After a two-year hiatus, the 40th Western Canadian Dairy Seminar opened with a fireside chat featuring two of western Canada’s well-known personalities. Kim McConnell, former CEO of AdFarm; and Dianne Finstad, a key journalist in all things Alberta agriculture, welcomed the large audience as they shared their views on "The Dynamic World of Agri-Food."

Coyne katie
Editor / Progressive Dairy – Canada
Coyne also owns and operates Mill Wheel Dairy Show Clinics. She can be reached by email.

Finstad asked McConnell what it was that excited him about agriculture these days, to which he responded that agriculture continues to have a clear purpose: “We feed people and the momentum is growing and evolving.” McConnell stated that he is excited about technology in genetics, robots and with the people behind these innovations. Finstad replied that she too is excited about the innovation of technological advances, mentioning the ability to use facial recognition in cattle that is on the horizon.

McConnell wanted to know what in agriculture is concerning and scary for Finstad. Her reply was that she is concerned about the transitions that are taking place on farms, stating that 75% of farmland across Canada will change hands in the next 10 years. McConnell replied that he is concerned about the costs of items needed to farm, including machinery, inputs and labour. He is further apprehensive about politics, including war and bad policies. He is concerned that there appears to be no strategy when making decisions at the top government levels. He stated, “We need a plan, a simple plan, to move the industry into the future.” When asked a follow-up question about strategy, politics, a simple plan and how the farm community can bring about the necessary decisions, McConnell replied, “One of the ways to improve policy development is with more farmer involvement and, specifically, regional input from farmers with their wallets in the game.”

The duo moved into a hot topic no matter where you live – sustainability. Citing it as one of the most important issues in Canada, it needs to be taken seriously by farmers, consumers and everyone in order to maintain a healthy planet. McConnell said he feels that progress won’t happen when the agriculture sector feels it is being preached at, and that it is important for each person to tell their own story. Sustainability practices look different in Ontario than they do in Alberta, and that makes regional decisions important. Stating the old African adage, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” McConnell looks to unity as the agriculture industry makes a long-term plan for sustainability.

McConnell gave several areas that he feels agriculture can look at to improve sustainability in the next several years. These include supply chain challenges, technology, agri-food communication with consumers and more.


As supply chain issues continue to be a problem, causing higher prices on food, a continuing trend to go Canadian is essential. Local manufacturing and greenhouses are just two ways to “make it here.” Food must be affordable and accessible – that is not negotiable across the board.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, billed as the most influential tech event in the world and attended by such powerhouses as Apple and Google, the number one booth was the John Deere area with a combine equipped with GPS and all the latest computer technology. It was a hub of excitement throughout the conference, directly speaking to the importance of not only technology but as to how food is produced and the impact that is having on the public outside of agriculture.

McConnell has a vision that the word agri-food will evolve to mean something more. He said that right now, that hyphen is a mountain between the agriculture and food industries. Consumers would like to see the hyphen become a bridge, and that starts with the entire industry working together through open communication.

As Finstad and McConnell continued their chat, they talked about the future and what it will look like. McConnell predicted that some farms would get bigger but there will be a trend to smaller farms as well. The future will continue to evolve as carbon footprint research, robotic labour, aquaculture and the digital age progress.

Both Finstad and McConnell are well known for their enthusiasm for youth and all things 4-H. McConnell couldn’t finish the opening presentation without mentioning what the agricultural industry holds for youth. He enthusiastically stated that no matter where a young person’s passion lies, they can be involved in the industry – technology, communication, marketing, animal science, soil and plant sciences – agriculture embraces many fields of study.

On the other hand, McConnell also said the key to future success is to embrace the knowledge and experience of mature people. He encouraged all to respect the experience and knowledge that the over-70 crowd possess – they continue to have a role in the future.

The final message that McConnell shared was that it is a dynamic and exciting time in agriculture, stating it has never before been where it is today, and the future possibilities are endless – embrace it and be better.

As an indispensable figure in the rodeo world of Alberta, Finstad encouraged the audience to not be “satisfied with the ride.” Despite high scores in a bareback ride, the bareback rider always seeks a way to score higher and works toward that mark. She encouraged the community gathered to remember that analogy: No matter how well you are doing or how well you have done, get a mental mindset to go further. Dynamic people make things happen.