Speakers 2021

Odette Ménard

Engineer and Agronomist, Advisor in Soil and Water Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture of Québec (MAPAQ)


Odette Ménard is an agricultural engineer from Ste-Hyacinthe in Quebec who has become the first woman to be admitted on the Conservation Hall of Fame of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (CCSC). Along the years, Ms. Ménard has had a major role in the promotion of soil conservation in the southwest region of Quebec. She has participated actively in many councils, associations and clubs focused on soil health and conservation.

Walter Jehne

Climate Scientist & Microbiologist


Walter Jehne is an internationally known Australian soil microbiologist and climate scientist. After many years as a researcher, he is now a sought after speaker and consultant for land restoration projects and policy work. He is well-known for his strategic vision that we can safely cool regions, and potentially even the global climate, by working with nature to repair our disrupted hydrological cycles. His work centers around practical strategies including restoring the structure and function of “the soil sponge” in order to reverse desertification, increase nutritional integrity of crops, and provide resilience to drought, flooding, heatwaves, and wildfires.

Jehne was a pioneering researcher on soil carbon, glomalin, mycorrhizal fungi and plant root zone ecology. As a research scientist at CSIRO (Australia’s scientific research organization), Jehne investigated the potential of mycorrhizal fungi to recolonize toxic, degraded soils and rebuild productive biosystems.

He is co-founder of Regenerate Earth, Healthy Soils Australia, and the Rehydrate California Initiative, and serves as an advisor and teacher with the Land and Leadership Initiative. In 2017, he participated in an invitation-only United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Paris aimed at bringing soil into the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. He is a scientific consultant for large-scale regeneration efforts in several countries, including the UN FAO Farmer Field School Programme, and the Andhra Pradesh community-managed Natural Farming initiative (APCNF) in India, involving over 750,000 farmers.

As a consultant and public speaker, he is known for his ability to explain the complex interrelationships between biology, geology, weather patterns, rainfall, and regional and global heat dynamics, with clear simple language, centered around practical and innovative design solutions.

Didi Pershouse

Educator & Author, Center for Sustainable Medicine


Didi Pershouse is the author of The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities and Understanding Soil Health and Watershed Function. She teaches participatory workshops both in-person and online, helping to show the nested relationships between soil health, human health, water cycles, and climate resiliency. She is the founder of the Land and Leadership Initiative and the Center for Sustainable Medicine, and a co-founder of the "Can we Rehydrate California?" Initiative. She is an independent trainer and curriculum developer for the UN-FAO Farmer Field School Program and the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming Initiative in India. She was one of five speakers at the United Nations-FAO World Soil Day in 2017.

Michael Blackstock

Independent Indigenous Scholar


Michael D. Blackstock (Gitxsan name: Ama Goodim Gyet) is a writer and visual artist. He has written over 20 publications and produced over a dozen limited-edition northwest coast art prints. Michael is currently the artist in residence at the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Jesmond, BC, where he carved faces on living trees, as spiritual guardians for the water springs. Blackstock has a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies and he has served as a member of the UNESCO-IHP Expert Advisory Group on Water and Cultural Diversity. He is also a professional forester and a charted mediator. Michael was mentored by his uncle Walter Harris as a northwest coast carver.

Blackstock’s recent book Oceaness is a book of social commentary that includes poems, essays and art works. It includes his new theory of Blue Ecology which was developed with Elders, by interweaving their perspective with that of Western Science. The themes of this book are water; ecology; oral history; human rights; music; and humour.

Precious Phiri

Facilitator, Regeneration International


Precious Phiri is a facilitator and accredited professional in holistic management. She is also a steering committee member and African coordinator for Regeneration International. Her work involves networking, bringing communal work to global platforms, community organizing, and working with rural communities to fight and reverse poverty, and ecological degeneration. Precious has experience working with agro-pastoral and pastoralist communities implementing holistic management tools for rangeland and crop field regeneration, and she continues to engage in the broader regenerative agriculture movement as a trainer from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Takota Coen

Farmer, Coen Farm


Takota Coen is the co-author of "Building Your Permaculture Property: A 5 Step Process To Design and Develop Land", an educator with Verge Permaculture, and co-owner of Coen Farm, a 250 acre award winning permaculture farm, in Alberta, Canada. Coen Farm is known for using Earthworks and farm design principles that increase the presence of water on land, and therefore the farm’s resilience.

