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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Women on board



2023 will be remembered as a year that Grain Farmers of Ontario made history — for the first time, the organization’s board of directors includes women.

• Julie Maw and Angela Zilke were elected to the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Board of Directors in January 2023.
• Maw farms with her husband, Kyle, and their three children in Lambton County.
• Zilke and her husband Mark farm in Oxford County.
• Grain Farmers of Ontario has been engaging in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion programming to bring more diverse views to the table.
• While Maw and Zilke are the first women to sit on the Grain Farmers of Ontario Board, Anna Bragg served as president of the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association from 1999 to 2001 and Valerie Hobbs sat on the Ontario Soybean Growers Board from 2004 to 2010.

2023 will be remembered as a year that Grain Farmers of Ontario made history — for the first time, the organization’s board of directors includes women.

Julie Maw and Angela Zilke were elected to represent District 3 (Lambton) and District 7 (Oxford, Waterloo) during annual meetings in January and officially became directors on February 2.

“Equity, diversity, and inclusion is something we are working on weaving into everything we do,” explains Brendan Byrne, Grain Farmers of Ontario chair. “We have worked to build the reputation of this board and create an open environment. We will continue to ensure that all voices are heard and are welcome at our table.”


Before becoming a director, Maw served as a delegate and district treasurer in Lambton and as a delegate representative on the Grain Farmers of Ontario Research and Innovation committee. But being elected as a director and having the opportunity to serve on the provincial board is an honour, she says.

“There are a number of issues that grain farmers are dealing with, and some are really out of their hands, so I see being on the board as an opportunity to bring both local and provincial issues to the table to be addressed.”

Maw and her husband, Kyle, expanded Mooremaw Farms in Courtright in 2009. They grow no-till corn, soybeans, and wheat and operate a custom farming business along with their three young sons, Logan, Emery, and Hudson.

She worked off-farm in the sports, marketing and agricultural banking sectors for many years. In 2018, Maw transitioned to farm full-time and has since started a Maizex seed dealership that she owns and operates.

In addition to being a busy sports mom, she volunteers as an alternate for the Lambton Federation of Agriculture and as a leader of local 4-H clubs.

“I’ve always been engaged in promoting agriculture, so becoming a director is an opportunity to continue educating consumers about where their food comes from and having those important discussions,” says Maw.

As a Grain Farmers of Ontario board member, sustainability for future farmers is also on her mind. What we do today will have an impact 10 years from now, so it’s important to build that sustainability, she adds.


Like Maw, Zilke is no stranger to her local farming community. She has been working in what she calls “behind the scenes” roles in Oxford County commodity associations for the past 30 years alongside her husband, Mark.

A self-described pencil pusher and number cruncher, her career was in administration and accounting before she returned to the farm full-time and began raising a family. She served as an administrative assistant for Grain Farmers of Ontario District 7 for the last 11 years and as an alternate delegate in 2022.

Zilke farms 400 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and edible beans with her husband. Mark is also a partner in Zilke Farms in Hickson, where he farms 4,000 acres of crops with his brothers.

Improving communication between producers and consumers is an area that Zilke wants to focus on as a Grain Farmers of Ontario director. She’s passionate about advocating for farmers and correcting misinformation about agricultural practices.

“People who have no idea about agriculture post on social media, and it spreads like wildfire,” she says. “It seems like consumers are very untrusting of what we do as farmers, and we need to show them that we are trustworthy. We are consumers too, and we wouldn’t put anything out there that we wouldn’t feed our own children.”

Above all other titles, she is perhaps most proud to be ‘Mom’ to Kate, Matt, Hannah and Danielle and ‘Nana’ to Oliver, born in 2022. Zilke spends much of her free time refurbishing and taking care of the family’s farmhouses and barns.


Before this year, Grain Farmers of Ontario was one of the only commodity organizations without women on the board, which begs the question: ‘Why?’. But Maw does not feel gender is an issue within the organization.

“We are one of the last to have women on the board, but there’s no negative story behind it,” she says. “It’s not that it wasn’t wanted or was frowned upon, but I think it’s a great opportunity and a great time to make the transition.”

While she recognizes that some of her peers have faced roadblocks while trying to get involved in the agriculture industry, Maw feels she has been welcomed and treated the same as a man would be at both the local and provincial levels of Grain Farmers of Ontario.

“My biggest concern is that I’m not interested in being with an organization that wants to have a woman on their board to check a box,” she says. “I truly believe you need to earn your position, just like everyone else.”

Despite being the only woman at county or district meetings many times over her long-term involvement, Zilke does not believe gender factored into her election as a director.
“I don’t think it really occurred to them that I was a woman,” she says. “They know I’m going to learn, ask questions, and give my two cents.”

Although Maw and Zilke have had positive experiences, women remain underrepresented when it comes to directors and delegates.
At the Women’s Grains Symposium last fall, Maw and four other delegates participated in a panel discussion about their experience as women involved in Grain Farmers of Ontario and how diversification could be improved.

Between farm and off-farm work, family responsibilities, volunteer roles, and other farm group invitations, pressures and demands on time were identified as key barriers to more women getting involved in leadership positions. Having a strong support system at home to help with farm and family commitments was discussed as vital to taking on new roles.

In addition to the two new directors, 24 of the 166 Grain Farmers of Ontario delegates and alternates in 2023 are women, up from 19 last year.


While Maw and Zilke are the first-ever women on the Grain Farmers of Ontario board, there were women on two of the three commodity boards that merged to form Grain Farmers of Ontario in 2010.

Anna Bragg, who co-owns Bragg Farms in Bowmanville, served as president of the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association from 1999 to 2001. In addition, Valerie Hobbs, who runs Blythe Brae Farms in Woodstock, was a director of the Ontario Soybean Growers from 2004 to 2010. l


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