Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, Executive Director

Carolyn Van Den Heuvel grew up on a beef farm in Antigonish, and currently resides in Truro Heights. She graduated from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Following graduation, she worked on a number of dairy farms before starting her career with the Federation in 2012. Carolyn officially started with the NSFA in 2013; however, she began working in the office in 2012 on a joint project with NSFA and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

Good, bad or indifferent, Carolyn has never left the agriculture industry. Growing up on a farm, she always had a passion for agriculture. While studying at the NSAC she knew one thing – she wanted to work in the agriculture industry, at the producer level, in a capacity that helped the industry progress. Carolyn feels that her work at the NSFA does just that and fulfills her desire to support industry in an ever-changing environment. Her favourite part of the job is getting to know our members and gaining a better understanding and appreciation for the agriculture industry as a whole!

Carolyn likes to spend her time outdoors. Although she is not directly involved in farming anymore, that is where her heart lies. She’s quite sure she could be convinced to join anyone during the busy months for a bit of “tractor therapy”.

First purchase if Carolyn wins the lottery: Carolyn would want to give back to the community – a few investments close to her heart would be mental health programming in rural communities, investing in programming to support those that are food insecure and providing extra-curricular programming to underprivileged youth. She might throw a hot tub in there too!

Janette McDonald, Associate Director

Janette McDonald grew up on a dairy farm in the Musquodoboit Valley and graduated from NSAC in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in Agricultural Business. Janette has been working in the industry ever since, mainly with the NS Department of Agriculture, Agri-Futures Nova Scotia, and the NS Federation of Agriculture. Janette and her husband have three daughters and operate a dairy farm in East Hants with his family. “Agriculture and farming is, and has always been, a big part of my life. I’m looking forward to supporting the wonderful staff at NSFA to deliver programs and services to our members. Agriculture is evolving at a fast pace and it’s exciting to be supporting the growth and opportunities while helping to respond to the challenges farmers are facing.”

Favourite Movie: Janette has always been a huge Anne of Green Gables fan and also really enjoyed Dan Brown’s Davinci Code series. Lately she seems to read a lot of WWII era fiction stories and while she doesn’t watch a lot of movies, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas Eve tradition for her.

First purchase if Janette wins the lottery: She would have a lot of fun farming! She would build herself a horse barn and have a few more Guernsey cows.

John Rix, Director of Policy & Advocacy

John Rix is a public affairs professional from Prince Edward Island moving to Nova Scotia to join the team at NSFA. John has always been passionate about politics, even from a young age, and has keen interest in working with community organizations, businesses, and governments to contribute to ensuring Maritime provinces like Nova Scotia thrive.

After completing his studies in Political Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, John moved to Ottawa to pursue a career in public affairs with hopes that the opportunities for skills development in Canada’s capital would set him up for success in bringing his love for politics, policy, and public affairs back to the Maritimes. While in Ottawa, he also completed his Master of Political Management degree from Carleton University.

John brings a variety of experiences to his role in the NSFA team, including public affairs work for national organizations, government relations consulting for businesses, experience in the federal public service, and time spent as a political staffer. John is looking forward to helping farmers progress and grow their industry.

Favourite book: 1984 by George Orwell 

Favourite movie: Star Wars (any originals)

First purchase if John wins the lottery: If he won the lottery today, he would pay off his student debt and buy a house.

Shelly MacKenzie, Executive Assistant

Shelly MacKenzie lives in Bible Hill with her husband and is a lifelong resident of the Truro area. She has two kids, two beagles and one cat. Shelly attended Success Business College in Truro and graduated as a Legal Secretary. Shelly has been with the NSFA for 11 years after spending 25 years with Pork Nova Scotia. At the Federation, Shelly is responsible for Annual Meeting planning and prep, and overall meeting booking and organization for NSFA. Her favourite thing about her job is the friendly work environment at the Federation!

Shelly’s favourite activity is travelling, though COVID-19 has been putting a damper on that recently!

Favourite movie: The Notebook

Tracey Otterson, Finance Coordinator

Tracey Otterson resides in Truro with her husband, and has a grown son and daughter. Tracey found her love for numbers while getting a certificate for another course and has now been with the NSFA team since November of 2019. Tracey is well-suited to this field of work as she is an organizer at heart and likes working with numbers! Her favourite part of her job is reconciliations.

Favourite book: Anne of Green Gables

First purchase if Tracey wins the lottery: she would open an all year-round Christmas shop!