Judith D. Schwartz

Journalist & Author, Water in Plain Sight


Judith D. Schwartz is a journalist based in Vermont who focuses on nature-based solutions to global challenges. Her most recent book is 'The Reindeer Chronicles and Other Inspiring Stories of Working With Nature to Heal the Earth'. She is also known for her books: 'Cows Save the Planet' and 'Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World'.

Jon Griggs

Ranch Manager, Maggie Creek Ranch


Maggie Creek Ranch is a beef cow-calf and stocker operation in the high desert of Elko County Nevada.  Jon Griggs is the Ranch Manager of Maggie Creek Ranch with responsibility for all aspects of the Ranch.  He also serves as President Elect of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association who functions to promote a dynamic and profitable Nevada Beef Industry.  He was named Cattleman of the year for the Association in 2015 and in 2016, Maggie Creek was awarded the National Environmental Stewardship Award and Jon has since been invited all over the Country to speak of Maggie Creek’s conservation efforts.  Griggs worked at various ranches in Nevada before joining Maggie Creek in 1991.  He started there as a Cowboy and was promoted to Cowboss then Manager in 1998.  He has been active in the community, serving as an EMT-I with Elko County Ambulance Service, serving on various Resource or Agriculture related advisory boards and serving youth sports/4-H activities.  Griggs lives at the Maggie Creek Ranch Headquarters West of Elko with his wife Shellie and has two children Wyatt and Mackie.

Mary Anne Caibaiosai

Anishnaabe Knowledge Holder, Artist, Counsellor, PhD Candidate


Boozhoo Nindawemagaanidoog. Nodin Ikwe ndizhnikaaz, mkwa ndodem. Wiikwemkoong Manido minissing ndoonjibaa. Peterborough megwa ndaaw. My English name is Mary Anne Caibaiosai. I am Ojibwe-Anishnaabe kwe Bear clan from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Manitoulin Island. I carry life teachings passed from Anishnaabe Elders, ceremonial and traditional teachers. In addition to ceremonial responsibilities, I help in the community as a counsellor and offer teachings.

In 2017, I was given Water walk teachings, a copper pail and the blessings and protocols from the late Josephine Mandamin, the first Anishnaabe water walker. She is known for her tireless work to raise awareness of the waters, through walking the Great Lakes and rivers of Turtle Island. I am now honoured to continue her work; to walk, pray for and raise awareness of the sacredness of the water. In 2021 the Grand River Water Walkers will complete the four year ceremonial commitment for the Grand River, but there is more work to do.

In addition to traditional Anishnaabe teachings, I carry a Master of Social Work and Indigenous studies degree from Wilfrid Laurier University; a Bachelor of First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling degree from Brandon University, and I am currently a PhD Candidate at Trent University in Peterborough. I speak for the waters when asked, as she is life; without water, we would not be here.

Kimberly Cornish

Executive Director, Food Water Wellness


Kimberly Cornish has worked internationally in the areas of vocational training and food security drawing on her educational background in political science and international development. Since returning to Canada, she has headed up Food Water Wellness Foundation to advance agricultural practices that are environmentally regenerative. Her focus has been measuring and monitoring soil carbon sequestration to validate the potential of regenerative agriculture. She maintains a number of roles:

    - Executive Director and Founder of Food Water Wellness Foundation
    - Member of the United Nations FAO Working Group on Soil Carbon Sequestration
    - Member "4 per 1000" Task Force
    - Member of the Advisory Board of Rural Routes for Climate Solutions, Alberta
    - Member of the Board Alberta Forage Industry Network
    - Member of Grasslands Conservation Market Advisory Committee
    - Co-Chair of the Organic Value Chain Round Table Carbon Sequestration Task Force.

Line Rochefort

Researcher and Professor, Laval University; National Correspondent, Ramsar Convention


Line Rochefort has been a professor in the Department of Plant Science at Université Laval since 1991. She holds a degree in biology from Université Laval (B. Sc. 1984) with specialization in plant ecology, from the University of Alberta (M. Sc 1987) and the University of Cambridge in the UK (Ph.D. 1992).

Line Rochefort is the leader in ecological peatland restoration in Canada and one of the pioneers in the world in this field. She has been the national correspondent for Canada for the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Ramsar Convention on wetland protection since April 2019.

In 1992, Line Rochefort founded the Peatland Ecology Research Group. This research group brings together researchers from several universities, industrial partners (peat, oil and mining companies) and federal and provincial government agencies, thus creating a fertile and stimulating field of exchanges for the development of techniques for restoring peatlands after extraction which are now applied in several countries.

