First Alberta Grains board works to strengthen capabilities and influence

Following her term as interim chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and Alberta Barley, Tara Sawyer has chaired the inaugural Alberta Grains board since January 31.

She was heavily involved in the amalgamation process, which included the improvement and transformation of human resources and accounting processes as well as organizational restructuring.

“Working on our first three-year strategic plan, we will create a path forward,” said Sawyer. “Building a completely new entity is no small task, but we have capable, qualified staff and directors ready to dig in.”

She and husband, Matt, farm canola, malting barley and wheat near Acme.

Region 1

Dave Bishop and wife Mary farm dryland and irrigated crops—barley, canola, peas, rye, soybeans and wheat—near Barons. A Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) director, he has served as chair of Alberta Barley and as a member of numerous additional industry boards such as Team Alberta and Grain Growers of Canada.

Farming southeast of Claresholm with wife Tracy, Dean Hubbard grows canola, durum, flax, wheat and field peas. He has worked with organizations as varied as his rotation. These include terms as a UFA delegate and AWC director. He is now vice chair of the CWRC. “It is important to maintain open communication with the provincial and federal governments to help guide and influence decisions that affect the grains industry,” he said.

Region 2

Serving with Sawyer as a Region 2 director and second vice chair of the newly crafted Alberta Grains board, Devin Hartzler farms wheat, barley, seed peas and canola west of Carstairs with wife Carrie. He has previously served as an AWC rep and director. Having spent much time and energy on the amalgamation process, he put his name forward to continue to build and improve the new organization. “I hope we can set clear direction and priorities in research, extension and policy for the future of Alberta Grains,” he said.

Region 3

A farmer with more than two decades of experience in personal banking, Stewart Oke farms wheat, barley and canola with wife Tamara near Delburne. He is keen to see the board effectively promote Alberta wheat and barley to consumers, government, and industry leaders domestically and internationally. “Alberta Grains has a compelling story to share about how we sustainably grow high-quality wheat and barley to meet the food needs of the world,” he said.

Dick Wymenga has served as an Alberta Beef Producers board member and Clearwater County councilor. Growing barley and canola, he and wife Rose also produce forage for their mostly Simmental cow-calf operation near Leslieville. “We need to increase funding for research to improve our crops and competitiveness in the global marketplace,” he said.

Region 4

“I hope we accomplish great things as a board in this new unified organization,” said Holden farmer Brent Christensen. He and wife Susan farm barley, canola and wheat. A long-time Battle River Research Group director, Beaver County Agricultural Service board member and UFA delegate, he also served as an Alberta Barley delegate and interim delegate.

“From weather to the political landscape, it feels like farmers somewhere are always facing difficulties,” said Shawn Jacula, who farms barley, canola and wheat near Vermilion with wife Bethany. He also operates a real estate brokerage. Second vice-chair of AWC, Jacula now chairs the Alberta Grains policy committee. “We have a great board to tackle the concerns that are most important to farmers,” he added.

Region 5

An Alberta Barley director for three years, Scott Jespersen served as second vice chair of the interim board and is now a director and first vice chair of Alberta Grains. He grows alfalfa, barley, canola, oats, peas, and wheat and maintains a Black Angus cow-calf herd. “As farmers, we need to have a voice with government to represent our priorities and concerns regarding legislation that will affect our farms,” he said. “We must direct government policy, so it is favourable to our sustainability, profitability and long-term success.”

Region 6

Tasha Alexander ventured into farm group leadership as an AWC representative in 2021. “Seeing the hard work and positive changes made by the interim board, I want to be part of the team to help shape the future of Alberta Grains,” she said. She and husband, Randy, grow canola, peas and wheat near Brownvale. “I’m excited to create a strong foundation and develop strategies to maintain wheat and barley as front runners for farmers and end users.”

Greg Sears likewise wants to help Alberta Grains establish a strong strategic and governance foundation. An AWC director prior to amalgamation, he also sat on the Alberta Canola Commission board and represented the two groups on the Cereals Canada and Canola Council of Canada boards respectively. He grows barley, canola, field peas and wheat with wife Mélise near Sexsmith.

“Alberta Grains can be a strong, positive farmer focused presence in agriculture and a well-governed, strategically focused organization,” he said.