Kelly Smith-Fraser is the new chair of Alberta Beef Producers.
She is the first woman to lead the 50-year-old organization and is prepared to take on major changes she may face during her term.
“There are a lot of other women who sat on our board and they should have been in this position a long time before, but I also recognize the fact those ladies paved the way for me. Most of them are my heroes,” she said in an interview after the Alberta Beef Producers annual meeting.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas Tech University and is a member of the academic honour society of Phi Beta Kappa. He has since returned to the ranch at Pine Lake, Alta, near Red Deer.
Her family raises purebred black Maine Anjou and club calves for junior shows and 4-H members. Her grandfather was among the first to import the breed to Canada.
Her father worked with different cattle organizations so she was aware of their contributions and felt the time was right to run as an ABP delegate in 2014.
Her particular interests are in communication and foreign trade.
With five years’ experience as a delegate and board member, she knows communication with industry members and the public is of prime importance.
“My goal is to make sure we are communicating better with our members and consumers,” she said.
When she joined the delegate body the demographics of the group were shifting.
There has been a welcome surge of younger people joining but she also appreciates the knowledge of mature delegates.
“We definitely need the wisdom at the table and we definitely need the youth that are eager to go to work and have great new ideas. We need a strong balance of both,” she said.
She is also at the helm as the organization makes considerable changes to its structure. There will be fewer delegates and different approaches to meeting with the province’s 18,000 producers. The core mandate of the organization remains the same to support marketing, promotion and research.
This new structure must be implemented while executive director Rich Smith is preparing to retire, so making changes could be challenging without his guidance.
The fate of the refundable checkoff was a lingering debate when Smith-Fraser joined.
A producer plebiscite narrowly voted in favour of keeping the $2 service charge per animal sold refundable, meaning members can ask to have their check-off fees refunded. The organization has less money for its duties but she is confident the ship can still sail.
“Now we have the opportunity even with the refundable status that we can prove that we are worth it for producers to leave their money in. That’s where we come back to the communications standpoint is showing producers we are worth them leaving the check-off dollars in and working for them,” she said.
The past issues are done.
“In two years we are going to be looking at a newer, fresher ABP than we have done in a long time. We have got a lot of issues tackled. We have big organizational issues to address but in two years we will be looking at a new ABP.”
She also wants the partnership with the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association to continue. Members attend each other’s board meetings and they approach the government hand in hand.
“Being one strong voice is better than being more than 18,000 quiet voices,” she said.