Katie Hirtle, Emergency Management Coordinator
Katie Hirtle grew up on the South Shore of Nova Scotia and currently lives in New Ross with her partner Mark and son Hayden. She is an NSAC Grad – class of ’98 with a diploma in Agri Business and has extensive experience in on-farm biosecurity and animal health. Katie has worked in agriculture her entire career and it is the people who draw her in and keep her working in industry. Katie is looking forward to her new role as it blends her experience and desire to work here at home.

Favourite book: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Favourite movie: The Princess Bride- with her favorite quote setting networking expectations:  “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” (friendly introduction) “you killed my father” (personal connection) “prepare to die” (setting expectations).

First purchase if Katie wins the lottery: Katie would would get started on some home renos!

Brian Udoh, Policy Analyst

Brian Udoh is an agriculture enthusiast; he has dedicated over 15 years of his career to working solely in the agricultural industry. He currently lives in the valley of East Mountain, Nova Scotia, and has received his education from various parts of the world. He is a Certified Expert in Agricultural Finance from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, has a minMBA in Food and Agribusiness Management from Business School Netherlands, a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Wales, an Advance Post-Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness Management from James Lind’s Institute, and a Bachelors of Agricultural Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure.

He also holds professional certificates from Wageningen University and Research on Sustainable Food Security,  Technische Universität München (TUM) on the Economics of Agro-Food Value Chains and Public Policy Economics from Oxford University. With more than 15 years of experience as an agricultural policy advisor, manager, consultant, and project coordinator in the areas of agriculture, circular economy, investment, and trade, he can develop strategies to improve efficiency in the management of agricultural production and industry development based on sustainable solutions.

Agriculture and the environment have always been of natural interest to him. Hence, after his exposure to the uniqueness of agriculture and its contribution to environmental, social, and economic developments during his bachelor’s degree, he decided to dedicate himself to the development of the industry. He is looking forward to supporting the talented and warm team at NSFA and other agencies, departments of agriculture in the public sector, civil society organizations, trade and commodity associations, and knowledge institutions to advance the goals and aspirations of our members and the industry at large.

Favourite Book: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann and Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell. Both books aimed to challenge popular concepts of economics and business management, and they have both reformed my perceptions and conclusions about economics and business. 

Favourite Movie: Jerry Maguire, a movie centred on the value of customer-centric approaches to value creation in business

If Brian won the lottery, the first thing he would do is: establish an academy and investment platform for young adults to develop and grow sustainable businesses in the agri-food industry that challenge current constraints and limitations and have a significant social multiplier effect. “I know this all sounds serious, but I hope to accomplish this serious challenge with a lot of fun thrown in the mix”.

Katherine Tuttle, Communications Manager (On Parental Leave)

Katherine grew up in the small village of Tatamagouche, on the beautiful North Shore. Rural Nova Scotia has always held a special place in her heart, and she now resides in Wentworth with her husband, Tim. In her spare time she helps out on her in-laws beef farm, and spends a lot of time hanging out in the calf pens.

Katherine graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Public Relations and joined the NSFA team in March of 2018. It wasn’t until she met Tim that she got involved in agriculture. One of her work placements through her degree was with Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture, and it was there that Katherine’s passion for agriculture grew its roots. After finishing school, she was determined to land a career in the agriculture industry because she wanted to play a part in supporting such a vital sector.


Favourite movie: Shawshank Redemption

First purchase if Katherine wins the lottery: she would build an inground pool!

Leah Visser, Communications Manager

Leah grew up in a farming family in the beautiful Annapolis Valley and recently moved to Truro to join the NSFA team.

Leah began her education with a Tourism Management Diploma while working in Nova Scotia’s emerging wine region and fulfilling her passion for travel. Wherever her travels led, finding a chance to get involved in agriculture was where she felt at home. This led her to an internship on a dairy farm and agri-tourism business in the Netherlands where she further realized her desire to contribute her skills to the industry. Leah graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University with a BBA in Marketing and has since continued her studies in Graphic Design and Visual Communication.

There have only been a few moments in her life when she hasn’t been surrounded by or working in agriculture, and those moments were enough to cement that a career in agriculture was in her future. Leah is looking forward to gaining a new perspective on the industry as a whole, while supporting the most noble profession, that of a farmer.

Favorite movie: Hacksaw Ridge

First purchase if Leah wins the lottery: She’d travel the world and carry out random acts of kindness for those in need.

