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Since 1995, I’ve taught agricultural communications at the Ontario Agricultural College. I’ve held the position of director of research communications at the University of Guelph for 27 years, where I started a program called Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK).
I’ve been fortunate to lead programs that have won awards or been recognized by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Awards, the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education, the Association for Communications Excellence and the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation. It’s a tribute to the hard work and dedication SPARK students and research communications staff have shown over the years, to the cooperation we’ve had from University of Guelph faculty and administration, and to the commitment from sponsors.
After graduating from the University of Windsor with a communications degree, my journalism and communications career began as a reporter and editor in Ontario, at the Wallaceburg Courier Press, and then in Alberta, at the Grand Centre-Cold Lake Sun and the now-defunct Alberta Report magazine. Professors, editors and publishers such as the late Andy Osler and Gary O’Flynn, as well as Peter Longmore, Jim Bentein, Link Byfield and Ted Byfield, had a lot of patience with me as I was learning the profession, and I owe my students the same consideration.
Today, besides teaching and administrative work at the University of Guelph, I am active as a journalist, most notably as the agri-food columnist — the “Urban Cowboy” (i.e. an urban person who writes about the farm sector) — for the Guelph Mercury.
I also contribute to various other regional and national publications, including The Grower, RealAgriculture, the Orangeville Banner, Country Routes, the Woolwich Observer, Farm Credit Canada’s FCC Express e-newsletter and the Toronto Star as a freelance travel writer.
I’m a native of Mitchell’s Bay, Ontario (pop. 350), a small village on Lake St. Clair, about halfway between Wallaceburg and Chatham. I hold a Bachelor of Arts (communications) from the University of Windsor, a Masters of Science (rural extension studies) from the University of Guelph, and a Doctorate of Education (agricultural education) from Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University.
In 2005, I was named an honourary professional agrologist by the Ontario Institute of Agrologists. In August, 2012, I was elected Vice-President of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. I also received the academic programs award of excellence from ACE in 2012, as well as having a peer-reviewed journal article I co-wrote with colleagues named Article of the Year by the Journal of Applied Communications.