50th Convention (2019)

November 24 –  27 2019

Fifty years ago, the National Farmers Union held its very first national convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This year, we’ll be back to celebrate our achievements, honour the members whose dedication and wisdom helped us achieve so much, pass on the lessons we’ve learned along the way, and help shape our vision for our next fifty years on the front lines of agriculture.

Download the detailed program

Audio recordings of convention sessions are available – download the order form here.

Convention Sponsors


Convention Social Events

Sunday, November 24:

Book Launch: Frontline Farmers: How the National Farmers Union Resists Agribusiness and Creates our New Food Future

Frontline Farmers collects the voices of NFU members telling of the key struggles of the progressive farm movement in Canada: fighting to build viable rural communities, protecting the family farm and creating socially just and ecologically sustainable food systems.  From fighting against transnational corporations that seek to control our food system by imposing genetically modified organisms into our food, to protecting seeds, maintaining orderly marketing, saving the prison farms, keeping the land in the hands of family farmers, farming ecologically and building food sovereignty, the NFU has been front and centre of farm and food activism.

Annette Aurélie Desmarais is Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Social Justice and Food Sovereignty at the University of Manitoba. She conducts research on food sovereignty struggles in various countries. In addition to editing Frontline Farmers: How the National Farmers Union Resists Agribusiness and Creates our New Food Future, Annette is also the author of La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants (2007) and co-editor of three books on food sovereignty. Prior to obtaining her doctorate in Geography, Annette was a small-scale farmer in Saskatchewan. She then worked with the National Farmers Union and provided technical support to La Via Campesina for a decade.

Tuesday, November 26:

Banquet and Dance

Enjoy a special local food feast with your NFU friends, celebrate achievements of our Grassroots leaders, and kick up your heels at the dance, 6:30 til Midnight. Banquet tickets are available online or at the registration table until noon Tuesday.

Dance to the sounds of 2018 Manitoba Country Music Association Roots Artist of the Year, Quinton Blair. From Mitchell Manitoba, Blair is a seasoned performer and a great singer-story teller, who connects with every audience with his genuine music.

Program Highlights

Monday November 25:

Keynote speaker – Avi Lewis

Documentary filmmaker, journalist, TV host and producer, Avi Lewis will deliver the keynote address at our free public event,  7 PM Monday, November 25. Avi Lewis is the strategic director and co-founder of The Leap. A champion of social movements, he is organizing with Canadians to build a collective response to the racism, inequality, and climate change crises we are facing. Avi’s presentation

Monday November 25:

Farmers on the Frontlines

We open our 50th Anniversary convention with a look at our origins and key struggles that shaped the Union.


Randall Affleck lives in Lower Bedeque, Prince Edward Island with Jackie and their two children Katie and Regan. Randall, and his brother Alex, are the 5th generation to operate the families 300-acre dairy farm. Randall has been a member of the National Farmers Union since 1990. He has had the privilege of serving on the NFU National Executive and Board and as District Director for District 1, Region 1. Between 1999 and 2009 he was a board member of the Dairy Farmers of PEI. Randall graduated from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College with a diploma in Animal Science in 1987.

Pat Atkinson is the former Member of the Legislature for Saskatoon-Nutana. During her 25 years as an elected MLA, she served in several senior ministerial portfolios including Social Services, Post Secondary Education, Crown Investment Corporation, Transportation, Rural Revitalization, Health, and Education. She was also Deputy Leader in the caucus. Over the years Pat gained an exceptional experience in governance, public policy development and implementation. She is the longest serving woman parliamentarian in Saskatchewan history. Since leaving elected office in 2011 Pat has worked internationally and nationally with parliamentarians, public servants, political party activists and candidates. She has worked in transitional and post-conflict democracies including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Ukraine and Russia.

Laura Larsen became interested in agricultural history while growing up on a third-generation mixed farm in Alberta. She studies the connections between environment, transportation, and agrarian activism on the Canadian prairies. Her master’s thesis examined the Canadian experience of the 1972 Great Grain Robbery. Her PhD research focuses on the debate over the Crowsnest Pass Freight Rate during changes to the grain handling and transportation system in the 1970s and 1980s. Her writing has appeared in Unwritten Histories, Seeds, and Active History, and she is currently the editor of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society’s Folklore Magazine.

In Union, Strength

A panel discussion with past NFU leaders sharing highlights from their time in office. Moderated by  NFU Youth Vice-President, Jessie MacInnis.

