About Us

Empowering agriculture producers and their communities with climate solutions

Rural Routes to Climate Solutions (a Stettler Learning Centre initiative) was established in 2017 to provide learning and capacity building opportunities for rural Albertans to find out how they can benefit from climate solutions. Sometimes climate solutions are viewed as an inconvenience or burden in our lives. We believe climate solutions have multiple concrete benefits for rural communities that go beyond lower our carbon footprint, like:

  • improving soil health
  • creating new economic opportunities
  • protecting biodiversity
  • establishing energy independence, and
  • building resilience against droughts and floods

It is a win-win. Rural Routes to Climate Solutions works to remove barriers and fill gaps so we can put this win-win strategy into action. We do this by…

  1. Putting community front and centre in our work. We are in the building thriving and resilient rural communities ‘business’ first and foremost.

  2. Recognizing climate conversations can be tough in the Prairies. A lot of us have family working in oil and gas or have forbearers that farmed in ways that in retrospect weren’t great for the land. These personal connections and feeling left out of climate conversations make it, well, awkward to participate in these conversations. Rural Routes has adopted a ‘made-in-Alberta’, rural approach to make it easier to participate in and act on conversations about our future.

  3. Telling the better story instead of focusing on doom and gloom. We know the world has plenty of problems, we don’t deny that. We do see a need, however, for us to articulate and build a bold vision for us to work towards.

 

Rural communities in Alberta and across the world can play a pivotal role in building the low-carbon economy of the future.

WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE CLIMATE IS GOOD FOR THE FARM

Right now, we are very focused on agriculture in Alberta. Climate solutions that are beneficial to rural communities aren’t limited to agriculture (see our Solar Lab program for an example), but for the moment we are putting all our capacity and resources into creating opportunities for agricultural producers to find out what on-farm or on-ranch climate solutions work best for them, their land and their communities. These opportunities fall into two categories:

  • our learning resources, and
  • our participant-driven projects and action resources.
 
Our Learning Resources:

Rural Routes to Climate Solutions created one of the first podcasts entirely devoted to the land management practices and agriculture technology that are, as our best podcast likes to say, “good for the farm and good for the climate.” The podcast along with our Farmer’s Blog and YouTube channel are a trusted source of information and inspiration on the on-farm and on-ranch climate solutions that make sense for the Alberta context. We cover topics like:

  • soil carbon sequestration and soil health
  • rotational grazing practices
  • intercropping, cover cropping and perennial grains
  • transitioning to on-farm solar and community-owned renewable energy
  • food security and protecting biodiversity
  • passive solar greenhouses and community gardens

We recognize that agricultural producers are busy and that they don’t always have the time to participate in a workshop or farm field days. Our learning resources are designed to make getting the information you need easy and accessible from the comfort of your farm or ranch. Or in the case of our podcast, from the comfort of your combine!

Check out our

 


OUR VISION IS FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES TO PROUDLY PRACTICE AND BENEFIT FROM CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

We love to partner and share lessons learned.

Partnerships are in our DNA. We were created because a handful of rural-focused organizations came together to create an agriculture and climate literacy project. We are always looking for opportunities to work with local, provincial, federal and even international governmental and non-governmental organizations who also provide services supporting rural communities. Those opportunities don’t have to be just in agriculture either.

Even though a lot of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions work is specific to Alberta, we do believe the ideas, projects, strategies and stories we’ve developed since 2017 are useful to rural communities anywhere (we have more in common than we realize often). We are happy to share what we’ve learned and would be grateful to learn from you as well.

All of this is to say, don’t be a stranger and reach out. Together we can empower our communities with climate solutions.

Who We Are

Derek - Director & Podcast Host

Derek was born and raised in a small town in southern Ontario called Brooklin. His only connection to agriculture as kid was growing pumpkins on his grandfather’s acreage and selling them out of a wheelbarrow on his street. He picked up a degree in history from Wilfrid Laurier University and hit the road shortly thereafter, spending the next seven years of his life working as a tour guide in Germany. It was a stint on a farm in Tasmania that plunged him down the path of pursuing farm work wherever he could find it. He returned to Canada in 2013 and moved to Alberta in 2017.

He has a decade of experience under his belt as an organizer and communicator on climate and food security issues. Derek has worked for national not-for-profit organizations like Food Secure Canada and his articles on climate change and clean energy have been published in The Narwhal and National Observer. His agricultural experience is all over the map (literally)—a wild boar and shiitake mushroom farm in Quebec, a CSA in Ontario and cattle farms in Alberta—and he was part of Young Agrarians Alberta’s first ‘graduating class’.

Derek is probably best described as part community organizer, part somewhat-skilled farmhand and part storyteller. He currently splits his time between Calgary and whatever farm in central Alberta he is working on during the growing season.

SHELLEY - PROJECT MANAGER - REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE LAB

Shelley Seed grew up in the idyllic countryside of Lincolnshire, England, and spent her childhood exploring the scenic landscape on bikes.

Her passion for community development and stakeholder engagement led her to work as a social enterprise advisor, where she helped rural communities set up co-operatives and developed marketing strategies for agriculture businesses. She later worked overseas with her husband, where they spent a year learning about organic farming, permaculture, and biodynamic approaches.

