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OFA highlights initiatives and priorities aimed at connecting with Ontarians during 2021 virtual annual meeting

GUELPH, ON – More than 220 delegates from 50 local federations and 12 commodity organizations representing the grassroots voice of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) attended the organization’s 2021 Virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM). The event was filled to the brim with action, including public addresses from government leaders, a Director-at-Large election, year in review highlights video, inspiring keynote speaker and resolutions providing members an opportunity to engage in policy issues.

The theme Connecting with Ontarians was chosen to enhance the promotion of Ontario’s agri-food sector and food value chain providing attendees with the motivation and tools they need to tell their stories, bridge the gap between the urban-rural divide and make lasting relationships with consumers.

“We are thankful for another great virtual turnout for this year’s annual meeting,” said Peggy Brekveld, who was re-elected as President by the OFA board. “Now is the opportune time for the organization to enter the public trust space and for our members to learn to hone and harvest their own farm stories to increase the connection between our sector and Ontarians.”

OFA was pleased to have Premier Doug Ford on the virtual stage to address the delegates and show his continued support for Ontario’s agri-food sector. Ford identified the importance of the agriculture and food industry is to the provincial economy and how instrumental the sector will be for economic recovery post-pandemic. He thanked Ontario’s farming families for their ongoing resiliency and commitment in keeping Ontarian’s plates full of fresh, high-quality and affordable food as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

“We were fortunate to have delegates, industry stakeholders, government policymakers and media from across the province take the time to participate in our meeting and engage in important conversations,” explained Brekveld. “We appreciate the support of our membership and the pride they take in being part of our organization. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals and objectives as an industry and as an organization.”

The Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs also addressed Ontario’s farm family members from a remote connection. Minster Thompson voiced her appreciation for collaboration as 2021 saw great strides in key priorities such as mental health, rural broadband expansion, farmland preservation, meat processing investment, BRM program improvement and adverse weather supports.

OFA prides itself on having competitive elections with candidates from all corners of the sector. Three exceptional, well-rounded, agriculture advocates vied for the vacant position of Director-at-Large. Sara Wood, a Perth County field crop and poultry farmer, was elected to the position for a three-year term.

OFA’s post-secondary bursary program is an integral part of our commitment to achieve Farms and Food Forever. This year, over 50 applications were received from across the province, all of which demonstrated commitment to personal development, community leadership and a commitment to serve in the sector. This year’s bursary recipients included Allison French, Kristen Kelderman and Sabrina Van Schyndel.

A definite highlight of the event was keynote speaker Terry O’Reilly. A household name known as a voice in CBC radio and podcasting, and marketing author, O’Reilly captivated the audience with his compelling case for storytelling connecting to hearts instead of minds when communicating about our sector. “You can’t open new doors with old keys,” said O’Reilly, reminding participants to use new techniques and personal anecdotes when speaking with those unfamiliar with farming.

The event also featured a Year in Review video, which visually captured the organization’s accomplishments in 2021. The video highlighted advocacy efforts, key issue and priority wins with government, local federation outreach projects, mental health and farmland preservation campaigns, introduction of new board members and food literacy initiatives.

A special farewell and words of appreciation were shared to outgoing valued team members of both staff and board, including staff members Laura Jeffery and Heather Derks as well as retiring directors Keith Currie (Past President), Hugh Simpson, Brent Royce and Rejean Pommainville. Each have left a lasting impression, impact and have worked tirelessly for the betterment of Ontario’s agriculture sector.

New board members Ethan Wallace, Vanessa Renaud and Paul Maurice were welcomed into their roles in a provincial board meeting that was held immediately following the AGM. These Zone Directors will be a link between grassroots members and influence OFA’s direction as a provincial organization.

Source : OFA

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