Jacynthe Dessureault-Rompré

Researcher and professor in soil health and conservation, Laval University


Jacynthe Dessureault-Rompré is a professor of soil health and conservation at Laval University. After completing her bachelor's degree in agronomy and her master's degree in soil chemistry at Laval University in 2007, she obtained her doctorate from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology of the Polytechnic School of Zurich in Switzerland. She worked specifically on soil-plant relationships.

After several years of post-doctoral research working on the topic of nitrogen in soils in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, she specialized in the conservation of cultivated organic soils. Her scientific interests include: the soil-plant relationship and climate change, optimization of nutrient cycling in soils for sustainable agriculture, regeneration of degraded soils, and carbon phytosequestration through biomass production.

Caroll McDuff

Consultant, Copernic


Caroll McDuff is a retired teacher and currently a consultant with Copernic, a Nicolet River watershed organization. Until two years ago, Caroll served on the Copernicus Board as a director and president for over ten years. He also served as administrator of the Center of Quebec regional environment committee and as a member of the MAPAQ-Center-of-Quebec table, responsible for advising on projects submitted under the Prime-Vert program. He is also co-founder of Danville en Transition and is still involved in its coordinating committee. Danville en Transition is a citizens group part of the transition town movement.

Merrin Macrae

Principal Investigator, Agricultural Water Futures, University of Waterloo


Merrin Macrae is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Macrae received her B.E.S. and M.Sc. degrees from York University and her Ph.D. from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research interests center around nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus) dynamics and water quality in agricultural landscapes and wetlands. Dr. Macrae studies water quality at both watershed and field scales, with an emphasis on assisted drainage. A key aspect of her work involves understanding the winter and snowmelt periods, and the efficacy of conservation practices during these critical times. Her research is largely field-based science focused in Southern Ontario and Manitoba.

To date, she has supervised or co-supervised more than 30 graduate students, 4 post-doctoral researchers and 18 technical staff, published 72 peer-reviewed journal articles and co-authored more than 250 conference presentations.

Glynnis Hood

Ecologist & Author, University of Alberta


Dr. Glynnis Hood is an ecologist and Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose. Prior to signing on with the university, she worked for 24 years in various protected areas, from Canada’s west coast to the subarctic. In July 2007, she left a 19-year career with Parks Canada’s warden service and followed her passion for teaching and research. Her research interests include aquatic ecology, wildlife management, and human-wildlife interactions. She is the author of Semi-aquatic mammals: Ecology and Biology and The Beaver Manifesto.

Zach Weiss

Founder, Elemental Ecosystems


Protégé of revolutionary Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer, Zach is the first person to earn Holzer Practitioner certification directly from Sepp - through a rigorous two-year apprenticeship. Blending a unique combination of systems thinking, empathy, and awareness, Zach created Elemental Ecosystems to provide an action-oriented process to improve clients' relationship with their landscape. Elemental Ecosystems is an ecological development contracting and consulting firm specializing in watershed restoration and ecosystem regeneration. The firm’s work includes Aquaculture, Agroforestry, Water Retention Landscapes, Terrace Systems, Spring Development, Natural Building, and more. Harvesting time and the productivity of natural systems is the guiding principle - resulting in abundant oases with the potential to last until the next ice age. Elemental Ecosystems currently has worked in 19 countries, on 5 continents, spanning a wide range of climates, contexts, landforms, and ecosystems. Learn more at www.ElementalEcosystems.com.

Karolane Bourdon

Agronomist, PhD Candidate in soil conservation, Université Laval


Karolane Bourdon is an agronomist and passionate about soil chemistry. She is currently a doctoral student in the conservation of cultivated organic soils where her work focuses on the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. His research project aims to develop strategies to compensate for losses of organic matter in the soil while preserving their productivity. She is particularly interested in carbon sequestration in the soil, soil-plant relationships, soil health and water quality.

Simon Côté

General Coordinator, Arbre-Évolution


Despite his indignation at the socio-economic injustices that mark our time, Simon is driven by an unwavering faith in the future. His personal and professional paths are anchored in the principles of equality and environmental protection. Trained in political science at UQAM and then at Greenpeace, Simon is convinced that citizen involvement is not just about criticizing poor political and economic governance. It lies above all in the ability to set up projects capable of structuring solutions for the future. This objective is what nourishes his daily life as general coordinator of Abre-Évolution, a cooperative specializing in social reforestation.

