About Us

The Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) promotes new ways of thinking about agribusiness management and aims to increase awareness, understanding and adoption of beneficial business management practices by Ontario agri-food and agri-based producers and processors.

AMI develops business management tools, information, resources, and training for agri-food and agri-based producers, processors, and their business advisors. AMI also creates linkages to existing resources and conducts research to be shared with the industry.

AMI is funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. It is led by a Board of Directors with diverse backgrounds and experience in primary agriculture, agriculture business, and agrifood processing.

Read below for our mission, vision, and mandate, to meet our Board of Directors, and to learn about the staff members behind AMI.


By stimulating ideas and leading projects, the Agri-food Management Institute strives to increase understanding and adoption of business management practices which enable Ontario agri-food and agri-based processors and producers to meet their business goals.


Prosperous agribusinesses through business management practices, collaborations and innovation.


To assess the needs of the industry and equip Ontario producers, processors and agribusiness advisors with better management skills and practices.

Meet The

The Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) has a Board of Directors that works together to review strategic initiative ideas and turn AMI’s strategic priorities into action. The members each bring a wealth of experience to the board from their involvement in producer and processor organizations, research groups, the agri-food industry, the financial and business service sector and, in many cases, skills from their own businesses.

Doug Alexander


Doug Alexander is part of the leadership team of Ippolito and former Vice President and General Manager of Wings Food Products. He also sits on the board of directors for Agricultural Adaptation Council. Doug is a former Vice President of Benevito Foods Inc and Director of Operations for European Quality Meats. He has also held various positions with Maple Leaf foods, where he began his career in food processing 28 years ago.

Laurie Nicol

Vice Chair

Laurie Nicol, began her career with the Ontario Independent Meat Processors Association in 1985, serving as the Executive Director for the past 22 years. She is responsible for the leadership and management of the association; working closely with all levels of government, agriculture and industry groups.
Laurie is a Certified Association Executive with the Canadian Society of Association Executives and a business graduate of Durham College.

Dr. Sara Mann

Dr. Sara Mann is an Associate Professor of Strategic Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour in the Department of Management. Sara completed her MBA from McMaster University, and a PhD in Management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. She has delivered several supervisory training programs for the agribusiness sector, and has taught as part of the C-Team Alumni program with the George Morris Centre and the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program with the Rural Ontario Institute. Sara’s research examines HR and employment issues specific to the agri-food and rural sectors.

Ed Verkley

Ed is a primary producer of broiler chickens and cash crops. He currently sits as the Chair of the Poultry Industry Council and comes to the AMI board with lots of experience working on value chain initiatives as well as creating learning opportunities for producers. Ed often finds himself volunteering as a hockey coach and feels that a team approach is the best way forward for both agriculture and the broader community alike.

Peter Henderson

Peter Henderson is the Founder and Managing Director of Ideovation, a Toronto-based consultancy that helps Canadian agri-food processors innovate, collaborate and develop winning strategies for growth. He is a former Vice President of W.T. Lynch Foods Limited, and he previously held various brand-building roles at McCain Foods, Nestle and Borden Catelli Consumer Products. Peter was also employed by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, where he acted as Director on the British Columbia Wine Institute Board.

Jean-Marc Beneteau

Jean Marc has been a full time primary producer since 1996 and previous to that was employed with the Caisse Populaire, and Royal Bank while starting a farming career on part-time basis in 1988. On the farm he and his wife and son produce specialty soybeans and corn along with winter wheat, all while trying to be sensitive to environmental issues. Jean Marc is particularly interested in helping AMI support farmers through improved benchmarking resources and succession planning.

Chris Hiemstra

Chris Hiemstra, spends his life with bugs. It began with producing bumblebees for pollination in the greenhouse industry. He sold his company and worked for Koppert Canada in bio-controls. Other start-ups include protein production for bees, pollen processing, and a raw pet food business. Currently, he is vice chair of the Agricultural Adaption council, and he is developing an agri-tourism farm which is themed around honeybees and heritage family fun.

Andrea Gal

Andrea M. Gal is active in her Oxford County family farm business, which includes cash crop and cow-calf operations, as well as seed and fertilizer dealerships. She also works off-farm as managing editor of Better Farming, Better Pork and Farms.com. Andrea holds a PhD in history, with a focus on rural Ontario.

Jim Gracie

Jim Gracie is a Senior Executive with Canadian and International expertise in operating and growing consumer and agri-food businesses. Most recently he was General Manager for Deoleo Canada. He brings a strong background in business strategy and branding for competitive advantage. He has had operational responsibility for agri-food businesses beginning as President America’s for Stolt Sea Farm with responsibility for farming, processing, and sales of $200 million in North and South America. He brings experience in dealing with Ontario grocery retailers, and specific experience in the meat sector where he was a member of the team that brought Ontario raised Free From pork to Loblaw stores.

Meet The


Ashley Honsberger

Executive Director

Ashley is a graduate from the University of Guelph with a Masters of Science in Capacity Development and Extension, International Development Studies. She also studied French and has working competencies in the French language. Ashley has been with AMI since 2011 various capacities but took time off in between to focus on completing her masters.

She also has experience working with 4-H Ontario, the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Syngenta Crop Protection and the University of Guelph as a teaching assistant. Ashley is an avid volunteer and is driven by her passion to enact positive social change through building a career that leverages the capacity building process in Ontario agri-food businesses.

Contact Ashley:
Office: 519-822-6618

Deanna Hutton

Project Manager

Deanna Hutton is the Project Manager at Agri-Food Management Institute and oversees various programs that AMI offers including the Advanced Farm Management Program and Business to Business Networking workshops. Over the past 10 years she has worked in agriculture focusing mainly on edible horticulture and previously worked at the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. Prior to her start in agriculture, Deanna worked as a law clerk in Guelph for 17 years.

Deanna is passionate about the industry and believes that AMI’s mandate to equip Ontario producers, processors and agribusiness advisors with better management skills and practices is an integral part of making Ontario's Food and Beverage industry successful.

Contact Deanna:
Office: 519-822-6618

Juli de Lange

Project Coordinator

Juli de Lange, an expert in administration, is joining Agri-food Management Institute as their Project Coordinator. Prior to working at AMI, Juli worked as an administrative assistant for the Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre, and the companies housed there (Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, Bioenterprise Corporation, Bioenterprise Capital Ventures, Soy 20/20, and Livestock Research Innovation Corporation).

Juli has always had agriculture as part of her life. Growing up on a farm, Juli knows first-hand the importance of hardworking producers and processors. AMI has given Juli a different perspective on farming that has proven, when done right and consistently, changes farmers profitability. Juli’s family have raised her to be a hard worker and that continues in her work at AMI. She won’t quit, until the job gets done.

Contact Juli:
Office: 519-822-6618



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