market, and online direct-to-consumer sales of vegetables and cut flowers. Maddy is passionate about empowering farmers and creative entrepreneurs with the financial skills to build their businesses. She has developed financial planning courses for farmers with Richmond Farm School, Tsawwassen Farm School, Vancouver Community College, Young Agrarians and the Bad Academy. She provides financial consulting to small businesses through Field Guide Finance.

Ross is a first-generation rancher and professional agrologist in southern Saskatchewan. 98 Ranch Inc. is a 3500 acre ranch that produces grass-fed beef and strives for grassland and related wildlife habitat conservation. Ross also works as a Term Conservation Program Specialist for Ducks Unlimited Canada. In the past he has worked on a variety of projects related to grassland ecology & conservation, land management & community pasture management, oil & gas development & reclamation, applied research project planning and implementation, and grass-fed production system advising.

Lydia Carpenter farms cattle, hogs and hens with her husband and young child in southwest Manitoba (Luna Field Farm).  As first generation on the farm she and her husband built their farm business up from land leases and custom grazing operations. They started farming together in 2011 with nominal savings and the opportunity to lease 80 acres of pasture. By 2014 they were both employed full time on the farm with much of their income coming from direct market sales of cut and wrapped meats. They currently run a profitable farm business on purchased land with a focus on grazing management and direct meat sales. Lydia has an interest in farm business management, farm policy, farm transition planning, cash flow and financial planning and alternative lending options. Along with her farming she is currently working with a team of farm transition coaches to help farmers on farm mediation and transition planning.

David Benjestorf was born and raised in the Edmonton area before attending university in the USA and then eastern Europe. Coming home to complete a law degree, he decided that central Alberta is a great place to call home. David has practiced corporate/commercial law for 21 years and currently serves as Legal Counsel and Director of Development for a large land developer. In addition, David has owned a variety of small to medium sized businesses and serves on a variety of community Boards, including the Edmonton Foodbank where he serves as Vice Chair. When COVID began to shut down services and threaten food security, David began the Pandemic Planting Project in 2020 planting on his 23 acre property. This community based garden has thus far donated 155,000 pounds of vegetables to people in need, with hopes of expanding into technology based or year round vertical farming.  When not working, you can find Dave farming, building his own equipment, volunteering, learning, travelling and spending time with his two wiener dogs.

Bio coming soon for…