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OFA young farmer tailgate event grows in popularity

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture social for young farmers continues for a second year in a row at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

Ontario’s largest farm membership organization – the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) – is not backing down on their commitment to grow its base with young and beginning farmers. The farm lobby group brought back its Young Farmer Tailgate party to Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show (COFS) in Woodstock, Ont.

The membership driven organization comprised of farmers from across the province experimented with the idea of a tailgate event for the first time in 2013. And it was deemed so successful the first time around, that OFA held the event again following the opening day of COFS on Tuesday, September 9.

"We were happy with the turnout, especially to see many new faces from all across Southern and Eastern Ontario‎, because our aim is to continue connecting with young farmers,” Jeanine Lunn, Member Services for OFA said in an interview with Farms.com

(Photo: Young farmers registering for the tailgate social).

OFA organizers quickly recognized that hosting an event after hours in conjunction with COFS would be a hit as farmers already travel far and wide to attend the largest farm show of its kind in Canada. Beef on a bun and a complimentary beverage was served up at the non-formal gathering, where about 80 young farmers, including OFA representatives, plus OFA President Mark Wales, and media were in attendance.

"Several local county federations were able to send experienced directors to act as mentors,” Lunn explained, noting that this aspect was added in order to make the connection between members and spurring possible involvement in OFA at the county and provincial levels.

Ultimately, OFA wants to get more young people involved with its local associations and bring new members into the provincial ranks to help with lobby efforts. The farm organization’s success is already evident by looking at its current directors. Two of its representatives – Joe Dickenson and Drew Spoelstra – who are under the age of 35, attend numerous OFA events, especially the tailgate socials. Both have said that OFA is a good place to voice concerns and get involved to make a difference in the farming community.

OFA President Mark Wales offered some comments during the event. He said it was nice to see young people from different counties across the province. Wales also took the opportunity to talk about a few policy points that OFA plans to work on over the next little while. He reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to pushing for natural gas access - something that he touts will be important in the future with rising energy costs. Interestingly, he also said that OFA is investigating about how the climate change wording recently added to the environment ministry portfolio will affect the agricultural industry.

(Photo: Mark Wales, President of OFA speaking to the crowd).

The event got some young farmers mulling over the idea of getting more involved with the organization, including Coleman Dortmans. “The event has definitely got me thinking about attending other OFA events and getting more involved with the federation,” he said. “I think as a young person getting more involved will open the doors for a lot more opportunities as well.”

Dortmans said that the tailgate event allowed him to socialize and mingle with likeminded individuals, many of whom he adds are in similar situations with determining the next steps with their farming careers. He explained that the experience reaffirmed his optimism for the agricultural industry.

Similarly, his friend Nicole Stewardson who grew up on a dairy farm in Lambton County said she decided to attend the OFA event because “it seemed like a fun social event” for people like herself. She admitted that she didn’t know much about the farm organization until after attending the event.

(Photo: Young farmers enjoying food and drink).

(Photo: Perth County Junior Farmer members having fun with the Ag More Than Ever talk bubbles).


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