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OFA’s 2020 virtual annual meeting focuses on road to recovery for agri-food sector

GUELPH, ON – More than 270 delegates from 50 county federations and 18 commodity organizations representing the grassroots voice of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) attended the organization’s 2020 Virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM). The event, which took place on Monday, November 23, featured a jam-packed agenda showcased by addresses from government leaders, Director-at-Large election, bylaw ratification, year in review video, dynamic keynote speaker, resolutions and concluding with acknowledgment of the bursary winners.
 
The theme Navigating our Road to Recovery was selected to further emphasize how the agri-food sector will be a significant contributor to Ontario’s economic growth and recovery as we navigate COVID-19 and beyond. OFA will be a leader on the road to recovery and will advocate on behalf of farm businesses that faced challenging times in 2020 to ensure they have the tools, resources and support needed to remain profitable and sustainable.
 
“We are very thankful for the tremendous support and turn out we had at this year’s AGM,” said Peggy Brekveld, the newly elected 32nd President of OFA. “We were fortunate to have delegates, industry stakeholders and government policymakers from across the province take the time to participate in our meeting and engage in important conversations. We are grateful to have been able to share this virtual experience with so many vital members of the agriculture and food industry.”
 
OFA was pleased to have Premier Doug Ford on the virtual stage to address the membership and show his continued support for Ontario’s agri-food sector. Ford identified how important the agriculture and food industry is to provincial economy and how instrumental the sector will be for solidifying economic recovery post-pandemic. Additionally, he thanked Ontario’s farming families for their resiliency and commitment in keeping Ontarian’s plates full of fresh, high-quality and affordable food, stating “Ontario farmers ensured food continued to flow from farm to table, grocery stores remained stocked and the supply chain strong.” Ford added that, “In uncertain times, farmers were a certainty. This meant the world to Ontario families.” In his eyes, Ontario farmers have proved to be modern day heroes in these unprecedented and difficult times.
 
The Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs also addressed Ontario’s farm family members from a remote connection. Minster Hardeman mirrored Premier Ford’s sentiments in praising Ontario’s agri-food sector for their unwavering commitment to producing food for the province and the world. Looking ahead to the 2021 growing season, he touched on the government’s newly launched strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on farms and ensured measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of the agri-food sector. Minister Hardeman added that he will continue to strive for improvement to government agricultural programs and represent Ontario farmers’ best interests.
 
Grassroots members participated in an important bylaw ratification vote that resulted in delegates voting in favour of passing OFA bylaw 20-1, which allows the Board of Directors the ability to elect its Executive Committee.
 
OFA prides itself on having competitive elections with candidates from all corners of the agri-food sector. Three exceptional, well-rounded, agriculture advocates vied for the vacant position of Director-at-Large. Brekveld, a northern Ontario dairy farmer, was re-elected into the position for a three-year term.
 
An annual high point is the acknowledgement of the bursary winners. The bursary program embodies our commitment to the next generation and Farms and Food Forever. A total of 41 applications were received from across the province. All applicants were heavily involved in their communities and showcased strong leadership skills. This year’s bursary recipients included Derek Van De Walle, Margaret Alexiou and Caitlin Allen.
 
A definite highlight of the event was keynote speaker Brent Butt. The well-known Canadian comedian, actor and screenwriter proved to everyone in attendance why Queen Elizabeth II granted him a comedic award. His question and answer period shared life advice on how to find inspiration and stay positive during hardships and facing fears such as public speaking. When it comes to public speaking Butt suggested people recognize, “It’s humanity’s number one phobia. Take the pressure off yourself and put it into perspective. Regardless of the outcome, you are not changing anyone’s life for the worst.” Without a doubt his remarks and comic relief boosted morale and kept the audience entertained.
 
The event also featured a Year in Review video, which visually encapsulated all of the organization’s accomplishments in 2020. The video highlighted advocacy efforts, key issue and priority wins with government, COVID-19 response and resources, mental health and farm safety campaigns, introduction of new board members and food literacy initiatives.
 
A special farewell and words of appreciation were shared to thank two valued team members. Debra Pretty-Straathof, who wrapped up her final term on the board after more than 20 years of dedicated service, and senior policy analyst Peter Jeffery, who is retiring at year end following a 33-year career with the organization. OFA also welcomed newest board member Jennifer Doelman, who will be replacing Pretty-Straathof as the provincial director representing the counties of Arnprior, Lanark, Ottawa and Renfrew.
 
Throughout this pandemic and beyond, OFA will continue to advocate for farm families to ensure Ontario’s agri-food sector and our rural communities remain prosperous and sustainable. Together, we’re Navigating our Road to Recovery.
Source : OFA