As a consultant in the sustainability arena, Shelley worked with a wide range of businesses, developing strategies, policies, reports and engagement programs, as well as building the capability of executives, teams, and individuals, all while volunteering for grassroots organizations focused on building community resilience. She later secured a role at the United Nations’ World Food Programme, where she built strategic partnerships aimed at addressing issues faced by rural communities in the Global South, co-creating capacity-building programs to support producers and growers’ transition to regenerative and climate-smart agricultural systems. Her last role was part of the global sustainable agriculture team for PepsiCo, with a focus on partnership building to advance the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices on farms and establishing farmer-centric regenerative agriculture programs in several countries.

KRISTIN - COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR

Although born in Calgary, Kristin spent most of her childhood living in a hamlet just north of Okotoks. A small farming community, Kristin was fortunate to have several neighbours who taught her to ride and care for their horses, which she continued to do until she graduated high school.

In 2009, Kristin graduated from Mount Royal University with a communications degree and moved to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, to support her husband’s career in radio. This is where she developed a love for working with non-profits. Several years later, Kristin and her husband moved back to Alberta and settled in Red Deer.

Today, Kristin and her family reside in the beautiful town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta. In addition to caring for two children and three dogs, Kristin loves to spend her free time crafting – bead weaving, clay, crocheting, knitting, cross-stitch, felting – you name it, Kristin most likely has learned it.

Shiana- Community Development Coordinator - regenerative agriculture lab (RAL)

Shiana is a fourth-generation rancher and lives near Brownfield with her husband and 3 daughters. Regenerative agriculture isn’t a new term to Shiana and her family. On their family ranch, they use a holistic approach to raising beef and dairy cattle, pastured broiler chickens, and laying hens. Raising nutrient-dense local food for her family and community is a passion for Shiana. She has passed along her love of ranching to their daughters, who are currently raising pastured pork.

Shiana and her family take stewardship very seriously and are working hard to sustain and regenerate their soil health. Their ranch’s land base is over 92% grasslands and they’ve implemented planned grazing. Shiana hopes to provide her daughters with the opportunity to continue on the family legacy and heritage.  

In her free time, Shiana enjoys camping, gardening, and riding horses. During the winter months, you’ll find Shiana either watching her girls play hockey or hitting the ice herself for a game or two.

Lance - PODCAST HOST - SIKSIKAITSITAPI AGRICULTURE PROJECT

Lance was born and raised on the Kainai First Nation (Blood Reserve) in southern Alberta. His background is in the communications arts field with an extensive knowledge in audio and video production. He recently served as councilor for the Blood Tribe Chief and Council from 2012-2020. It was from his participation on the Lands Committee portfolio that Lance realized the importance of farming and ranching best practices and the revitalization of traditional Blackfoot knowledge in sustaining and reintroducing the native plants and animals to Siksikaitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) territory. This recently included the Kainai Iinnii (buffalo) project in which the Kainai First Nation has introduced a buffalo cultural herd into the community.

Lance currently sits on various organization boards in neighbouring southern Alberta towns and cities in assisting Indigenous community members with the proper support for housing and resources for living in urban communities. His interests include art, music and graphic arts design. Lance lives in Lethbridge with his family where he operates GhostRattle Arts, a small graphic design, multimedia and t-shirt business.

Riel - Project Coordinator - Siksikaitsitapi agriculture project (sap)

Riel (Spitaikoan) Houle is a Blackfoot member of the Piikani Nation and a lifelong advocator of climate change and solutions. Riel has served four years as an elected band councillor for the Piikani Nation and has a wealth of leadership and governance experience. He also owns and operates his own tourism business in Piikani known as Pale Horse Tipi Camp. In 2017 Pale Horse Tipi Camp was featured on the CBC’s television show “The Dragons Den”. The Blackfoot cross cultural camp runs from May to October each year and brings a unique glamping experience to guests from around the world. The camp promotes all-inclusive options such a catered indigenous cuisine, horseback riding, cultural camps, and eco- tours.    

Nathan - PROJECT COORDINATOR - SIKSIKAITSITAPI AGRICULTURE PROJECT (SAP)

Nathan (Mistaah’ksokito’pii) is a Blackfoot member of the Piikani Nation. With an interest in protecting land and resources, Nathan is currently taking his masters of science in environmental science.

Being actively involved in ceremonies and powwows has been integral in maintaining Nathan’s cultural identity while studying the formal western educational platform. There have been several agricultural projects that he’s been involved in throughout his academic career. One was a collaboration between Agriculture Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Lethbridge, where his role (as a remote sensing student) was to help with their minimal input agricultural system. The main objectives were to decrease nutrient loss to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a more economically efficient potato product. The second project Nathan is currently involved in is a continuation of previous work done by scholars at the University of Lethbridge. This particular project aims to reduce energy costs through progressive renewable energy developments, building income streams from renewable energy produced on agricultural lands, and managing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration.

Funding for rural routes is provided by:

FOUNDING ORGANIZATIONS OF RURAL ROUTES: