Seed World

Alberta Grains’ First Executive Director is in Learning Mode

Mike Flynn

In the world of Alberta agriculture, leadership is pivotal. Mike Flynn, the newly appointed executive director of Alberta Grains, steps into his role with a wealth of experience from diverse sectors. His transition into the ag sector, albeit recent, has been akin to “drinking out of a firehose,” as he describes it.

In an exclusive interview with the Alberta Seed Guide, Flynn shared insights into his journey thus far and the path ahead for Alberta Grains, formed last year after the merger of Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley.

“I have been the executive director for other organizations, that were all from completely different sectors. So, I know kind of the mechanics around working with the board and volunteers and that sort of thing,” he says.

“I’m happy to bring a fresh perspective to the agricultural sector, but I’m learning a ton and just impressed at every corner of what I’m discovering about the people that make up this organization.”

Flynn’s career spans more than 20 years as an executive director across diverse sectors. Notably, his tenure as executive director of the Calgary Police Commission and the Urban Development Institute underscores his adeptness in handling intricate policy formulation, facilitating public outreach, and fostering collaboration among community stakeholders.

“I think one of the most pleasant surprises for me, and it speaks to my inexperience within the ag industry, is just the willingness of the agricultural community to use new technologies and embrace them, and also their interactions with the scientific community and their embracing of science,” Flynn says.

“I don’t know why, but I had a preconceived notion that there might be some rejection of the technology and science. That’s been a real eye-opener for me.”

As an experienced executive director, Flynn is aware of the challenges inherent in fostering unity and collaboration among stakeholders. In his role with Alberta Grains, his strategy is centered around recognizing Alberta Grains’ leadership role within the industry and leveraging relationships effectively.

Alberta Grains represents over 18,000 grain farmers.

“I can see that we have a big leadership role in terms of the other associations that we interact with,” Flynn says. “There’s a good desire to collaborate amongst the stakeholders, and they recognize that there’s strength in numbers.”

Navigating challenges such as climate change and unpredictable weather patterns is paramount for Alberta’s wheat and barley growers. Flynn acknowledges the frontline role farmers play in this arena and emphasizes the importance of science and technology as essential tools for adaptation.

“I’ve never been one to root so hard for rain and snow and moisture,” he says with a laugh. “Our members are on the frontline of climate change and whatever you want to call these new weather patterns that are happening, and that’s so important to them.”

Flynn commends the meticulous planning and execution that went into the 2023 merger, emphasizing the organization’s readiness to embrace new horizons.

“The organization has been through a lot of change, especially in the last year. The merger itself, I think, was very well thought out and executed over a period of years with all sorts of stakeholder engagement,” Flynn says. “I feel like this organization has passed its annual physical checkup with flying colours is ready to get out there and rock and roll.”