2015 Keynote Speakers

Ernie Hardeman

MPP Oxford

In June 2014 Ernie Hardeman was re-elected as Oxford MPP and is the longest serving MPP in Oxford’s history.

During his terms in government he served in a number of roles including Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs (Rural) and Parliamentary Assistant to the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.

Since 2003 Mr. Hardeman has been a member of the Official Opposition where he has served in a number of roles including critic for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Chair of the Legislative committee on Public Accounts. In recognition of his municipal experience Mr. Hardeman was recently asked to serve as Critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Prior to the 1995 election, Mr. Hardeman was elected to the Township of South-West Oxford council and served as mayor from 1988 to 1994. Mr. Hardeman was also a warden of Oxford County council and served as chair of the Warden’s Association of Ontario.

Mr. Hardeman served on the board of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario from 1989 to 1994 and during that time served as chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) for two years.

Until 1995 Mr. Hardeman, owned and operated Hardeman Feed Ltd. in Salford and served as a volunteer firefighter, retiring as Captain of the South-West Oxford Fire Department. He and his wife, Reta, have three sons and a daughter.


Melanie Doerksen

Melanie Doerksen is a chef, educator, and farmer who is passionate about local, sustainable food/drink and heavily influenced by the principles of Slow Food.

Melanie is a Red Sealed chef that holds a Hon. B.A. in History from Wilfrid Laurier University, a culinary management diploma from Fanshawe College and a post-diploma certificate (specializing in Italian cuisine) from George Brown College. For the past 11 years, she has been working as a culinary professor at Fanshawe College in the School of Tourism and Hospitality. In 2013, Melanie helped develop and launch the Artisanal Culinary Arts graduate program, which she now coordinates. The artisanal program is a unique one-year program based entirely on artisanal cooking, butchering, preserving, and baking, with an underbelly that promotes local, seasonal, sustainable food production and its supporting economy.

When Melanie isn’t in the kitchen or the classroom, she’s usually working on her farm. She and her husband are the owners/operators of the Carolinian Hop Yard; a four-acre non-conventional hop yard located in Norfolk County. The farm is a reflection of the couple’s passions, beliefs, experience and vision. For the past five years they’ve strived to create a sustainable example of hop farming that can provide others with inspiration and knowledge.

Melanie’s ongoing support of local food/drink stems from an innocent introduction to the international Slow Food movement. She was introduced to Slow Food in 2002, but became fully enthralled with the movement and it’s ideology in 2003 while working in Italy at a slow restaurant.  Since then, she has fully embraced the concept of good, clean, fair food, which has enabled her to better understand the entire web of food production (from agriculture to processing to distribution), whilst paying particular attention to the environmental/sustainability issues we (as a society) deal with daily. 

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