Get to know Board members:
Wes Arnfinson, Eric Gregory, Martin Kiefer, Darrel Knight, Stan Loewen, Taylor Olsen, Stu Rasmussen, Scott Russell, Craig Senchuk, and Stewart Whillans.
The Board of Directors will continue to oversee all of the association’s activities, providing their unique insight from across Canada and for the many different sectors of Canadian ag.
Below is some background on the CAAR Board of Directors for 2022-2023:
More of the same, please, seems to be what the eternally optimistic Wes Arnfinson wants from life within the ag industry.
He works at Shur Gro Farm Services Ltd., which offers expert agronomy services and is a full-service agricultural retailer in Shoal Lake, Manitoba.
Arnfinson uses his years of experience as a Branch Manager to share what he’s learned with other ag industry experts, which is why he fits in so well as a Director on the CAAR Board.
His first impression of CAAR was an exciting one. “I recall attending the final regional WFCDA (Western Fertilizer and Chemical Dealers Association) convention, and when it was reimagined as a new national association, I have become impressed with CAAR ever since.
He added, “I’m always looking forward to making new industry networks.”
Arnfinson noted that he wants to help CAAR continue to carry its strong voice of reason and common sense when it comes to Regulatory issues that affect our Canadian agricultural industry.
While there isn’t really anything about the ag sector that he would want to change, he said he would like to ensure that “we keep it great and make sure everyone involved within can continue to have the opportunity to make a good living with a healthy family and communities.”
A Board of Directors member since early 2018, Eric Gregory is the Director of Marketing for BrettYoung Seeds, Canada’s largest, privately-held seed company, headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
He was appointed to the Board as the Canadian Seed Trade Association’s liaison to ensure a strong collaboration between the two entities is maintained.
Gregory has over 25 years of experience within the crop-inputs sector through various agronomy and sales roles he has had via independent retailers, and product management and marketing positions with distributors and manufacturers. He has also held many other board positions, including Chair of the Prairie Certified Crop Advisers program.
Gregory’s continued insight into ag retailers providing seed and seed treatment services is especially beneficial to CAAR, as the association reviews its current and future considerations of programs and services.
On the CAAR Board for 11 years and counting, and currently the Communications Chair—Martin Kiefer still maintains his sense of humour: “It seems like they just can’t get rid of me.”
Kiefer is the Eastern Sales Manager with Agrico Canada LP, a Mississauga, Ontario-headquartered Canadian wholesale distributor of crop input products, primarily dry and liquid fertilizers.
He noted that it is important for the retail sector to participate in the discussions around agricultural activities to bring the retail perspective forward with the government, other sectors of ag, and the urban population. “We cannot sit on the sidelines,” he intoned. “CAAR is our voice, and if you want a strong organization, then you must participate.”
He said that one of his wishes is to continue communicating the importance of CAAR to its members.
As part of the Board’s mandate, he constantly advocates for greater involvement of all ag retailers within CAAR. “Get involved,” he said. “Your business is not just the building you work in, it’s the community, too.”
Believing that there is strength in numbers and that Canadian ag retailers require a unified voice to help the government set policies relating to agriculture and sustainability of safe and secure food supply, Darrel Knight joined CAAR.
Now a Director on the CAAR Board, Knight helps move the unity of the organization from its position of involvement and influence. As a Key Account Manager, Ag Solutions with Federated Co-operative Limited, he said that he wants to bring his experiences from the agri retail sector to the Board, and develop the strategies required to grow membership.
Moving forward, “I feel that CAAR needs to become [an even] stronger advocate for ag retailers and their growers to maintain grower freedoms without government influence from a non-scientific lens.
He continued, “CAAR should be at the table for conversations significant to GHG emission reductions and carbon capture as it relates to agricultural practices.”
Although he stepped down from his position as Chief Executive Officer with TerraLink this past July—a leading manufacturer of conventional and organic fertilizers for nearly 50 years in Abbotsford, British Columbia—Stan Loewen still works 50 percent of the time as Director, Vice Chair, taking on a technical advisory/leadership role assisting the company’s sales & marketing groups. He continues to maintain his position on the Member Advocacy Committee and Executive Committee for CAAR.
Because TerraLink saw CAAR as the main advocate on behalf of the retail side of the crop inputs and services industry, Loewen said they always felt “the modest membership fee was a small price to pay for someone to do what we could never accomplish as an individual business,”advocating on its behalf to the federal government.
“Becoming a member was an obvious choice back then,” he said, “and it remains so now.”
As for his position on the Board, “I think I bring ideas from the perspective of a geographical fringe player, meaning from over the mountains in BC, where field horticulture and protected horticultural crops (specialty crops) are the focus along with dairy and ranching forage crops.
“Because BC is a smaller market than what is found in the Prairies, the province maintains its uniqueness,” he continued. “Retailers in the specialty crops business have to pay a lot of attention to regulatory affairs and new applications of crop science as the field of products is large, and the constant change is an equally big challenge. We do get a lot of news and ideas that we think are often worth sharing, and I try to do that with the CAAR Board as the agenda permits.”
