Keeping It Rural Conference

Keeping It Rural

May 21 - 23, 2024, Four Points by Sheraton, Kelowna Airport

Rural Projects and Success Stories 

Innovative Enterprises in Rural Communities

Hot Topics Impacting Rural Communities

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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 and throughout BC have successfully strengthened their rural communities.

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


Keynote Speaker & Workshop

Doug Griffiths

President & CEO, 13 Ways Inc.
Bestselling Author, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community | Community Enthusiast, Building and Consulting

Doug Griffiths is a wildly popular community strategist and author of two best-selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”. He has supported, guided, and inspired hundreds of communities to create effective change. Whether through speaking and presentations or through advising and consulting, he is dedicated to helping communities across North America find their own pathway to success.

He grew up on a ranch outside a small town where he learned the value of hard work, critical thinking skills, and the value of community. That background led him into politics, but he insists he has since been through rehab and is fully recovered. His experience in politics gave him a deep understanding of how to move people and get things done. He deliberately retired from politics in January 2015, after serving for 13 years, to return to his passion for community building.

Griffiths has an Executive MBA and Honors B. A Philosophy Degree, as well as his Bachelor of Education, all from the University of Alberta where he has taught community and municipal leadership courses for elected officials and administration.

2024 Speakers & Panelists

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 for Rural Development

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.

Jeff Anderson


Jeffrey Anderson, River Scientist

Jeffrey Anderson is a river scientist with 20 years of experience in water resources consulting. He attained a Bachelor of Science degree in hydrology, geomorphology, climatology, and river ecology; followed by a Master of Science degree that investigated sediment transport and wood dynamics; and is now pursuing a the Department of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University where he is focusing on creating balance between people and nature through riverscape restoration.  Presently, Jeffrey is a principal consultant at Geomorphic Consulting Ltd. based out of Smithers, BC where he and his wife Melanie are raising their two young boys.


KEVIN PENNOCK - Executive Director
Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise (KORE)
Kevin is the co-founder and Executive Director of KORE, a Kootenay non-profit organization dedicated to makers and creators in the outdoor recreation manufacturing and design sector.
Kevin has been a lifelong outdoor adventurer and has made a career through the outdoors, both as a filmmaker and as a project manager, including creating the Ride Guide TV series and working as the Nordic Sport Manager for the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Kevin’s brief presentation will summarize KORE’s initiatives to advance the outdoor gear maker and creator network in the Kootenay region and to introduce a new initiative, the KORE Re-Hub, which will become the “Kootenay Hub for Outdoor Gear Circularity".

Steve Kozuki 2

STEVEN F. KOZUKI, RPF, Executive Director, Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC)

Steven F. Kozuki, a registered professional forester, is the executive director of FESBC. He has worked in the forest industry since 1984. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Forestry in 1994 and has held various positions from a timber valuation coordinator for Weldwood and general manager of forestry for the Council of Forest Industries, to working in BC Timber Sales and timber pricing for the BC Public Service. Kozuki believes that forestry has historically been an unsung hero because the work is oftentimes not seen or understood however, forests can be a means to achieve many social, economic, and environmental benefits. His passion for forestry and the work FESBC does drives him to continue to help advance the environmental and resource stewardship of B.C.’s forests.

Vicki Gee



Rebecca Richards - Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation



Agriculture & Food Sovereignty Panel

BC Cattlemen

Organic BC

Young Agrarians

Boundary Food Hub





Robyn Profile Pic - Feb 2024

Robyn Peel is a community builder, connector, and facilitator and is a keen supporter of social enterprises and all things community-based.

During the day Robyn is the Community Economic Development Manager for Community Futures East Kootenay and on weekends and evenings, she has a number of volunteer roles, tends to her garden, swims in lakes, climbs mountains, cycles gravel roads, cross country skis, trail runs and makes the most of the Kootenay mountain lifestyle. Robyn is passionate about ensuring rural communities are vibrant and thriving places to live and work and is driven by collaboration and connection. Within her regional role, she is always looking to share good practices to help reduce duplication and get to beneficial outcomes faster. She believes in the power of community and networks to support and enable change and is always looking to “do things better”.



Co-Operatives First

Kyle is the Director of Education with Co-operatives First, where he leads the development and delivery of start-up support services on online courses for Co-operatives First. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, Kyle has worked his way across Canada, focusing on community economic development in rural and Indigenous communities. With degrees in Geography and Public Policy, Kyle’s educational background has focused on community development,
corporate governance, and public policy. Aside from his work with Co-operatives First, Kyle stays busy as a volunteer, history enthusiast, and long-distance runner.



Farhad Moghimehfar, PhD

BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development

City of Merritt Flooding 2022

Watersheds, Riparian, Drought, and Riverscapes Panel

Jeff Anderson

Bonaparte Watershed Society



Laurel cropped 2023

Laurel Douglas joined the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) as CEO in 2020. ETSI-BC provides funding, resources, and knowledge to help communities in BC’s Southern Interior realize their economic development aspirations.

A well-known community leader and champion of BC small business, she has led organizations with regional and BC-wide mandates for over 25 years. She was the founding Executive Director of Accelerate Okanagan in the late 1990s and later spent almost 16 years as CEO of WeBC.

She currently serves on the Board of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission and the Justice Institute of BC and has been the recipient of many awards, including Business Leader of the Year from the Kelowna Chamber in 2020.


Luke Panek Yolo Nomads Picture

Community Success Director

Yolo Nomads helps smaller communities leverage the current trend of people leaving big cities in search of a better quality of life by creating captivating educational resources tailored to their ideal audience. There are three core audiences YOLO Nomads markets to Remote Workers, Relocators (Labour), and Investors (Economic Development). YOLO Nomads also develops custom embeddable maps that help visitors and residents alike discover the best the region has to offer.

Yolo Nomads also creates interactive maps that can be embedded on any website that helps visitors and locals alike, discover the businesses and amenities within the community. These maps include filters that can be tailor-made to adapt to each individual community's needs.

Louise P

Louise Pedersen

Executive Director | Outdoor Recreation Council of BC
Walking with dogs on the Leiner River Estuary Trail boardwalk, Tahsis.

Rural Innovation


Community Futures East Kootenay

Outdoor Recreation Council of BC

Food Supply App - LCIC


Forestry Rural

Rural Forestry & Emergency Preparedness

Forest Enhancement Society of BC


Make A Change



State of Rural Canada Report

Rural Development: Workforce & Housing 

Cooperatives First

Yolo Nomads

BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development


First Nations Rural


We are finalizing the agenda with loads of valuable rural content.

You do not want to miss this.



The schedule

The three-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 who have registered for the conference.

We can confirm that the conference will start on Tuesday, May 21st at 12noon and wrap up on Thursday, May 23rd at 12noon.

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.

Reserve Your Room


Start Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2024
End Date: Thursday, May 23, 2024
Last Day to Book: Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Book your special group rate room at The Four Points by Sheraton Kelowna Airport
Rooms start from $219 per night

KIR website


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



Consider signing on as a Sponsor of the Keeping it Rural Conference. The BC Rural Centre's commitment lies in fostering sustainable development, empowering local businesses, and preserving the unique lifestyle that thrives in rural areas. Your supporting this conference, will amplify voices from these communities, ensuring they have a platform to address challenges, share successes, and inspire innovative solutions. Through collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and actionable initiatives, we strive to cultivate a brighter future where rural communities flourish and thrive. Together, we embrace the spirit of rural resilience and champion the importance of Keeping it Rural.

Thank you to our 2024 Sponsors!

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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

BC Community Forest Assoc
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Nisga'a Lisims Government
Northern Dev Trust
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