Simone Demers-Collins is one of three inductees for 2022
By Diego Flammini
Simone Demers-Collins has done a lot in her professional ag career.
This includes being executive director of Alberta Farmers’ Markets for 10 years, publishing children’s books about agriculture and currently working with 4-H Alberta as its provincial diversity board member.
It’s this experience and dedication to agriculture that has earned her an induction into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame for the class of 2022.
“I’m incredibly humbled,” she told Farms.com. “There’s not that many women in the hall of fame (17 women inducted since 1951). And I’m also part of a small group of people who were hired by Alberta Agriculture as part of its extension service. So, to be able to represent those women is a huge honour and privilege.”
Alberta Ag’s extension service hired agriculturalists and home economists to work with rural communities in developing skills and providing services depending on which part of the province a family was in.
Demers-Collins grew up on a farm north of Edmonton but didn’t actively help out on the farm. Her father wanted to be a farmer, but an allergy to dust forced him to work off the farm.
She recognized her passion for agriculture once she joined 4-H at the age of 11.
“The leaders I had were people I really looked up to,” she said. “And I can remember myself thinking ‘this is something I’d really like to do.’”
During her career, Demers-Collins has noticed the interest in agriculture among consumers comes and goes.
Her goal was always to keep agriculture in the forefront with support from the greater ag community.
One way she helped accomplish this goal, during her tenure with Alberta Canola, is create a simple but powerful message. That canola is “Healthy. Local. Affordable.”
“We noticed consumers were starting to ask questions about how food was grown and the new technologies in agriculture,” she said. “I wanted the farmers who I worked with to have the tools to speak to consumers and family members about the work that they did. I wanted to provide them with key words they could use to have these conversations. It’s versatile and really could apply to multiple commodities.”
Another way she kept agriculture in everyday conversations is through publishing 16 children’s books.
She’d given presentations about canola but thought a book could help her reach more people.
“Nobody was going to invite me over to tell the story of canola and how it’s different from rapeseed,” she said.
She and a team of writers and illustrators created the character Chase Superman Duffy, a competitive track star who loved Superman and whose grandfather was a farmer.
“The idea was that Chase would visit his grandfather and have these conversations about agriculture,” Demers-Collins said.
Each book talks about a different aspect of ag. And the books are written in different formats to encourage teachers to use them in classrooms.
“We talk about soil, we talk about urbanization and we talk about insects,” she said. “One book is written all in haikus, one is a mystery and one is a fantasy. So, teachers can teach English but at the same time be teaching about food and agriculture.”
Demers-Collins continues to engage with consumers while doing tours with Alberta Food Tours.
And while the restaurant and the prepared meals are the stars of the experiences, the conversations steer towards ag.
“On many occasions we talk about agriculture,” she said. “Speaking about food and agriculture is very much part of my daily life and part of everything I do to this day.”
The Alberta Ag Hall of Fame inducted two other industry leaders for 2022.
- Bruce Beattie, who helped shape and modernize what’s known as Alberta Milk.
- Jack Lewis, an innovative ag producer who pioneered new farming techniques for seed potato production and established scholarships for ag students and Lakeland College and the University of Alberta.