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Farmers encouraged to take active leadership roles in their industry

By Angela Cammaert,
irector, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

The success of any organization depends heavily on its leadership – and for many member-driven organizations, that leadership is more often than not made up of volunteers.

That is certainly the case with the board of directors at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), the province’s largest farm organization that represents 88% of Ontario’s registered farmers.

Eighteen farmers from across Ontario make up the OFA’s board of directors, a dedicated group of volunteers that sets policy for the organization, represents the interests of farmers and rural communities with government and other stakeholders, and a multitude of other activities that are part of serving in a leadership role.

The OFA is now accepting nominations from its farmer members who are interested in letting their name stand for a director position as part of the annual election process. I can say from experience that it’s an ideal opportunity for those who are interested in influencing policy development, advocating for Ontario’s agriculture and food industry through government relations, and engaging with OFA members and industry stakeholders.

The OFA’s bottom-up, grassroots structure means that all OFA members are able to vote, either electronically or by mail, for the director that will represent them. As well, voting delegates at our annual general meeting in November elect our three at-large director positions.

A fifth-generation farmer, I farm with my family near West Lorne in Elgin County, where we raise beef cattle and grow crops. Since last November, I’ve been one of those 18 individuals around that OFA board table. I was first involved with our local federation of agriculture and as I learned more about the OFA and what it does provincially and nationally, I knew that I wanted to be part of that activity.

That’s why about a year ago, I decided to put my name forward as a candidate for a position on the provincial board to lend my skills, my experience and my voice in support of agriculture – arguably one of the most critical industries in our province and our country.

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly; I’m an active farmer with a young family and I knew that should I be successful, my new role would mean more time away from my family and our business. But I feel equally strongly about how important it is for those of us in agriculture to give back to our industry by taking active leadership roles to represent our sector.

There were several candidates in the running for my director-at-large position, which represents farmers across the province and not just in a local area.

I ran an election campaign, which was an amazing opportunity to meet fellow farmers from all parts of Ontario and I had to give a presentation in front of all the OFA delegates at our organization’s annual meeting before ultimately being elected to the role.

It was a process that has prepared me well for the fast pace of my first year as an OFA director. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get to know more of OFA’s local federations and to take a deep dive into a wide range of issues that directly affect farmers and farm businesses – from land use planning and taxation to local food, farm safety, business risk management and more.

As an advocacy organization, much of OFA’s calendar and issues are driven by the activities of municipal, provincial and federal governments and as directors we are often asked to represent farmers in meetings with government, to give presentations and take part in media interviews and just generally speak up on behalf of the industry and the issues that are critical to our businesses and our sector.

More often than not, those issues also matter to non-farming Ontarians and it’s up to us to help build those bridges between urban and rural communities.

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