Tuesday November 26:

Building for a better future

The NFU has created a framework that advances values of solidarity and democracy that provide a strong foundation for our future.

Nettie Wiebe farms near Delisle, Saskatchewan, growing organic grains and pulse crops as well as raising cattle. She served in elected leadership positions of the NFU for ten years and was the first woman to lead a national farm organization in Canada. The NFU was a founding member of the global Via Campesina movement where Nettie played a leadership role as a member of the International Coordinating Committee from 1996-2004. She is an active participant in public discourse on sustainable agriculture and rural communities, women’s equality, human rights and food sovereignty, and continues to work internationally, representing social movements at the UN Committee on World Food Security in Rome. She wrote Reaching Beyond Hunger: the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty, a chapter in a social work text book, has co-edited two volumes on food sovereignty and co-authored several articles on land grabbing and land concentration in Saskatchewan. She received an Honourary Doctorate from the University of Alberta in 2018.

Coral Sproule is a first generation farmer and owner of Queen Beet Farm. Coral puts her dedication to food sovereignty into farming, advocacy and education by participating in local food movements, off-farm employment, and regional agricultural food systems projects and discussions. She has served the NFU as an elected official at all levels, including VP Operations and NFU Women’s President. She has been on numerous committees and working groups. As a Convention chairperson she developed democratic process expertise, which she has translated into practical resources for board and membership development.

Stewart Wells and his partner, Terry Toews, live on the original homestead of his grandparents and are the third generation to operate the family farm in southwest Saskatchewan near Swift Current. On their 3500 acres they grow certified organic grain, alfalfa and pulse crops, and rent 1200 acres of permanent pasture to neighbours. He has experience serving on many farm organizations, including the NFU, the Canadian Agri-food Policy Institute, the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Western Grains Research Foundation. Stewart is a past President of the NFU, and is currently 2nd Vice President (Operations). Stewart’s presentation

Emerging issues

This session will look at the emerging issues of technology, governance and social dynamics that have an impact on farmers’ daily lives and our future.

Terry Boehm will look at Big Data and other new technologies, and their implications for farmers. Terry has had a long involvement with the NFU, including as President from 2010 until 2013. He has been analyzing legislation, trade agreements, government papers and reports, academic journals and reports and corporate data as part of his work for the NFU, and has developed expertise in rail transport legislation, international trade, biotechnology, intellectual property issues, seed legislation and variety registration systems in Canada and has been active in defending the CWB, the Canadian Grain Commission, and Supply Management as institutions intended to protect and advance the interests of farmers. Terry farms 4,000 acres with his parents  south east of Saskatoon. They grow wheat, durum, barley, yellow mustard, flax, canola, peas, and lentils.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Bruce Campbell will examine the federal government’s new regulatory reform initiative. Bruce was Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives from 1994 until 2015. He was awarded a Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship and spent 2016 as a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. He is currently adjunct professor, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies; and Senior Fellow, Ryerson University, Centre for Free Expression. Bruce is the author of The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal Justice Denied; in French,  Enquête sur la catastophe  de Lac-Mégantic: Quand les pouvoirs publiques déraillent. Bruce’s presentation

Syed Hussan is the Executive Director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition, and co-founder of the Migrant Rights Network. At MWAC, Hussan provides strategic support to self-organized groups of migrants to win legal reforms provincially and federally. He has been central to winning Sanctuary City policies in Toronto, and cities across Canada, and in supporting immigrants in detention. Hussan has been working with Grassy Narrows First Nation since 2008 which in 2017 won a commitment to a remediation of their mercury poisoned river. Hussan co-founded the #RememberJan29 project to mark the Quebec Mosque shooting. Hussan’s presentation

What would a Green New Deal for Farmers look like?

The Green New Deal is a huge idea that has caught fire around the world — and it is still waiting to be defined! It’s a call to respond to the climate emergency at the scale and speed science and justice demand to bring about “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” (in the words of climate scientists). And it is a generational opportunity to confront the interconnected crises of economic inequality, corporate control, and the increasing precariousness of daily life. Farmers now have a unique opportunity to shape a Green New Deal for the food system. In this session NFU members will share ideas for how we can use this chance to realize our vision for thriving family farms that enhance the land for generations to come. Join James Hutt and Avi Lewis from The Leap for this collaborative and interactive session. It’s time to dream big.

