This week’s guest commentary comes from a new contributor, 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.