Debora Durnin-Richards, PHEc, M.Ed.
Debora Durnin-Richards’s career as a professional home economist and her able leadership in advancing the profession through the Manitoba Association of Home Economists professional organization makes her a trailblazer.
After graduating with a bachelor`s degree in home economics, Durnin-Richards joined Manitoba Agriculture in 1979 as the home economist for the Portage, Gladstone and Starbuck areas. In her 37 years of service with the department, she worked in the fields of home economics, 4-H Youth, policy, crop insurance, marketing, farm business management, northern food prices and strategic planning. She retired in 2014 from her final position as the director of boards, commissions and legislation. During her career with agriculture, she was instrumental in the creation of two organizations whose legacies continue to this day: Manitoba Farm Women`s Conference (MFWC), and Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba (AITC-M).
Durnin-Richards was one of the local home economists who not only helped organize the very first MFWC event, but over her career assured its success as a co-planner, departmental representative and a departmental director. The conference supports and promotes farm and rural women and is organized and delivered by them for them. It recently held its 33rd successful conference.
AITC-M has been operating since 1988, delivering curriculum-based programs, activities and resources for teachers and their students to learn more about agriculture and the important role it plays in our province. Durnin-Richards was one of the first government staff to work with AITC-M during those fledgling years, helping with strategic planning, visioning, administrative management and writing curriculum. AITC-M is now a strong, self-sustaining non-profit, charitable organization supported by numerous sponsors, members and paid staff who share the organization’s goal of developing and delivering the agricultural educational programs to Manitoba schools.
Another example of Debora Durnin-Richards’ legacy is the Northern Food Prices Project. Following an extensive consultation with people and stakeholder organizations, and with input from an advisory group, the project team developed an insightful report describing the food system in Northern Manitoba and why the prices there are often much higher than in southern Manitoba. Despite the controversial recommendations, the report was accepted by the province and has offered substantive guidance to further initiatives over many years.
Durnin-Richards has been a lifelong supporter of the advancement of women in society. As chair of Manitoba Crop Insurance Corporation`s eligibility review committee, she helped develop a new policy allowing female farmers to qualify for their own individual crop insurance contract, separate from a male farmer in the family.
She has been an active member of the Manitoba Association of Home Economists since it was first organized. While president, she spearheaded the association`s lobbying against the closure of the Faculty of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba and represented the association`s views with the university administration and media. She continues to advocate for the development of a new human ecology program in post-secondary institutions in Manitoba.
Durnin-Richards is an active member of Manitoba Women’s Institute and a director on the board of Red River Exhibition.