The new premier crop conference

Megan Evans, Communications and Events Manager | Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

Being the new kid on the block has its challenges, even in the event world. However, the inaugural CrossRoads Crop Conference did more than meet attendees and sponsors’ expectations this past January at the Edmonton Convention Centre. The two-day conference featured 15 concurrent sessions, three keynote addresses, two crop commission annual general meetings (AGM) and a beer hour, as key elements to CrossRoads’ success.

If you are an avid reader of The Grain Exchange, you are likely aware CrossRoads is a grand reinvention of its predecessor FarmTech, with foundational elements carried forward. Major shifts to this post-pandemic rendition included a shorter show with more focus on the areas of marketing, farm management, sustainability and policy paired with a more intimate experience in which farmers and industry members can share ideas. While a large part of FarmTech’s success was the grand tradeshow, CrossRoads, in its first year, chose to keep attendees’ focus on the presentations.

“Our focus when developing CrossRoads was not to reflect on the past, but look to the future future needs of the agriculture industry,” says Todd Hames, farmer and CrossRoads organizing committee chair. “It was critical for us to forge a new path for CrossRoads, but take elements from FarmTech such as collaboration, celebration and connection into the fold.”

CrossRoads set the tempo on the first day of the conference with a keynote address from communications strategist Vance Crowe, who revealed how farmers can thrive in communication with urban populations. Crowe’s presentation left the audiences engaged, excited and intrigued about how to fuel dynamic conversations with urban demographics and government.

The opening keynote made way for a networking opportunity and the Alberta Pulse Growers AGM with the first block of concurrent sessions following immediately after. Kim Moffat’s presentation on optimizing wellness on the farm provided the audience an opportunity to have challenging conversations about mental health in a compassionate way.

Attendees shared a fantastic lunch and moved into the second block of concurrent sessions that included a dynamic panel discussion with Andre Harpe, Branden Leslie and Cassandra Cotton on greenhouse gas emissions and why they are a focal point for both industry and government.

Following the panel, guests heard from Al Driver of Bayer and Andrea Feubert of Corteva on each organization’s plan to reach net-zero by 2050 in the large hall. Insights from each organization provided attendees with a sense of the critical path forward on how each organization would work towards this common goal.

To conclude the first day, a networking beer hour sponsored by Syngenta let guests share ideas and connect over pints of some of Alberta’s finest craft beer supplied by Sea Change Brewing Co.

The next morning, a light breakfast sponsored by Cargill fuelled attendees for another full day of speakers. CTV Edmonton meteorologist Josh Classen kicked off the second day of the conference with a preview into the long-range weather forecast for the 2023 growing season. This informative, farmer-centric session was followed by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) AGM. The AWC AGM included a video that commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the commission and explored the critical path forward to the amalgamation with Alberta Barley by August 1, 2023.

The next three blocks of concurrent sessions included: a presentation on the Team Alberta Crops’ wetland stewardship and water monitoring project, an update on the new and improved code of practice tool presented by AWC’s own region 3 director Jason Lenz, and an optimistic market outlook presented by Jonathan Driedger titled “After the War in Ukraine”.

The final chapter to CrossRoads was a closing keynote with the inspiring and impactful Chris Koch and his “If I Can” message. With Koch’s remarkable and humorous storytelling, he provided a motivational and uplifting message stemming from his own personal trials that showcased grit and perseverance.

All in all, the event was a great success and the CrossRoads organizing committee is proud of incorporating foundational aspects of FarmTech — collaboration, celebration and connection into each aspect of the 2023 event.

The committee comprised of staff and board members from Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola, the Alberta Wheat Commission and Alberta Pulse Growers want to want to thank attendees, speakers and sponsors for supporting the first CrossRoads Crops Conference.