April MacLean, Public Trust Coordinator

April grew up in East Lake Ainslie next door to her grandfather’s mixed-use family farm where they raised some of their own meat, fruit and vegetables. She spent her early childhood planting, weeding, harvesting, and filling the root cellar with turnip, potatoes, carrots and onions. A favorite activity was preserving fruit and vegetables by making jam, jelly, and pickles with her mother and grandmother. As her grandfather aged, he moved on from keeping livestock, but the gardens remained. April is a gardener, weaver, spinner and avid home-chef who lives with her family and their cat on a 1/3rd acre plot with an ever-growing food forest and annual veggie garden. April, her better-half Jon, and their boys, carry on many of the traditions she grew up with through gardening and preserving on their small property in Lantz.

April’s career path includes museums, the tourism sector, and municipal government roles. She also holds a Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism. April has spent years earning and building trust. She has worked with a wide variety of audiences in various sectors to develop relationships and build trust. April is very much looking forward to getting to know our members and working together to raise the profile of agriculture and continue to build trust in our food system.

First purchase if April won the lottery: She’d have a small hobby farm with alpacas, sheep, chickens, and a huge permaculture food forest. Her family would use the farm to help people of all ages have hands-on experiences growing and preserving foods, cooking with local ingredients, and learning the incredible process of  working with wool from fleece to fabric. 

Carolyn Marshall, Environment & Climate Change Manager

Carolyn grew up in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and now lives in Bible Hill with her husband and two boys. Before she joined the NSFA team, she worked as a researcher at Dalhousie University for over a decade. Carolyn studied ecology and botany at Acadia University and the University of British Columbia, and then Dalhousie University where she moved into agriculture.


Carolyn has always been engaged in environmental issues, even since she was a kid. As she got older and learned more about climate change, she realized how important agriculture is to that and other big societal issues like economy and health. Carolyn saw the huge potential that there is in agriculture to make a big impact on climate change. She sees the soil as a big connector to all of these issues and agriculture – she is very passionate about all things soil!


“I’m looking forward to addressing big problems with practical solutions. Adapting to and mitigating climate change doesn’t necessarily require complicated technical solutions.”


Favourite book:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


First thing she would do if she won the lottery:

Carolyn would travel to South America!

Trevor Davison, Environmental Farm Plan Coordinator

Trevor Davison grew up on a mixed commercial farm in Falmouth, N.S. where his family continues to have beef cattle, orchard and field crops. After graduating from the NSAC with a B.Sc. (Agr.) Pest Management, Trevor worked for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Kentville and an agricultural research company before joining the Nova Scotia Environmental Farm Plan Program in 2004. He enjoys being able to talk to farmers across the province and see how they do things on their operations. Though the EFP Program is an educational one, Trevor often feels he learns as much from the farmers as they from him, which he feels makes him a better coordinator. Having grown up on a farm, it becomes a part of who you are, and Trevor wanted to find a way to contribute to the industry.

The bulk of Trevor’s time is dedicated to farm visits and reports, but the EFP Program is also working on a Species at Risk project (through Canadian Wildlife Service) and working with the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association on a habitat and biodiversity project.

Trevor currently resides in Truro, N.S., with his wife Janet and two children Nate & Julia.

Favourite book: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

First purchase if Trevor wins the lottery: A truck or a piece of property in Cape Breton!

Cory Roberts, Environmental Farm Plan Coordinator

Cory Roberts resides in Colchester County with his four children and his dogs Murphy and Miles. In university, Cory studied Environmental Science and now works as a coordinator for the Environmental Farm Plan program. He was drawn to agriculture by his desire to support farmers in growing nutritious food while minimizing environmental impacts. Cory has worked with the Federation for six years and enjoys interacting with farmers, viewing farms as complex biophysical systems, and using data to help improve systems and find efficiencies. Cory is currently working on updating and implementing changes within the EFP Program!

Favourite movie: Rear Window

Jillian Saulnier, Environmental Farm Plan Coordinator

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Jillian has had a deep passion and appreciation for the natural landscape from a young age, exploring the outdoors with family and making memories on her grandfather’s dairy farm. These experiences have inspired her to complete a B.Sc in Agriculture from the NSAC, a diploma in Ecosystem management from Fleming College, ON, and a M.Sc. from Dal-AC.

Jillian has held various roles related to agriculture, environmental conservation, and assessments in the private, provincial, and not-for-profit sectors. As an Environmental Farm Plan Coordinator, Jillian is motivated to better understand farm owners’ environmental challenges to provide support on their farms as they leave a legacy to the next generations.