Dawn Morrison

Founder, Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty


Dawn is of Secwepemc ancestry and is the Founder/Curator of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Since 1983 Dawn has worked and studied horticulture, ethno-botany, adult education, and restoration of natural systems in formal institutions, as well as through her own personal and community healing and learning journey. Following the year’s she spent teaching Aboriginal Adult Basic Education, Dawn has been dedicating her time and energy to land based healing and learning which led her to her life's work of realizing herself more fully as a developing spirit aligned leader in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement.

Dawn has consistently organized and held the space over the last 15 years for mobilizing knowledge and networks towards a just transition from the basis of decolonizing food systems in community, regional and international networks where she has become internationally recognized as a published author. Dawn's work on the Decolonizing Research and Relationships is focused on creating a critical pathway of consciousness, that shines a light on the cross-cultural interface where Indigenous Food Sovereignty meets, social justice, climate change and regenerative food systems research, action and policy, planning and governance. Some of the projects Dawn is leading include: Wild Salmon Caravan, Indigenous Food and Freedom School and Dismantling Structural Racism in the Food System, and Tsilhqot’in National Government Food Security/Sovereignty Project.

Kim A. Stephens

Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability


An engineer-planner, Kim Stephens has more than four decades of experience. This covers the continuum of water resource and infrastructure engineering issues and applications, from master planning and modelling to implementation of capital projects. He specializes in public policy and professional development, and has played a leadership role in a series of initiatives in British Columbia related to water sustainability, watershed health, rainwater management and green infrastructure. In 2003, Kim was asked by the provincial government to develop the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, released in 2004. Ever since, Kim has been responsible for Action Plan program delivery and evolution. This program includes leading the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative. Five regions representing 75% of BC’s population are partners in the initiative.

Julie McManus

Planner, Green Infratructure Implementation, City of Vancouver


Julie McManus is a Planner in the Green Infrastructure Implementation branch at the City of Vancouver with a focus on education training and capacity building. She has over 8 years’ experience developing guidance and training for green infrastructure professionals in Ontario and Vancouver. In addition to working with professionals, Julie has helped to develop experiential learning experiences for elementary school students building rain gardens on school grounds, and supports public education and outreach for GI programs and projects at the City of Vancouver.

Sheri DeBoer

Urban Ecologist, City of Vancouver


Sheri is an Urban Ecologist for the City of Vancouver Green Infrastructure Implementation Branch. Sheri holds a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Calgary, and has a background in environmental consulting, contracting and landscape construction. Sheri has been working with soils and natural system infrastructure throughout her career from steep slope stabilization, to erosion and sediment control, to designing resiliency and a connection to nature in the urban environment.

Ann-Marie Saunders

Viticulturist, Saunders Family Farm & Vineyard


Ann-Marie grew up on the family farm that her parents bought in the mid-1960’s. At the time it was planted to mixed orchard fruit, table and hybrid grapes. Adventures in life lead her off the farm for a while, but always never too far away. Currently, together with her brother Leslie and her husband Peter, Ann-Marie continues to operate the farm as a certified organic winegrape vineyard. Ann-Marie has an honours BSc degree from University of Guelph in Biological Sciences and a post-graduate certificate in grape and wine technology from Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute.

Bet Smith



Bet Smith is a folk singer-songwriter based in Muskoka, Ontario. A long-time environmental activist, she uses her music to create connection and spark discussion about the state of the planet. Her experience working as everything from farm hand to welder to Bay street clerk enables her to build bridges of communication between individuals from many walks of life. Her passion for the natural world soon began to show up in her music. Love songs would become adorned with imagery of wilderness and agriculture; angst and heartbreak would be for and on behalf of the earth. On February 2nd, 2021, bet released an LP titled Downer, which is largely an exploration of grief and anxiety surrounding climate change, as well as an urgent call-to-action. Downer’s release has been met with a positive response, earning acclaim from music blogs and radio hosts based in Canada, the United States and the UK. She will be playing live from her studio in Ontario alongside Rob Currie.

