Taking an active role in representing agriculture is rewarding, By Ethan Wallace, Board Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture


The strength of organizations lies in the commitment and passion of their members and volunteers. That’s particularly true for an advocacy organization like the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

We represent the interests of our farmer members all across the province, whether it’s to all levels of government or other stakeholders, media, consumers or in local communities through the activities of our 51 county and regional federations.

Through a democratic process, it’s the members of these federations who elect the people who will represent them on our provincial board of directors. However, OFA also has three director-at-large positions, which are open to any OFA member from anywhere in Ontario.

This year, one of these director-at-large positions is open for election and delegates to our annual convention in November will vote on who will fill that role for the next three years.

Being an OFA board director is not a small commitment, but it is an incredible way to become involved and influence meaningful change for farmers and rural Ontario.

Directors advocate on behalf of Ontario farm businesses, connect with grassroots members and industry partners on key issues and priorities impacting the agri-food sector, and influence policy development and strategic planning for the organization.

I am a dairy farmer in Huron County, and being involved in agricultural organizations has always been an important way for me to give back to our industry. Twelve years ago, I first became involved with the Huron Federation of Agriculture, when the local dairy producer committee selected me to be their representative to that organization.

From there, I became a member of the OFA’s Policy Advisory Council and was eventually elected president of our local federation of agriculture. Three years ago, the provincial director who had represented our region on the OFA board decided not to run for re-election and he encouraged me to consider the role.

At the same time, I had the opportunity to take part in the OFA’s Queen’s Park advocacy day as a future leader delegate. It was an interesting and fascinating experience to meet with political representatives and share our story with people outside of agriculture – and I decided to let my name stand for that provincial director position that was opening up.

There’s no doubt that it’s a time commitment on my part and one to be honest I wasn’t sure I would be able to make, but it has been a rewarding decision. I’ve always believed that if I want to be in the agriculture industry for the long-term, I need to do my part to help shape it and ensure it is both profitable and sustainable into the future for the next generation of farmers.

It’s a big step, but it’s one that I encourage anyone who is interested in making a difference to consider taking. Getting involved the way I did by becoming active in the local organization is a good way to gain experience – and I don’t know of a local federation in the province that wouldn’t welcome new people and new ideas.

Every fall, the OFA offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the activities of our organization and the impacts that we can have through our actions – our regional meetings.

It’s where you can learn more about the activities, events and programs your local federation is involved with to help promote agriculture, meet your provincial director and member service representative for an update on OFA’s activities, and find out how you could take a more active role in our organization.

It’s also your opportunity to bring questions, concerns, issues and priorities to the attention of your local and provincial leadership and choose who will represent you on the Policy Advisory Council and at the OFA annual convention this fall.

A full calendar of meeting dates and locations is available on the OFA website, with events happening from August right through until November.

Nominations for director-at-large candidates will be accepted from October 15 to October 30. More information will be available on the OFA website in the coming weeks.