Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture taps Dal grad as first female executive director

- May 7, 2021

Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, Class of ’10.
Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, Class of ’10.

Responding to questions on university scholarship applications more than 10 years ago, Carolyn Van Den Heuvel (Class of ’10) thought she had a pretty clear idea of what she wanted to do with her career.

“I’d write on my applications that I wanted to work in the agricultural industry at the producer level in a capacity that helps move the industry forward,” she explains.

Turns out, Van Den Heuvel is doing exactly what she set out to do — right here in Nova Scotia.

This fall, she will become first female executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA). She will replace current executive director, Henry Vissers (Class of ’76), as he moves on to a well-earned retirement.

“My heart is in agriculture, it’s made me who I am,” says Van Den Heuvel, who was raised on a beef farm in Antigonish, participated in 4H, attended NSAC, worked as a herdsperson immediately after graduation and has been working with the NSFA in various roles for the last eight years.

“My career path seems like a natural progression and I’ve just been absorbing information along the way.”

A personal priority

The agricultural industry is clearly important to Van Den Heuvel.

"Agriculture is . . . important to our community in terms of food security," she says. "Our farms and industry provide a tremendous amount of product to Nova Scotia. It’s the base of everything we need.”

She admits there are a lot of challenges faced by the agricultural industry today.

“There’s climate change and changes to our weather patterns, labour shortages both with seasonal labour and middle management, as well as work to be done with public trust.”

In her new role with the NSFA, which advocates on behalf of 95 per cent of Nova Scotian farmers, Van Den Heuvel hopes to look at these industry challenges and find opportunities.

“If we can find the opportunities, we can grab a hold of them to move the industry forward,” she says. And not just for tomorrow. “I want to be looking at what we are doing today and what we need to do so we are successful, as an industry, in 10 years and for the next generation."

The power of collaboration

Van Den Heuvel believes in working on these opportunities collaboratively. “If we can identify the opportunities to work together, we can really advance the industry.” Carolyn says she’s very passionate about collaboration. “I truly believe that’s where we see the most success in moving things forward.”

For Van Den Heuvel, agriculture is all about community. “We have such a strong community network here in Nova Scotia and our farms are extremely diverse. We are diverse in terms of commodity, region, and farm size. There’s also lots of opportunities because of this diversity.”

Scholarship donors are always told they are making a big difference in the lives of students. But donors who pushed Van Den Heuvel to write about her career goals can be pretty proud of their investment. The agricultural community in Nova Scotia is about to be in very good hands.


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