The Interview: Ashley McAllister


Q: Tell us a bit about yourself?

A: I grew up in Haliburton, went to JDH and HHSS. My mom started a video rental store called Press Play to teach my brother and I job skills when we were in high school and I wrote a very embarrassing movie review column for the local paper called the Flick Chick.

After university, I moved back to Haliburton, bought a house on the same lake I grew up on, about four years ago. I volunteer for a few different events, including Hike Haliburton and Fashion Fallies and I’m on the committee for our local Rotaract club and the Highland Yard.

Q: What have you been doing prior to this position?

A: I was the national manager for a non-profit organization called Lawn Summer Nights for seven years. LSN was a lawn bowling tournament targeted toward young professionals. During my time there, we raised more than $4.5 million through peer-to-peer fundraising events for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Q: How do you feel about getting the AG job?

A: I’m excited. I love Haliburton, and moving home meant that I was able to reconnect with a lot of people. But since I was working remotely for an organization that wasn’t based here, it felt like I was “in” the community without actually being a part of it, especially since my job meant I travelled a lot in the summer when Haliburton really shines. Being able to bring my experience with fundraising, special events, and non-profit work to Abbey Gardens has given me the opportunity to actively engage with the community, particularly during a time where the region is seeing a lot of new growth and change.

Q: Clearly at AG, it’s not just a job – there is a philosophy there – what can you tell me about how your ideals are in synch with the vision there.

A: Everything Abbey Gardens does is rooted in sustainability and a desire to serve the community. The local food initiatives, educational programming, and business partners on site contribute to the economic development of Haliburton County. Abbey Gardens is meeting a need to provide activities, jobs, and of course, locally grown food that stays in our community.

The work I’ve done with Rotaract on projects like the Basic Needs Bags or the work we do at Highland Yard for Places for People is also rooted in that same goal, to support every member of our community in as many ways as we can. It feels like a good fit.

Q: A lot has been done to date, what other plans are there in the works?

A: I’m very fortunate that Heather (Reid) has left such a strong foundation for me. There’s a solid team that are truly excellent at what they do, and so the things that make Abbey Gardens so special, like the garden, Food Hub, and educational programming will continue to grow, under their expertise, as the needs of the community do.

My goal is to build on that foundation and focus on new initiatives that can increase our fundraising reach and allow us to create more diverse opportunities for visitors to interact with the site. Abbey Gardens is such a fascinating destination, and there’s a lot of excitement around the things we’re doing with our existing audience. Extending that reach so that more people can come in and experience the Food Hub, tour the gardens, meet the heritage animals, walk the trails – that’s going to remain the core objective of our development plans.

Q: What do you bring to the organization?

A: I feel very lucky that I have the perspective of a local, someone who grew up here and worked in the community as a teenager, coupled with my professional experience, working for a non-profit with a national reach in partnership with a large, well-known charity. It allows me to take what I’ve learned growing an organization to a multimilliondollar donor base and apply it to an organization that serves my community.

My family is here, my friends are here, and living here myself I know what the gaps are in the County and what needs we need to meet as a community to help us all flourish. I’m grateful that I get to bring my ideas for how we can better leverage the passionate volunteer and donor base we have here in Haliburton to help us address those thing


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