The Ontario Young Farmers’ Forum (OYFF) hit a new record of attendance in recent years with about 83 young farmers and those involved in the agricultural industry present this year. The event was administered by Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario (JFAO) and held in partnership with the Ontario Federation Agriculture’s (OFA) annual general meting at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto from November 20-21, 2016.
Attendees traveled from all corners of the province to participate in the two-day event. A prize was given to the person who drove the furthest, which was about five-and-a-half hours. Interestingly, about 90 per cent of this year’s participants had never attended OYFF before.
“We were blown away by the turnout and even more surprised that the vast majority of people it was their first time attending,” said Jordan Eastman, Director of Agriculture Programs for JFAO. “It is encouraging to see so many young people eager to learn and better themselves through the knowledge gained at the conference.”
Unlike in years past, JFAO has ramped up its social media outreach to engage with its membership and beyond. While OYFF is organized by JFAO it is one of the only events that is opened up to non Junior Farmer members and the age range within Junior Farmers varies from 15-29 and 18-40 with OYFF.
“I was thrilled that many participants indicated that they found out about OYFF through social media including, Facebook and Twitter,” explained Amanda Brodhagen, Executive Director of Marketing for JFAO. “The young farmers in attendance blew up the social media space with their enthusiasm and posts about the event. The energy was incredible!”
There was a wide array of speakers that presented under the theme: Navigating your way to agricultural success. Some of the speakers included, the 2016 Ontario Outstanding Young Farmer winners – Jodie and Adrian Roelands, Tina Straathof who spoke about her experience farming in Malaysia, Dale Cowan about precision agriculture, Murray Needham spoke about putting the fun back into your life and in farming, Lynsay Beavers spoke about the evolution of genomics and newly elected OFA Vice President, and Peggy Brekveld explained the function of OFA and the art of lobbying. A full list of the 2016 speakers can be found on the OYFF Facebook event page.
“I was pleased that JFAO could bring its mandate of building leaders and building communities to the forum event,” said Kurtis Smith, President for JFAO. “Now more than ever before we need to enable leaders in rural Ontario, which includes young farmers. And we were able to do just that thanks to at event like OYFF.” In addition to the regular programing put on by OYFF, JFAO had four voting delegates in OFA’s elections and held an election of its own. OYFF participants voted for someone to represent Ontario at the Canadian Young Farmers Forum to be held in Ottawa from February 24 to 26th. Kara Pate of Brantwood Farms was elected.
This year’s OYFF committee would like to thank OFA for the warm welcome and the many county federations that sponsored young farmers to attend. The main event sponsor was Scotia Bank along with Farm Credit Canada.