Coffee Time Snacks and Cannabis

Date: October 13, 2023

Author: Ellen Edney, AALP Class 20

First seminar for AALP is in the books! The awkward “getting to know you” Band-Aids have been ripped off, the painstakingly honest LPI assessment results have been read and I had far more caffeine than possibly needed by anyone ever. And what can I say about AALP so far? It’s been a fantastic experience.

On Wednesday, September 6th, twenty-two strangers filed into a St Catherines conference room. Day one, the very talented team of Jay Reid and Hayley Kellett from The Making Box, gently forced us out of our shells to show us how to be adaptable while bringing more joy back to our teams. A great time was had by all!

Next up on the agenda, we really got down to business. Kelly Ann McKnight and partner George Pinho from Stone Ridge Consulting joined us to begin The Leadership Challenge. Over the course of the next two days, we reviewed different leadership styles and challenges then dug deep into our 360 personalised Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) Assessment. This feedback came from multiple anonymous sources such as managers, co-workers, relatives, etc. to paint a very vivid picture of our leadership strengths but most importantly our weaknesses. Kelly Ann and George graciously walked us through these assessments which included practical ways of improving our shortcomings. By Thursday afternoon the group was far more equipped for our leadership roles. That evening we were joined by multiple AALP Alumni grads and supporters at our Welcome Banquet. It was a wonderful evening.

Friday was site-tour day! The day began visiting Kai Wiens Family Farm, co-operated by AALP Class 16 Alumni Dylan Reed Wiens and his father Kai Wiens. Dylan showed the impressive automated sorting-packing system used for peaches. Next, we moved on to see the Brock Monument where we met by Jim Hill, Natural Heritage Manager of the Niagara Parks Commission. Here Jim told us about the historic efforts and contributions made by the Indigenous peoples of the area in the war of 1812. Our third stop of the day was to the Vineyard Growers’ Cooperative where we were greeted and shown around the facilities by Michael Ecker, President of the Growers’ Cooperative. During our time with Michael, we learned about the management of a cooperative as well as the sales and distribution systems for Niagara tender fruit.


Niagara College was our last stop with two destinations within the facility: the Food and Beverage Innovation Centre and the Cannabis Lab Bunker. At the Innovation Centre, Dr Ana Cristina Vega Luna showed us around and explained the process of how companies and/ or independent food entrepreneurs go about trialing a new product/idea and bringing it to market. The last stop of the day was the Cannabis Lab Bunker shown to us by Professor Bill MacDonald. Here we learned about the ups and downs of the cannabis industry as well as potential opportunities for growers. Overall, it was a great educational experience, and the day was ended at a local winery sampling some lovely local wines.

On Saturday we met again in the same St Catherines conference room, this time loaded with a few stories from the evening before. We had our first run through of the ins and outs of a board meeting, debriefed about the first seminar and all went our different ways back across Ontario!

Until next time! See everyone in Sarnia.