Natalie Veles is the new executive director of the BC Turkey Marketing Board and BC Turkey Growers Association, succeeding Michel Benoit, who stepped down in April after more than 15 years as general manager.
Veles comes to the board from Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, where she served for three and a half years as program director. She began November 1.
“I was always very intrigued and interested in the [supply management] system and working for producers in that way,” she says, noting that the turkey sector has given her a warm welcome.
“Everybody’s been really keen to help me out and get me oriented to the industry.”
Veles began her career as an economist and policy analyst at the Canadian Dairy Commission before a lateral transfer within the federal government returned her to Vancouver and the Agriculture and Agri-food Canada regional office for BC. She grew up on a dairy farm in Cloverdale.
Similar to Benoit, Veles is fluently bilingual. This will be an asset in discussions with growers in Eastern Canada, particularly Quebec, helping foster national cooperation.
Returning to the supply-managed sector, Veles has her sights set on a revamped marketing plan for BC’s turkey sector. A new strategic plan for the marketing board is also on tap for 2023, but she wants to understand the current state of the industry before pursuing any major changes.
“I am just trying to get a really good handle on how things have been done and what industry priorities are before changing too much,” she says.
Avian influenza is also on the agenda as the poultry sector as a whole moves to a long-term management plan for the disease, shifting from the current emergency response stance.
Turkey growers have been among the hardest-hit segments of the poultry industry this year.
The move to BC Turkey is not the only major change for Veles this year. This spring, she was one of two independent directors appointed to the BC Vegetable Marketing Commission.
She also married this summer, prior to which she was known as Natalie Janssens.