Outside of work, Jillian enjoys spending her time with her husband and two children on family adventures including camping, exploring beaches, hiking, and help coach her kid’s sports teams.

Favourite book: Anything by Colleen Hoover. You can also find Jillian watching reruns of FRIENDS everyday.

First purchase if Jillian won the lottery: Support youth sports, purchase land near the ocean and build an animal rescue shelter in rural Hants County.

Katherine Rutherford, Living Labs Coordinator

Katherine grew up in the rural community of Old Barns, during her younger years she was involved with the 4-H Program and didn’t have plans to work in agriculture. Fast forward to highschool graduation, Katherine enrolled in the Nova Scotia Agricultural College to get an undergraduate science degree. During her time at the AC, Katherine started working in research, she found that she really enjoyed it, and has been working in research and/or going to school ever since! Under her belt, Katherine has a BSc (Agr) in Animal Science, MSc in Agriculture and is currently completing a PhD in Biology! Katherine now resides just outside Antigonish, in Brierly Brook with her partner Jason and their two young children. Jason operates Lindenright Holsteins with his parents.


As our Living Labs Coordinator, Katherine is excited to do on-farm research. “It’s always exciting to connect with producers.”


Favourite Book: Katherine loves to read! Anything my Margaret Atwood is a yes for her.


If she wins the lottery? She will be calling her financial advisor! And taking a holiday!

Jessica Gilice , Knowledge & Tech Transfer Coordinator (On Parental Leave)

Jessica attended Saint Mary’s University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies in 2021. Growing up on a hobby farm, Jessica was an active participant in 4-H in her younger years and has always been interested in agriculture. This is her first career in the agriculture field, and she’s looking forward to working on the Living Labs project! Jessica resides in Kennetcook with her partner Johnathan and their black lab, Rosco.

Favourite book: Anything by Stephen King

If Jessica won the lottery, the first thing she would do is: Go on an Alaskan cruise!

Sally Oppong, Knowledge & Tech Transfer Coordinator

Originally from Ghana, Sally moved to Halifax to study Environmental Studies at Saint Mary’s University and currently lives in Halifax with her brother. Growing up in a small mining town, Sally witnessed significant destruction and damage, prompting her to question the reasons behind it. After receiving the answer, she decided to act, pursuing a career that would allow her to advocate for the environment. “I look forward to contributing my part in the climate and sustainability fight and learning along the way”.

Favorite Movie: Mighty Joe Young, I watched it when I was about 7 years old, and I still remember every detail as it had a huge impact on my life in terms of wildlife conservation.

First purchase if Sally won the lottery: She would buy a plane ticket and go on a family vacation!

Caitlyn Creelman , Farm & Workforce Development Manager (On Parental Leave)

Caitlyn grew up in Bass River, NS and was no stranger to working in the strawberry and wild blueberry fields of Colchester County. Rural roots coupled with family ties to fishing, agriculture and forestry has led her to a deep appreciation for the work and struggles of primary/ resource industries.
Caitlyn attended Dalhousie University in Halifax for a B.A., double majoring in Economics and International Development Studies. After her studies, Caitlyn stayed in the city for a few years before spending a 14 month stint in Labrador followed by 5 years in northern Saskatchewan before finally returning home to Nova Scotia in 2021.

From working in isolated areas to being an active member of Search and Rescue and a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, Caitlyn has always had a community focus in both her work and volunteer life. She is passionate about people and wants to see everyone be given the opportunity to lead a fulfilling and safe life.

Favourite Book – The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

First purchase if Caitlyn wins the lottery: the first thing she would do is build a cottage on the Bay large enough to hold all of her family!

Margaret Ells, Training & Awareness Coordinator

Margaret grew up in the beautiful Annapolis Valley on a mixed farm, after highschool she attended the Nova Scotia Agricultural College where she received her B. Sc. Agr. with a major in plant protection.

For 30+ years, Margaret lived in Great Village, and was self employed as a caterer while raising her four amazing children. She now resides in Truro with her dog Fundy. For the past six and a half years, she was the Manager of the Truro Farmers’ Market.

Agriculture was always the main topic of conversation around her dinner table, and still is today. She is excited to be able to work with the team at NSFA, to support our producers and all those in our sector.

Favourite book: So many books….so little reading time! My favourites change constantly

Favourite movie: I like old classic movies…think Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in African Queen.

