February 17:  Picture this. A call from our new Northlands CEO, Richard Andersen.  He explains a new ad campaign by the organization to profile the people behind Northlands and our longstanding connection to our community.  I think it’s brilliant. Northlands is well known,  but not well understood. This campaign is a good first step in addressing that. Then he says they want to profile me, as a Board Director, in one of the ads.  Hmmm.  I am low-profile, behind the scenes, avoid the center of attention kinda girl. And now they want me to be a poster girl? Because Richard is persuasive and because it is the right thing to do, I tell Richard, “Yes”.  Hang up the phone and immediately begin to stress about having my photo taken.

February 22: Call from our agency, DDB, to talk about the ad and where the photo shoot will be.  Because I am one of the Board Directors that keeps us focused on our agriculture roots (Northlands is a 130-year old agriculture society), they are looking for something that says “farmers and food”.  We settle on shooting at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market the week following. (To all of my friends at the City Market Downtown on 104th Street, we would have shot there but the market wasn’t open yet.)

March 1: Interviewed by the ad copy writer so they can figure out what the ad and online Q&A should say.  I reminisce about my first concert. Favourite fair food.  Why I choose to give my time to Northlands.  All easy answers.

March 3: Get the details of the photo shoot from the agency. Meet the crew at the Market at 7:30am this Saturday. Do they know how hard it is to look camera-good at that time of the morning??  Told to wear a neutral-coloured, tailored blouse and slacks.  Slacks?  My Baba wore slacks. I interpret slacks as nice jeans I look good in.

March 5: D-day.  Wake up far too early in case a hair disaster presents itself.  Head to the Market and meet Colin Way, the photographer and Adrianne, the hair and make-up artist.  I am whisked away to the concession area of the Market to have my make-up bumped up so I “pop” for the camera. Yes, the concession area. I get inquisitive looks and smiles from the seniors and vendors sipping their morning coffee while they watch and learn from Adrianne’s masterful mini-make up demonstration.

We are shooting in front of Doef’s Greenhouses and their beautiful and tasty tomatoes and peppers.  The staff are gracious as I stand perched in front of their stall for nearly 30 minutes. Colin tells me to act natural and confident. Like standing in front of tomatoes and having my photo taken is something I do every day.

Even though the final photo doesn’t show it, there are dozens of shoppers around me at all times (oh, the beauty of Photoshop). The market shoppers ask me questions about the sweetness of the tomatoes, when the red peppers will be ready, and just who the hell am I if I am having my photo taken in front of all of these people. I am distracted and don’t think I can achieve “the look” the photographer is looking for.  Finally, Colin announces we are done.  Whew. I can breathe.

March 7-15: I wait to receive my ad for review and approval. I wait. And wait. I wait like a girl who is waiting for the boy to call. Every email, I want it to be the ad. I wonder if the delay is because of all the Photoshop work they have to do to make me look poster girl good.

March 16:  Finally. The ad arrives in my inbox. Moment of truth. It’s actually okay. The stress begins to subside. Colin and DDB did good.

March 17: I clarify a few of my Q&A answers with the agency so we get it right.  I think they think I am a little wacko.  Doesn’t everyone stake out the best caramel apple vendors at Capital Ex?? Later in the day, the ad is shown to the Board at our regular meeting.  My headline garners a few chuckles. Especially from those with grey hair.

March 22:  It’s out. The ad first appears in Metro Edmonton and if you can’t pick up your free copy today, you can read the print edition online – my ad is on page 6. My online Q&A is also posted today on the Northlands site, just in case you want to know more about my first concert and my caramel apple obsession. In the coming weeks, my ad will be in 24 Hours, the Edmonton Journal, See, Vue Weekly and the Commerce News.  It’s official. I am a bona fide Northlands poster girl, standing happily amongst Alberta-grown tomatoes sending out important messages about Northlands. That our Board of Directors is not an old boys club – joining me at the table are many accomplished women and people younger than me. That we are committed to advancing the agriculture and food industry. That we ARE the community.

I am a poster girl in good company.  My board colleague and friend, Susan Green, is profiled in her own great ad about community service.  And there are other ads with a handful of the people whose lives are touched and changed by Northlands.

I will always choose to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. However, if this one small ad makes people stop, notice and see that Northlands is made up of people just like them, who are a part of our community doing what’s right for our community, then being a poster girl was all worth it.