Who I am: Judy Unterschultz is the Executive Director of the Heritage Agricultural Society (Multicultural Heritage Centre) located in Stony Plain, Alberta. Managing this small but diverse cultural/agricultural organization for over 20 years has afforded the opportunity for extensive experience across numerous disciplines within the not-for-profit sector. In addition to a full range of cultural (historical, visual arts, performing arts, educational) facilities, services and programs, plus business endeavours (restaurant, retail, property management, consultant services), the organization has a strong presence in local food, agriculture and agricultural education, including agriculture business opportunities through the provision of a weekly Farmers Market, youth career/entrepreneurial programs and Organic Master Gardener certification. The Heritage Agricultural Society has been in operation for nearly 40 years.
Why I think Agriculture is Where It’s At: Until recently the need for agriculture education programs was not evident as most Albertans were associated with the agriculture industry. Those connections included direct involvement in primary production, having their business impacted by the agriculture economy or their experienced agriculture through friends or family engaged in farming. With Alberta’s demographics changing from a rural to an urban-based population over the last few generations, the result is a gap in general knowledge about food, food production, and the potential opportunities for employment within Alberta’s third largest industry.
Why Ag for Life: Rural not-for-profit organizations have the capacity to create scalable, quality agriculture education/farm safety programs, but have been unable to rely on sustainable funding to provide these same programs in an ongoing manner, or to engage expert staffing to deliver the programs. Corporate Alberta wants to participate and support rural not-for-profits but no mechanism existed to allow the synergy and funds to provide a critical mass of effort in achieving a common goal. Ag for Life brings these two sectors, plus individuals wishing to participate, together for the benefit of not-for-profits, corporate Alberta and Alberta rural and urban communities.