Our Staff

Christie Young – Executive Director:  Christie is the Founder and Executive Director of FarmStart. She has extensive experience in program initiation and development, fund raising and coalition building. She also has experience and wide networks in both agriculture and the community food security sector. Before she started FarmStart, Christie worked with farmers and farm leaders on and off farms in several countries and worked for several years with FoodShare in Toronto.  She was a founding Board member of Local Food Plus and Sustain Ontario, she lead the Food, Farms, Fish and Finance Initiative, and is an Ashoka Fellow. She also co-owns Artisanale, a family run restaurant in Guelph, ON that serves simple and delicious food.  And she spends the rest of her time trying to keep up with her busy & brilliant kids.


Our Board

Chair: Ricardo Ramirez

I  am independent consultant and researcher in rural and international development. I am on the board because FarmStart is breaking new ground  and I want to be part of this change. Creating opportunities for new entrants into farming is about providing technical, social, agricultural and  financial skills;  it is about giving people confidence. The FarmStart staff combine these skills and are demonstrating their capacity on the ground. If  you were to meet the new farmers at McVean Farm you will be blown away: they are creative, productive and courageous.  As the project gains  momentum, requests for scaling up and replicating the approach will emerge, this will be our challenge.

Treasurer: Melissa Watkins

Prior to joining FarmStart, Melissa was the founding Executive Director of the Ontario Farmland Trust working on farmland preservation and land use planning issues in Ontario. A deep dedication to ensuring that preserved farmlands remained in the hands of farmers as working lands led her to join FarmStart as its Farm Succession Program Manager in 2008. Melissa worked for seven years as part of FarmStart’s core leadership team before taking her current position as Manager of the Partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph in the UofG’s Office of Research. With extensive administrative leadership and organizational governance experience, Melissa joined the FarmStart Board of Directors as Treasurer in 2016.

Secretary: Jeff Boesch

I’ve have been farming organic vegetables since 2004 when I did an internship on a CRAFT farm. Since then my partner and I have worked on many farms in Canada, the U.S. and Europe and, most significantly, we ran a 250 family CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with a friend in Acton Ontario. In the fall of 2009 we finally moved onto a farm of our own to build our own CSA, we now grow organic vegetables for 120 families in Guelph, Hanover and Paisley Ontario. A few years ago I got the opportunity to work with FarmStart as Farm Manager at the McVean incubator farm in Brampton. Being a part of that farm has really reinforced to me the importance of the work FarmStart does. As a board member I hope to help bring the perspective of a new, full time ecological farmer.

Member: Andre Hueniken

I have been involved in the food industry for six years, most recently as VP Marketing and Customer Support for Compusense Inc., a local company  with an international reach and many multi-national food production clients. Compusense develops software that is used in the food development  industry.  I am now passionate about local food. Real food. Sustainably produced food. Food grown by farmers who care about their produce, the soil and the  welfare of their livestock.  I joined the Farmstart board because they have developed inspiring innovative programs that share my values.   In addition to my dream, I bring to the board many years of volunteer board experience as a treasurer, fundraiser and facilitator. I have a legal background and have worked locally as a lawyer and mediator.

Landman,KarenMember: Karen Landman

Karen has a background in horticulture, landscape architecture, rural planning and development, and cultural geography. She maintained a design practice for over 20 years, and has worked as a rural planner. Since 2002, she has been a full-time faculty member at the University of Guelph in the School of Environmental Design & Rural Development. Her current research interests include green infrastructure, urban agriculture, local food systems, urban to rural linkages, and community landscape-stewardship planning. A registered professional planner and a professor in landscape architecture, Karen is interested in the linkages between design and planning. She is a member of the Nourishing Communities research team and is a research associate with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.




Comments are closed.