Keeping It Rural Conference

Keeping It Rural

May 21 - 23, 2024, Kelowna - British Columbia

Rural Projects and Success Stories 

Innovative Enterprises in Rural Communities

All the hot topics from healthcare to housing

Registration For The 2024 Keeping It Rural Conference will open in January 2024. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to avoid missing out on early bird tickets.

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St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino

About the event

Across North America and Western Europe, rural communities share many of the same issues and challenges.  It can be both helpful and inspiring to hear how small rural communities, First Nations, and rural development organizations from outside BC have successfully strengthened their rural communities.

As a result, every two years the BC Rural Centre will strive to organize and host a major international rural development conference that profiles successful and innovative rural development initiatives.

Speakers & Panelists from 2023

We are super excited to have these humans share their wealth of knowledge, passions, and time with us at this year's conference.


Chief Clarence Louie 
Chief Clarence Louie is a sought-after speaker and a successful entrepreneur who has been Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band for over 36 years. Chief Louie is one of six First Nations leaders to emphasize economic development in American Indian communities as a means to improve people’s standard of living. Louie is one of the longest-running chiefs in Canada, elected in 1984, and leading his community for four decades. He is known for focusing on economic and business independence to strengthen his community.

Roly Russell

Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary

​What's Happening in the Rurals?
Roly Russell was elected MLA for Boundary-Similkameen in the 2020 provincial general election. Roly serves as the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development to the Minister of Housing. Roly has a Ph.D. in ecology. His science focused on biodiversity and sustainability, including decision-making under factors of uncertainty such as climate change. He has developed local food strategies, co-founded an agricultural society, sat on the board of the Certified Organic Association of BC, and operated his own organic farm.

Sean Markey

Dr. Sean Markey, SFU

Sean Markey, Ph.D. MCIP RPP, is a professor and certified planner with the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. Sean's research concerns issues of local and regional economic development, rural and small-town development, and sustainable planning and infrastructure.

Keeping It Rural Rural Health Panel

Rural Health

How to do Things Differently in Rural Communities

Mayor Mike Goetz, City of Merritt

Allan Louis, Okanagan Indian Band Councillor & IHA Board Member

Paul Adams, Rural Health Network

Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health

Moderator: TBD



Keeping It Rural Agriculture Panel

Rural Agriculture Panel:

Building Local Food Systems: Empowering Communities for Food Sovereignty

Pascale Schittecatte - Young Agrarians - Land Matcher

Vicki Gee - Food Hubs - Boundary Community Ventures

Julia Smith - Small-Scale Meat Producers

Nyree Marsh - Food Policy & Agriculture Advisor

MODERATOR: Judy Wilson, Neskonlith

Keeping It Rural Forestry Panel

Forestry Panel:

Industry Reality Check

Ken Kalesnikoff - President - Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. Ltd.

Dan McMaster, Osoyoos Indian Band Forester

Kristina Anderson, Kettle River Watershed

Nick Arkle, Gorman Group

MODERATOR: Lennard Joe, BC First Nations Forestry Council

Keeping It Rural Innovation Panel

Rural Innovation & Broadband Panel:

Driving Growth in Rural Communities: The Future of Broadband and Innovation

Jon Summerland, Okanagan Film Commission - Hollywood North

Colleen McCormick, Connected Communities

Dr. Sarah Breen, Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise

Jason Taylor, Selkirk Technology Access Centre

MODERATOR: Kelvin Saldern, Clearview Consulting

Keeping It Rural Projects

Rural Development:

Mega-Projects/New Projects

Chief George Lampreau, Simpcw First Nation

Martha Manuel - Responsible Mining

Roly Russell - PS Rural Development

MODERATOR: Gerry Thiessen, Former Mayor Vanderhoof

Keeping It Rural Q&A

Dialogue Session 

Led by BC Rural Centre Board Members

Victor Cumming, Mayor of Vernon and long-time member of the BC Rural Centre along with Grace McGregor, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Director and Chair of the BC Rural Centre Board - will lead the dialogue session taking us into the final keynote speaker session.
Submit your questions during the conference by adding them to the flip chart in the refreshment area or ahead of the conference by emailing



The schedule

The two-day event is packed full of inspiration and ample networking opportunities. The schedule will be released here and will also be sent out to our mailing list and those that have registered for the conference.

We can confirm that the conference will start on Thursday, June 1st at 12noon and wrap up on Friday, June 2nd at 6pm.

The venue

How we select a location:
We choose a location that will allow people to easily access it from around the province and outside our province as well. This location may not always be rural, as we know capacity challenges in rural communities are real and we do not want to burden a small community with our presence. We select a central location with amenities to create a lasting impression and an excellent conference. If your community would like to host our conference please reach out and let us know.

Keeping it Rural Venue

What people say about it

The Keeping It Rural Conference was inspiring and informative. It is a refreshing group of rural, remote, and First Nation people from around the globe sharing and collaborating on rural matters.

Northern BC

If you live in a rural community and care about sustaining the quality of life you have come to know and cherish - then you can't miss this event! The connections made and topics covered are of huge value to any rural decision-maker and resident.

West Kootenay

Being at the BC Rural Centre "Keeping it Rural" event in 2019 was an honour. The event was empowering, bringing together so many diverse people who were all sharing on rural development topics that are important and challenging. I will be back...

North Island

The BC Rural Centre hosted an incredible event. The value of attending is still being used today, as we navigate through an ever-changing world. I look forward to being able to see the innovative ideas brought forth at the next event.

South Okanagan

Thank you to our 2023 Sponsors!

Don't miss out on our next conference

You don't want to miss this! It's been a few years since we've been able to gather and we are excited to see you all.
Be sure to join our mailing list to stay up to date on event news...

Our Past Partnerships and Sponsors

Columbia Basin Trust WebLogo
BC Community Forest Assoc
BC Rural Centre Logo smaller
Northern Dev Trust