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Meet the 2022 Board of Directors of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers

Meet the 2022 Board of Directors of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers

OPVG Board represents 350 Ontario vegetable crop members.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com

Some are new to the position, but all are well known within Ontario’s vegetable growing community.

The Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) is a provincial marketing board representing approximately 350 growers of such crops as: tomatoes, onions, sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, green and wax beans, lima beans, green peas, squash and pumpkin, a market that garnered crop sales in Ontario of $97.8 million in 2020.

Meet the board of directors of the OPVG for 2022:

Dave Hope, Chair. He was first appointed to the position of Chair in 2019, and will continue in this position in 2022. He was the former Assistant Deputy Minister in several portfolios including Food Safety & Environment, Economic Development, and Regulated Marketing, and served as Chair of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, and as a board member of Agricorp.

District 1
Ron VanDamme—not the "muscles from Brussels", but rather from Wallaceburg, Ontario—is assuming the role of First Vice-Chair. A tomato grower for Con Agra, as well as a producer of cucumbers, green peas, sweet corn, corn, sugar beets, soybeans and wheat, he has been involved with the OPVG for many years. He has served on the District Committee, and on the board of the Ontario Sugar Beet Growers Association where he was the Research Chair for several years. Elected to the Board for 2020 and Vice Chair in 2021, he was acclaimed in District 1 for another two-year term on the Board, and re-elected by the Board to service as Vice Chair for 2022.

Chris Stewart of Blenheim, Ontario is elected the Second Vice-Chair position, District 1, With his brothers, Stewart runs a a cash crop and vegetable crop farm. A fourth generation farmer, Stewart5 has been a vegetable grower since 1974. He has served as Director on the OPVG Board and is now also on the Board of the Seed Corn Growers of Ontario.

Ryan Leclair, Director, is a third-generation tomato farmer living in Dresden, Ontario, but grew up with multiple crops and processes. In 2006, he graduated from the Mechatronics Program at St. Clair College, where he continues to work during the winter months. He grows tomatoes with his family for Con-Agra Brands, as well as corn, soybeans and wheat. He served as Vice Chair on the OPVG District 1 Committee in 2019, and was elected as a Director to the Board in 2020. He was acclaimed in District 1 to serve another two-year term on the Board.

Tom Keller, Director, from Leamington. Father and grandfather grew flue-cured tobacco, peaches and fresh-market tomatoes. Keller became a partner to the farm in 1975, and added cucumbers. Eventually stopping tobacco, the farm added: peas, sweet corn, green and wax beans, cauliflower, peppers and cabbage were added. With his brothers, he is involved in greenhouse growing. He has served as past Chair of the local Agriculture Employment Board and past Director of the Ontario Greenhouse Growers Board. Keller has served several years on the District 1 Committee and on the Board.

District 2
Tracy Gubbels, New Director, she was elected to the Board in District 2 as a Director for a two-year term. She farms Mount Brydges with her husband and four daughters. They farm farm cash crops, watermelon and processing squash. Gubbels has served on the District 2 Committee for several years and looks forward to working with the Board supporting growers and the processing vegetable industry.

Carl Merrick, Director, was re-elected to the Board for another term starting 2021. He held the position of Chair at the local District Committee level for one year prior to joining the Board in 2018. Merrick has grown up with farming all his life. His father worked as a field manager for Green Giant and Carl, as a teenager, ran harvester for GlanRvest. He is actively involved with the family farm near Strathroy and grows green peas, snap beans and sweet corn.

District 3
Neil Reimer, Director, he has served on the OPVG District 3 Committee for the past two years. Born and raised on a farm in Belize, he moved to Canada in 1986. He has served on the AFO Board and the OFVGA. Married with three children, he has farmed in the Vienna area for 20 years.

Dan Froese, Director, has served on the local District 3 Committee for several years and was elected to the Board as a Provincial Director in October 2017. Growing up on a farm and living in southwestern Ontario for most of his life, Froese resides in Straffordville. He has been farming for 20 years: both fresh and processing vegetable crops including cucumbers, peppers corn and beans. He has served as a Councillor in Ward 2 for the Municipality of Bayham. He was acclaimed in District 3 to serve another two-year term on the Board.

For more information on the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, visit https://www.opvg.org.


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