First purchase if Margaret wins the lottery: I would love to somehow support local producers and artisans. And pay off my kids debts to set them up in careers they love!

Allison Hancock, Farmer Wellness Coordinator

Born and raised in Halifax, Allison carries a deep-rooted connection to her home province and an appreciation for the importance of industry in Nova Scotia. Growing up, she spent considerable time in rural areas, witnessing firsthand the impact of various sectors on the local communities. These early experiences instilled in her a strong appreciation for the vital role these industries play in shaping Nova Scotia’s identity.

Allison’s journey led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts with Honours degree in Psychology at StFX University, where her passion for promoting mental wellness flourished. Now, she is thrilled to be channeling her knowledge of mental health into her role with NSFA, supporting an industry that is crucial to the province’s growth.

Outside of work, Allison enjoys spending time outdoors, preferably near or on the ocean. Whether in the company of friends or accompanied by her beloved four-legged companions, she cherishes these moments of connection and relaxation.

Favourite Movie: Good Will Hunting

First purchase if Allison won the lottery: She would buy a house overlooking the ocean.

Colin Bawn, Workforce Development Coordinator

Colin grew up in the Annapolis Valley and now resides in Dartmouth. He has three children, all of whom married within the past year. He studied at both Saint Mary’s and Acadia Universities where he developed a passion to help other people.

Prior to joining the NSFA team, Colin worked as a Project Coordinator facilitating Fish and Lobster Processing Plants to attain sustainability through recruitment and retention of potential employees. Colin understands the barriers and issues facing industry in rural Nova Scotia and is excited to bring his knowledge and experience to the Agriculture Sector.

Favourite Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

First purchase if he won the lottery: Colin would buy a small property on the coast of Spain

Rory Phillips, Administrative Assistant – Summer Student

Rory grew up on a first-generation farm in Great Village and while the farm is no longer active, she still enjoys the space that the property offers with her family. Rory is currently enrolled in the International Food Business program at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, and recently returned from a transformative year studying abroad in the Netherlands.

“Although I’m no longer a farmer, I have a strong emotional bond with the agricultural industry which is why I feel the desire to look for agricultural options in my future career. My degree is also heavily integrated with agriculture which is why I sought out a summer position that complemented my studies.”

Rory is looking forward to learning about the inner workings of the agricultural industry and understanding the importance of the Federation as a part of the team!

Favourite Movie: “I don’t watch many movies but there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not have The Office playing in the background at home!”

Favourite Book: Rory loves classical books and has a decent collection at home. The book that Rory is itching to pick up the most right now is “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.

First purchase if Rory wins the lottery: She would love to be able to give back to the important people in her life, there are many that she would love to spoil!

Lia Woolaver, Field Research Assistant – Summer Student

Lia Woolaver grew up in the rural area surrounding Windsor, but now lives in Truro to study Animal Science at the Dalhousie Agriculture College. Lia’s family has an agricultural background and she is the third generation to attend the college!

Lia enjoys learning the ways that people use agriculture to deepen their connection with their communities, sharing food and knowledge with their neighbors. Her main interest in agriculture is to study realistic ways for people to use agricultural methods to increase sustainability and food security in their daily lives, and how agriculture can increase community ties and interpersonal connections. She has also taken up a recent interest in aquaculture!

“I am really looking forward to being able to spend time on a variety of farms and see what each of them do differently! I think exposure to many different methods and viewpoints from the different farmers is such a valuable learning experience, especially since most of my current knowledge comes from classroom learning and not being out on a field.”

Favourtie Book: Lia’s favourite book that she read recently was “The Idiot” by Elif Batuman 

First purchase is Lia won the lottery: Lia would pay off student loans for all her friends! As a large stressor for many students, she would want to use her lottery winnings to relieve their struggle.

Marie Durieu, Field Research Assistant – Summer Student

Marie Durieu is originally from Fort McMurray, Alberta, but now lives in Middle Musquodoboit. She moved to Nova Scotia to attend university at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus and is entering the third year of her BSc (Agr) in Animal Science. A love of animals initially drew Marie to horse ranching in the west, where working as a wrangler, she fell in love with agriculture and cattle, and began beef ranching. Now living on the east coast, she still enjoys beef farming in her new home.

Marie looks forward to completing her degree and continuing to learn more about agriculture in the Maritimes.

Favourite Movie: Dirty Dancing

First purchase if Marie wins the lottery: Marie would buy a few hundred head of cattle and some ranch land in the foothills of southern Alberta and cowboy full time!