GRAIN FARMERS OF ONTARIO strives to have elected representatives who are reflective of our farmer-membership. We’ve made progress, but we still have work to do.
Through our Grains in Action program (which takes place every winter), we have made a concerted effort to increase participation amongst young farmers by introducing them to our organization and highlighting our role within the broader agricultural industry. Our success in this endeavour is evident through the number of program participants who have gone on to become district delegates (40) and the four who now sit on our Board of Directors.
I often hear comments from other commodity organizations across the country about the diversity of age (youth) we have on the Grain Farmers of Ontario Board — not in a negative sense, but as a positive sign that we are innovative and reaching the changing demographic of who is actively farming in our province.
We are now putting a focus on engaging women and adding their voice to our organization. I’ve noted before that this year saw the most female delegates elected within our districts than ever before, but proportionally, women are still under represented.
Women have a significant influence on family farms, and many have active roles in the business. Growing up on our farm, my mother looked after the financial records of the farm and she knew as much or more about what was going on financially as my father did. Now, my sister-in-law plays an active role in the farm operation especially on the livestock side. Some involvement by women with a farm operation is less obvious, but that doesn’t mean it is less important or not a significant contribution.
Women farmers bring a different perspective to a discussion — just as the younger generation of farmers brings a different viewpoint than a 50- or 60-year-old male farmer. That’s why it’s important we hear from all of them.
So the question remains, how do we get more women involved in our organization? What are the roadblocks to their involvement? Grain Farmers of Ontario recently held its first Women’s Grain Symposium to hear first-hand the challenges faced by our female farmer-members and to provide them with encouragement to make their voices heard. The two-day event included guest speakers with messages centered around how the women present can speak up for agriculture and encouraged them to add their voice and take on leadership roles within not only Grain Farmers of Ontario but the agriculture industry in general. If you have any ideas about how we could involve more women in agriculture and in the organization, please pass them on to Steve McCabe, our member relations manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or 226-979-5581.
As we continue this engagement effort, I hope that we see the same positive results that we have seen with our young farmers. Our organization will be better for it. •