Ross Macdonald

Rancher, MSc., P.Ag., 98 Ranch


Ross Macdonald is a student of improved stockmanship, horsemanship, grazing management, of selection for low maintenance cattle and long-term resilience whose practice is rooted in grassland ecology. He owns and operates 98 Ranch Inc in Saskatchewan, located on Treaty 4 Territory, with his wife, Christine Peters. The ranch is a cow/calf/yearling and grassfed operation built on a foundation of rangeland health and low-input cattle selection. The cattle generate profit through grazing and converting forages into beef while facilitating grassland ecological function including soil health, increasing effective precipitation, grassland resilience, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Ross is an advocate for conservation-based land use, regenerative agricultural production system and always strives to be better!

Drake Larsen

Farmer, Three Ridges Ecological Farm


Drake is a farmer and home educator. With a M.Sc. degree in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University and inspired by his time working with farmers and ag-conservation NGOs in the USA and Canada, Drake is passionate about deepening the conversation about agriculture. Through photos and video, landscape visualization and evidence-based articles, he illustrates the realities of modern agriculture – and discusses the benefits of a diversified agriculture – as a wake up call towards positive change. His research and farming practices provide creative examples of the opportunities for ecological farms managed to maximize ecosystem services.

Alyssa Cousineau

Eastern Hub Manager, ALUS Canada


As ALUS Canada’s Eastern Hub Manager, Alyssa liaises with our community coordinators and serves as a management resource for local ALUS projects throughout Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Working with ALUS since 2016, Alyssa started as the ALUS Elgin Program Coordinator, moving into the role of Eastern Hub Manager in 2020. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Masters in Environment and Sustainability. Alyssa is based in Tillsonburg, Ontario.

Leticia Ama Deawuo

Director, Black Creek Community Farm


Leticia Ama Deawuo is a long-time resident of Jane-Finch Community and mother of two children who has been a leading social activist work in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto and across the City of Toronto for the past 15 years. As a community resident and organizer, Leticia has been absolutely instrumental in development and formation of a number of prominent community groups and initiatives including Jane Finch On The Move, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, Jane Finch Political Conversation Café, Black Creek Food Justice Network, Mothers-In-Motion and so on and so forth. Leticia also worked as a Community Development Worker with Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre for many years.
In her capacity as a program worker, then a program manager and now the director of the Black Creek Community Farm, Leticia has shown excellent capabilities to engage residents, allies and other stakeholders in struggles for community improvement and social and economic justice including the realization of Food security and food Justice in Jane-Finch. She has helped facilitate the formation of Black Creek Food Justice Network, Black Creek Community Farm Resident Council and has managed to bring together a wide range of allies and supporters together to work for the enhancement of the community farm and the non-profit urban food development in one of Toronto’s most excluded and disadvantaged communities.
Leticia is a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council. She is the chair of SeedChange formerly USC Canada and is currently a part-time instructor with George Brown College and currently pursuing her master’s in Environmental Studies at York University. Leticia is a recipient of the Arrell Institute, Canada Community Food Hero Award.

Isabelle Lemaire



Longtime documentary filmmaker and visual anthropologist, Isabelle has worked with farmers on three continents to co-assess the impact of climate change on their way of life and survival. Now based in Montreal, Isabelle has worked in the world of recycling, living soils and natural construction. As a facilitator of participatory processes, she has also had the chance to lead and work with several groups in all kinds of settings, including the Living Soils Symposium.

Angel Beyde

Educator, Facilitator, Anti-Racism Consultant


Angel Beyde is an Organic Master Gardener, aspiring farmer, educator and facilitator. In her role as Anti-Racism and Equity consultant for the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Angel is supporting EFAO to increase its understanding and take action on anti-racism towards Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, and to better meet the needs of members and farmers who are currently underrepresented in the organization and the ecological farming movement at large. Angel has worked in Urban Ag, regenerative landscaping and non-profits for many years, where her work centres on community mental health, rehabilitating depleted urban soils and restoring urban ecosystems with a focus on the relationship between pollinators and native plants. She is passionate about traditional Afro-Indigenous growing practices (regenerative agriculture) as key to food sovereignty and community abundance. Angel and her husband Raphael are currently looking for rural land with a home to start their organic micro-farm Good Fortune Farmstead in 2021: www.goodfortunefarmstead.com

Finian Makepeace

Co-founder, Kiss the Ground

Finian Makepeace is the co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a recording artist, and a lifelong activist. Upon discovering that humanity can live regeneratively (that we could rebuild and regenerate soil), he was compelled to make it his mission to get this idea to the masses. He resides in Los Angeles, CA and recently became a father. He is most excited about training people to be empowered Soil Advocates.