James Hutt is the Senior Manager of Programming at The Leap, which means he gets to scheme about bold and beautiful ways to make the world better. He works to bridge different social movements, cross-pollinate ideas, and conspire to collectively create transformative change. He is most passionate about connecting labour and climate justice. James has led advocacy for a number of unions and non-profits, including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers; the Canadian Health Coalition, and Overdose Prevention Ottawa.

Wednesday November 27:

On the front line of the Climate Emergency

Dr. Greg Flato is a Senior Scientist in the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in the Climate Climate Research Division of Environment and Climate Change Canada. He has worked on the development of a series of global climate models used to simulate historical climate variations and project future climate change. He is an elected Vice Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group I and was a Coordinating Lead Author of the model evaluation chapter in the IPCC Fifth Assessment. Dr Flato received his BSc and MSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Alberta, and a PhD in Engineering Science from Dartmouth College, USA. Dr. Flato’s presentation will be about recent IPCC Climate Assessment Reports and their implications for agriculture in Canada. Greg’s presentation

Dr. Ian Mauro is the Principal of the Richardson College for the Environment and Executive Director of the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg. He is a former Canada Research Chair, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, Apple Distinguished Educator, and has served on expert panels related to food security, climate change and energy issues. Mauro has also collaboratively developed a trilogy of climate change films across Canada as well as the Climate Atlas of Canada . Mauro’s work has been featured in academic conferences, museums, film festivals and news media such as the United Nations, Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, Royal Ontario Museum, ImagineNative, Berlin International Film Festival, The Globe and Mail and This American Life.

Darrin Qualman is the author of Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future. Darrin was a farmer and for 15 years a senior staff person at the NFU, including several years as the Director of Research. He has degrees in biology, history, and political studies. He is currently working as a Project Manager with the City of Saskatoon, developing a water conservation strategy for the city. He continues to work with the NFU to develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Darrin’s presentation

Looking 50 years ahead – bringing practice and policy together

Aric McBay is an organizer, a farmer, and author of four books. He writes and speaks about effective social movements, and has organized campaigns around prison justice, Indigenous solidarity, pipelines, unionization, and other causes. He farms just east of Kingston, Ontario, and is Manager of Membership Development and Special Projects for the National Farmers Union – Ontario. His most recent book, Full Spectrum Resistance (Seven Stories Press, 2019), is a two-volume exploration of how to build more effective social movements. Aric’s presentation

Byron Beardy will discuss his understandings of the connections of land-based language in the context of food from an indigenous lens. He is originally from Garden Hill First Nation and was raised in Wasagamack First Nation in the Island Lake region of Manitoba. There, with his mother and maternal grandparents, he had the privilege of eating everything edible from the land and learning and living in the Anishininew (Ojibway-Cree) language. He has also lived in the urban setting with his father, late Jackson Beardy. Having experienced both worlds in his early life, he appreciates what each has to offer. Now wrapping up his 12th season with Four Arrows Regional Health Authority’s Kimeechiminan (Our Food) program, Byron founded the biennial Indigenous Food Sovereignty Summit. He has been instrumental with the inclusion of language and identity within the indigenous food sovereignty movement in Manitoba. He sits on food-related committees and supports action for indigenous food sovereignty and security at all levels, from local to international. From Island Lake to Rovaniemi, Finland, Byron shares his learned knowledge of cultural protocols, customs, and practices with a focus on Indigenous food sovereignty, security and sustainability.

Bess Legault is a first generation farmer and the owner/operator/educator of Hip Peace Produce. When Bess moved to the Peace Region after studying alternative agriculture and interning on organic vegetable farms in the Okanagan, she learned of the quality soils and unique micro climate of the Peace River Valley that were being threatened by the development of the Site C Dam.  After 4 years of producing over 131 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs she can now demonstrate that the Peace River Valley can produce melons closer to the Yukon than Vancouver! Through her dedication to seeing sustainable, regenerative agriculture and local food systems as a Climate Solution, she has found herself coordinating a northern farmer support program called the Northern Co-Hort out of Fort St John, BC.  Connecting with northern producers and consumers over the past year, Bess continues to forage for resources to build a a path towards supporting and developing a horticulture sector in the Peace Region that will meet consumers’ needs to ensure local food is grown, processed and consumed in a sustainable way. Bess’s presentation

Bring your own Topic!

Is there something else you’d love to discuss with other farmers? We will have space set aside for small group farmer-to-farmer sessions, led by and open to anyone at convention. If you want to lead a conversation, pick a time and add your topic to the sign-up sheet. If you want to join a conversation, just check the sheet to find out when and where it will be happening.


Check back here again, as new details will be added as they are confirmed.