Taylor Olsen has been with CAAR since 2018 and currently sits on the Board’s Advocacy Committee. He is the Operations Manager of Olds Fertilizers & Agri Services Ltd.—a full-service agriculture retail business providing seed, fertilizer, CPP (crop protection products), custom application of fertilizer, seed and crop spraying, and grain marketing of grower feed grains in Olds, Alberta.
Brought up in the world of agriculture, Olds Fertilizer was started by his grandfather in 1975. As a child, he swept floors and washed equipment. By high school, he was performing duties as a yard worker, and then worked alongside floaters and sprayers. He found the work enjoyable enough to take Agricultural Management in college.
After graduating, he returned to the family business, moving from position to position to learn as many aspects of the ag industry as possible. This allowed him to better understand the variations within his current role, and amplify his ability to wear multiple hats to ensure the job gets done right.
He said that he joined CAAR to become more involved with the industry he loves, and to help promote the ag voice.
“Being the voice for all Canadian ag retailers always needs to be at the core of focus, regardless of the issues we tackle—and I think we do a good job of that.”
For almost eight years, Stu Rasmussen has been the General Manager at Blair’s Family of Companies. More recently, he took on the role of Chairman on the CAAR Board of Directors.
Rasmussen has been around the world of agriculture his entire life, working professionally within the industry for more than 34 years.
Headquartered in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, Blair’s Family of Companies is a key provider of crop-protection products, agronomic services, and livestock solutions to farm and ranch customers in east-central Saskatchewan.
He said that he has been with CAAR because all his agri-retail employers since joining the industry have been involved.
He noted that all ag retailers in Canada face a version of the same issues, and he recognizes how important it is to have an organization that can deal with these issues, policies, etc., on behalf of all agricultural retailers.
“As professionals in agriculture, we are harnessed with the task of growing more of and safer food,” he continued. “Our organization is here to help jump the hurdles and safely execute the turns and twists that are thrown at our industry.”
In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Rasmussen seeks to facilitate our ability to work together in all facets of the industry, to make it better.
“We need to show all of our stakeholders in this industry and the public just how truly sustainable agriculture and our industry are,” he summed up. “We’re sustainable today, but we need to continue to show our value as an industry and how we are going to improve sustainability even more in the years ahead.”
Scott Russell is a Director on the CAAR Board, as well as a Director of Ag Canada with Nutrien, a Canadian fertilizer company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
It is the largest producer of potash and the third-largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer in the world, and has over 2,000 retail locations across globe.
“Retail is the essential link between production and the people who grow our food. Not only do agri-retailers bring products and technologies to growers that maximize efficiency, but they are also experts at knowing what solutions will work best in the communities they serve. They are critical to global food sustainability,” explained Russell.
He said that he has been working with ag retailers in Canada and the US for over 17 years, watching and experiencing the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in agriculture.
As part of the Board, Russell said he wants to work with CAAR members to “better promote what we do as an industry to the public and policymakers. We will strive to create an environment where members can collaborate on ways to improve business practices and enhance profitability.”
The Chief Executive Officer of HiTech Installations Ltd., a design/build contractor of fertilizer, seed and grain facilities based in St. Andrews, Manitoba, Craig Senchuk is now also a Director with the CAAR Board.
Senchuk is proud of his agricultural background, having been raised on a family farm in Durban, Manitoba.
“I was approached to join the Board recently and with the challenges that the industry is facing—fertilizer emissions, in particular—we all have a role to play in telling the right story out there,” explained Senchuk. “CAAR is one of the avenues to do that. Certainly, if the industry is healthy from the farm gate on up, we all stand to benefit.”
Senchuk added that the ag community has been under fire from some uninformed people, and believes CAAR can help set the record straight, stating that it seems as though only the people who don’t understand or appreciate agriculture seem to get the airtime. “All of my customers are CAAR members, and if I can in any way help them to continue to do what they do best, I will jump at it.”
Stewart Whillans is the Market Manager - Western Canada at Simplot Canada (II) Limited, located in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
The company is the Canadian arm of The J.R. Simplot Company that maintains its head office in Boise, Idaho, an international business that pioneers innovation in plant nutrition and processing. The company is currently researching new ways to feed animals and sustain ecosystems as it strives to feed a growing global population.
Whillans said that Simplot is a strong supporter of CAAR, which has had previous members on its Board.
“We had one employee leave the Board, and I was asked if I was interested in taking their place. I saw an opportunity to become even more involved within and impact the ag industry,” explained Whillans now a CAAR Board Director.
As a voice on the side of retail and ultimately the ag producers, Whillans said that he wants CAAR “to continue to bring forward ideas that reflect the thinking of agriculture at the grower level, such as supply issues, pricing, political impact, innovation, and how it impacts ag production and the industry players, retail, wholesale, equipment, and of course, the producers.”
If you have any questions or concerns about issues within the Canadian ag sector, please contact your regional representative and let them know what CAAR can do to help you.
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