Posts by crystal

Award winning Grow Our People Unconference set to roll for 2024

February 1, 2024 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Award winning Grow Our People Unconference set to roll for 2024”

Guelph, ON – Agriculture is facing one of its greatest challenges with labour shortages and a pending wave of retirees leaving in the next decade.  The Grow Our People Unconference is designed to help those who work in agriculture and food in Canada – to build new skills, grow deeper networks, and gain a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our agri-food sector. 

“We call Grow Our People an ‘unconference’ experience as it’s unlike any other event in agriculture,” shares Brenda Trask, event co-founder. “We created it to bring people together from across sectors with a focus on people and skills, and have some fun at the same time.”

Event organizers Crystal Mackay, Mary Thornley and Brenda Trask came together in 2022 to create this event with the vision for a unique experience to equip people with skills and connections to help grow themselves, their businesses, and the agri-food sector.  They were recognized with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture’s Excellence in Agriculture Award in 2023 for this innovative event experience and their dedication to making it happen.

Dr. Rumeet Billan, Chief Learning Architect for Viewpoint Leadership, will kick off the event the evening of May 28th with her profound keynote on The Science of Trust and Belonging.  The remainder of the event is comprised of interactive workshops focusing on skills such as communications, leadership, advocacy, and human resources.  While these skills are valuable for any human, three streams of sessions will be set up for: individual leaders early in their career, people who manage people, and board members. 

The spirit of the event, to elevate people in agriculture and celebrate with good food, comes to life with a very special early bird registration offer.  Everyone who registers before March 1, 2024 will be entered to win a private flight over southwestern Ontario hosted by pilots who also happen to be farmers, along with a $250 gift certificate for dinner. 

The Grow Your People Unconference will be held in-person at the Queen’s Landing vintage hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake from May 28-30, 2024. Registration for this ‘unconference’ event experience is now open at

Attendees will leave the event with new skills, deeper networks, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our agri-food sector.  Register yourself, your board, or your team today. Find out more at

Grow Our People Agenda

January 29, 2024 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Grow Our People Agenda”


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Draft Agenda – Grow Our People

January 23, 2024 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Draft Agenda – Grow Our People”
Grow our people conference, November 2 - 4, 2022

The Royal Road Trip – a celebration 100 years in the making

September 9, 2022 Posted by growourpeople 0 thoughts on “The Royal Road Trip – a celebration 100 years in the making”

Join us for the Royal 100th Anniversary Showcase Event on Wednesday November 2nd.  We will take you from Niagara Falls to Toronto for this once-in-a-lifetime evening.

Grow our people conference, November 2 - 4, 2022

Registration now open for new Grow Our People Summit

May 10, 2022 Posted by growourpeople 0 thoughts on “Registration now open for new Grow Our People Summit”

Grand prize announced for early bird registration to win a trip for two to Walt Disney World

Agenda at a Glance  

February 17, 2022 Posted by growourpeople 0 thoughts on “Agenda at a Glance  ”

Download the agenda to learn more.

The Grow Our People Summit.

New skills-building event launched for people in agriculture and food

February 16, 2022 Posted by growourpeople 0 thoughts on “New skills-building event launched for people in agriculture and food”

Grow Our People Summit coming to Niagara Falls this November

Guelph, ON. February 17, 2022 – People are at the heart of Canada’s food system and should be valued as the most important asset in any business. The new Grow Our People Summit was created for people who work in agriculture and food to help them build business and leadership skills, while making new connections. 

The Grow Our People Summit vision was created by three ladies with a passion for agriculture, food, and the great people they have worked with throughout their careers. Crystal Mackay, Mary Thornley, and Brenda Trask have combined their skills and networks to create this fun, engaging and valuable experience. 

“We are excited to welcome the good people who work in agriculture and food to come together in person to learn, network and have some fun,” shared Summit Co-Founder Crystal Mackay. “By investing in people, we can elevate the whole sector for the future.”

The Grow Your People Summit will be held in-person at the Sheraton Fallsview in Niagara Falls from November 2-4, 2022.

To provide the most value for travel budgets and time, this Summit is scheduled for the same week as three other prestigious events: the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Best of CAMA agri-food marketing awards, and the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

This ‘unconference’ experience will have galas, bus trips, networking across typical sector divides, and personal development workshop opportunities. The unique model of this event is partner-driven with a people-first approach.  

Brenda Trask, Summit Co-Founder, says “We are excited to work with eight non-profit partners who are leaders in their fields. They will host 12 interactive sessions to build business skills and people skills. Plus add in a fun road trip and agriculture’s academy awards!”

Sessions will be hosted by partners Agriculture in the Classroom Canada, Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation, Canadian Agri-Food Marketers Alliance, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, Do More Ag, Outstanding Young Farmers, Rural Ontario Institute, and the team from  

With sincere thanks to the initial sponsors who have invested in the vision for growing our people to date: Bayer Crop Science, BDO, Farm Credit Canada, Gay Lea, and RealAgriculture.

“Register yourself, your teams, your customers, your leaders, and future leaders,” stated Mary Thornley, Summit Co-Founder. “This is a tremendous opportunity to add some tools to your toolbox, and boost spirits at the same time.”

Summit attendees will leave the event with new skills, deeper networks, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our agri-food sector. 

Save the date and find out more at Registration and session details will be coming soon.

Training program launched to help those new to working with farmers

March 24, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Training program launched to help those new to working with farmers” provides online training and access to experts in agriculture and food

London, ON –  February 23, 2021 – While everyone has to eat, a surprisingly low percentage of us know the people who farm.  So…Your Client is a Farmer is a new online training resource that aims to change that.

