Our Team

The RAIN project staff work alongside collaborators to undertake research, and build relationships and capacity for producers of agricultural goods in the Algoma District and across Northern Ontario.  Our team is composed of specialists with backgrounds in business, agriculture, environmental science, and marketing.

RAIN Staff
& Advisors

Position Email Phone
Errol Caldwell Co-Chair errol.helene@gmail.com
Gayle Broad Co-Chair gayle.broad@algomau.ca
David Thompson Research Project Coordinator dthompson@ssmic.com (705) 942 7927 x3027
Mikala Parr Research Technician mparr@ssmic.com (705) 942 7927 x3046
Cathy Bouchard Infrastructure Coordinator (Tile Drainage & Land Clearing) and SNAPP Program Contact cbouchard@ssmic.com (705) 942 7927 x3135
Jessica Laidley Central Algoma Food for Everyone (CAFFE) Pilot Project Coordinator jlaidley@ssmic.com (705) 942 7927 x3034

Errol Caldwell, RAIN Co-Chair, Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (retired)

Errol Caldwell, RAIN Co-chairWith over 32 years’ experience in federal science based departments, including 8 years with Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, and 22 years as a science director with the Canadian Forest Service, Errol has been leading the establishment of the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) in Algoma District. Errol became the Research Director for the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) following SSMIC’s merger with Science Enterprise Algoma (seA) in 2009, and is working with RAIN to assist in agri-based economic development in Algoma District and facilitate improvements in agricultural research and innovation in Northern Ontario.

Previous projects have included: development of a Centre for Invasive Species in Sault Ste. Marie as well as establishment of the Invasive Species Research Institute at Algoma University; Funding of the Invasive Species Research Chair and the Natural Products Chemistry Research Chair at Algoma U; and also facilitating the commercialization of research deliverables and services.  Errol was founding chair of the Ontario Federal Council Science Committee comprised of representatives from federal science-based departments and agencies located in the Ontario region. The Science Committee worked with federal counterparts to improve the science capacity of the federal science and technology community, increasing the public profile of federal science programs and encouraging youth interest in science education and careers.

Errol has a Masters of Science degree in entomology from the University of Guelph and a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto. Management responsibilities included projects on insect genomics and pest control methods development, environmental impact, bioproducts, insect ecology and research on invasive species such as the Asian long horned beetle and the Emerald ash borer.

Gayle Broad, RAIN Co-chair and Research Director of NORDIK (Northern Ontario Research, Development, Ideas and Knowledge) InstituteGayle Broad, RAIN Co-chair

Dr. Gayle Broad is the Director of Research for NORDIK Institute, a community-based research institute affiliated with Algoma University, and partner organization on the RAIN project. Gayle is also Associate Professor in the Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) program at Algoma University. Gayle combines a background in legal advocacy with years of experience in facilitation, conflict resolution, strategic planning and program evaluation.

Dr. Broad’s research interests derive from her more than 20 years’ experience as a community organizer prior to returning to graduate studies to complete her doctorate. Her current research interests include the social economy, public legal education, indigenous issues, participatory action research, violence against women, and poverty. Currently she is working with community groups and other researchers on creating resilient, sustainable Northern, rural and Indigenous communities and strengthening relationships. With Errol, Gayle helped establish the Algoma RAIN project.

David Thompson, Research Project Coordinator

David Thompson, RAIN Project CoordinatorAs the RAIN Research Project Coordinator, David leads the Rural Agri-Innovation Network to connect and build the capacity of Algoma farmers, agri-businesses and entrepreneurs through research and market development.

Before joining SSMIC, David was a Research Coordinator for NORDIK Institute (Algoma University) and led several research projects on agricultural co-operatives and the social economy. David has an MBA in Community Economic Development from Cape Breton University and a B.A. (Hons) in Community Economic and Social Development from Algoma University. David also serves on the Advisory Council for Sustain Ontario, an alliance for healthy food and farming.


Mikala Parr, Research Technician

Mikala Parr, RAIN Research AssistantMikala Parr is RAIN’s research technician. She works on the on-farm projects in co-operation with Algoma farmers. Mikala has a Diploma in Agriculture from University of Guelph: Ridgetown Campus.  She is working on starting her own beef farm on St. Joseph Island. With experience in dairy and beef she has a good knowledge of the practical side of farming. She is very passionate about agriculture and how it will impact the future.

Before becoming a part of RAIN’s team she worked in the Guelph area on a dairy farm. Going through school she worked on dairy farms, between harvest time and daily milkings she has applied agriculture experience. She has her grower pesticide license as well as her integrated pest management course for corn and soybean license. Mikala joined RAIN as an NOHFC intern and has stayed on to continue working on applied agricultural research.

Melissa Watson, Infrastructure Development Coordinator

RAIN’s Infrastructure Development Coordinator develops and implements tile drainage and land clearing projects. These have included over 90 growers to date, tile drainage contractor(s), government agencies and a team of staff to develop agricultural infrastructure in Algoma and surrounding districts. Melissa is always encouraging feedback and wants to know what the farm and food sector needs in terms of infrastructure to be able to improve.

Before joining RAIN, Melissa spent the past seven years managing funding opportunities and scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) for businesses across Ontario. Melissa has a Bachelor of Business Administration (Hons) Degree with a specialization in public administration from Algoma University. She was raised on a dairy farm and is excited to have the opportunity to help advance the agricultural industry in Northern Ontario.

Jess LaidleyJessica Laidley, Food Security & Education Coordinator

Jessica Laidley has been a Project Coordinator with RAIN since 2015. After her initial project which included a summer camp focusing on Urban Farming for 8-14 year olds, Jessica continued to explore ways to inspire children to engage with food. Since then, Jessica completed a pilot project exploring the issues of food security and poverty in the region and taught workshops focusing on the growing of food and food preservation. Jessica has also been a farmers’ market vendor and handcrafter, selling locally for the last 10 years.

Jessica graduated from Algoma University with two Bachelor’s Degrees, one in Canadian History and the other in Sociology. Jessica has also completed training from the University of Guelph on Food Preservation methods and Sustainable Urban Horticulture and Agriculture.

Jessica has now partnered with the Healthy Kids Community Challenge in the North Channel to deliver fun, educational programming to teach youth about local and Canadian agriculture, growing your own food, and why it matters.