Farm politics needs succession planning too (2014)

By Drew Spoelstra, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Just as many Ontario farm families develop plans to transfer their farm from one generation to the next, Ontario farm organizations must do the same. It’s time farm leaders get to work on a succession plan of our own – and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is proud to lead the charge by engaging with our new and younger members. 

Today’s agriculture landscape is different than it was even one generation ago. Less than two per cent of our population has a direct connection to agriculture. Rural Ontario is changing too – we’re seeing prime farmland give way to subdivisions. And, more people than ever before are migrating to urban centres.

The new generation of farmers has a unique set of challenges to manage through. The OFA is advocating for a number of changes that will improve conditions on the farm, and benefit young farmers in particular. For example, we continue to lobby the provincial government for infrastructure investment for services such as natural gas, which will significantly reduce input costs for farmers in rural Ontario.

We’re also working to reduce regulatory red tape to make it easier to farm. And, we’re fierce advocates of farmland preservation – so that when a new generation is ready to farm, there will be land to work.

In recent years, in conjunction with OFA’s annual convention, we have held a Young Farmers’ Forum to make way for the new generation of farm leaders and signal to them that we are interested in what they have to say. This year already, OFA hosted a young farmers’ summit, bringing together agriculture enthusiasts to learn and share together.

And OFA has recently welcomed two younger members to our board of directors, giving a stronger voice to new and beginning farmers.

The OFA will continue to look for ways to engage with younger audiences in our communication to members – through social media, online accessibility, and special events such as the recent tailgate events at the London and Ottawa farm shows.

Ontario agriculture’s demographic is changing, and for that we are grateful. OFA is pleased to welcome a new generation of young and beginning farmers into the fold of farm politics. We are committed to striving for relevancy with this group, and pursuing our common goal of enabling prosperous and sustainable farms.  

For more information contact:

Drew Spoelstra
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Tony Morris P.Ag says on March 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Drew makes interesting points in his commentary, and while challenges facing farmers may be different today, I suggest most of the issues are similar. He suggests building rural infrastructure to supply natural gas is something todays young farmers want. This OFA lobby was alive and well 20 years ago as OFA advocated for the provision of natural gas using similar programs and policies that helped bring it to rural Saskatchewan at that time. He further claims that in recent years a young farmers forum has been held at the OFA convention to engage a new generation of young farmers. That's true, but don't forget it was November 1997 that the first Young Farmers Forum was held. Many of those original young farmer participants now have "young farmers" of their own that attend today's forums. But it is the message he brings that is so important. Any and all organizations, regardless of who they are need to mentor and develop the next generation to continue building and advocating for policies that bring benefit to their members. Leadership has responsibility to bring integrity and ensure relevancy to their industry and its constituents. Members on the otherhand, have responsibility for renewal. Just as the farmer tends new crop in the Spring, Members must guide leadership ensuring they do not forget the past. Whether one grows or withers depends on the value and relevancy one brings to those being served.

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