“Farmers are a unique bunch, and no two farms are the same,” explained Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, farmer and program co-founder.   “We designed this training on specifically to help people learn how to be more successful in their business relationships with farmers.”

The team combined their own extensive backgrounds and reached out to farmers and experienced service providers from across North America to create a practical program with the most relevant content. The response was overwhelming.  Farmers readily shared their advice for and frustrations with those who deliver products, services or programs that impact them and their businesses.

The new training program also includes valuable insights from respected agriculture leaders – the Hon. Gerry Ritz, retired Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Mary Robinson, Canadian Federation of Agriculture President; and Jay Bradshaw, agri-business leader and retired President of Syngenta Canada. 

Crystal Mackay, program co-founder shared, “We want to welcome new people into agriculture, as well as equip those already working in it, to be more confident with their understanding of farm businesses.”   She added, “It will also be valuable for those working in policy or programs related to farmers to have a resource to increase understanding of their clients.”

The So…Your Client is a Farmer training program takes approximately 90 minutes to complete online and is available anytime. It includes a self-evaluation, a one-hour training video, training guide, and certificate of completion.  It will be useful for onboarding new employees, and also for engaging and training existing team members. is designed to be a toolbox of clear and practical content, training and expertise about farming and the entire food system. This new training program adds to the list, which includes Grow Your Brand and Introduction to Media Training, all designed specifically for those working in the food system.  In addition to online training, Utensil 101 is a resource centre for increasing content knowledge, with experts available for personalized coaching or project support.  Register for training and find out more at launches with new tools for building food and farming know-how

October 6, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “ launches with new tools for building food and farming know-how”

Unique searchable guide with over 500 terms and built-in access to experts

Guelph, July 30, 2020 –  While everyone has to eat, a surprisingly low percentage understand how our food is grown or how the food system works. is a new online resource that aims to change that with helpful tools to build knowledge and confidence – from farms to kitchens.  It starts with Utensil Guide, the plain language guide to food and farming. 

“Agriculture and food has unique vocabulary by sector and region, with many acronyms,” explained Crystal Mackay, CEO of Loft32 and co-founder.   “Utensil Guide will help people who work within the food system by giving them language they need to learn about new topics and communicate more effectively.”

The Utensil Guide is free for all to use and launches with over 500 terms. It is fully searchable by term, acronym or sector and extends from farm through to retail and food service. With easy to understand explanations, the Guide also has links to many other credible resources. It will be continually updated, with input from users. 

“We want you to be comfortable and confident in all conversations about food and farming,” shared Andrew Campbell, farmer and co-founder.  “Whether you are new to the agriculture and food sectors, or you want extend your knowledge beyond just one or two sectors, is that kickstart to help you.” is designed to be a toolbox of clear, concise and practical content about farming and the entire food system. On top of the Guide, it will also host Utensil 101, Utensil Training and Utensil Talent Stable, all that bring users access to respected subject matter experts.  

This resource was developed as a collaborative effort with many partners donating their time and resources to make it happen. The focus will start with topics related to farming and farmers, and start working towards food processing, restaurants and retail over the next 18 months.


For more information:

Andrew Campbell                                                                   Crystal Mackay
[email protected]                                                         [email protected]

226.678.4004                                                                            519.829.9772

Unique new communications firm launched to bring expertise together in agriculture and food

June 6, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Unique new communications firm launched to bring expertise together in agriculture and food”

GUELPH, ON – June 6, 2019:   A new Canadian venture, Loft32, will work to elevate businesses, people and the conversations on food and farming.   Loft32 is comprised of a network of dynamic professionals with deep backgrounds in agriculture, food, business and strategic communications. 

Loft32 will deliver elite services related to:

  • Strategic communications – Speaking, Training, Facilitating
  • Project management and support
  • Agriculture and food expertise

Crystal Mackay, CEO, will lead operations, with her 25-year track record of creating and leading collaborative, ground-breaking agriculture and food communications and business efforts.  Mackay is well-known in farming and food circles for her work as the inaugural CEO of Farm & Food Care Canada/Ontario, and more recently the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.

“The best way to elevate businesses and the sector is by elevating people,” Mackay stated.  “Loft32 will help inspire, engage and equip the good people in agriculture and food with the communications tools and expertise to do better.”

Founders Maggie Van Camp and Crystal Mackay shared some lively discussions about the next chapter of their careers, along with the future of agriculture and food in Canada as they developed the Loft32 business model.  They decided to utilize their experience and network to help change frustrations and needs into opportunities and wins for the sector they are both passionate about.    

Maggie Van Camp, brings a unique background of journalism, farming and business leadership to the table.  She shares her views on why she was inspired to help create Loft32,   

“For agriculture and food to be truly successful in the future, there needs to be more collaboration on many levels,  across companies and sectors.  The Loft32 business model is built to foster collaboration by bringing great people and expertise together to encourage new thinking, develop skills and strategies, and solve problems for successful outcomes.”

Loft32 will help clients achieve their business goals by connecting them with the expertise they need, all well-grounded in practical experience, context and connections.  The goal will be to deliver high quality, customized service and results to add depth to the bench for organizations, companies and event planners.  

The Loft32 Speakers Bureau, the first service available, features some of the most dynamic and well-recognized speakers in agriculture and food in North America.   The Speakers Bureau, along with training and project team networks, will continue to be populated with new colleagues who fit the Loft32 business model.

As part of the Loft32 commitment to elevating people, they will be sharing regular communications training tips through @theLoft32 on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Visit to find out more, request a speaker or training session, or discuss an idea for a project.