Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Drew Spoelstra, OFA Executive Member
Every summer Ontario politicians are invited to an exclusive tour of an innovative Ontario farm with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). An annual summer event, OFA’s Field Day is an opportunity to engage with MPPs and their staff in an informal rural setting.
This year’s event was hosted by Beverly Greenhouses of Dundas, Ont. on August 10. Owned by brothers Jan and Dale VanderHout, the vertically integrated English cucumber farm offered a great opportunity to showcase Ontario’s greenhouse industry. More than 60 people attended the event, experiencing the innovation and diversity that fuels our provincial agri-food sector.
OFA believes events like Field Day are an important part of our role as advocates for Ontario’s agri-food sector. It’s an opportunity for us to show, and not just tell, our provincial leaders about the outstanding innovations happening on our farms and introduce them to the farmers themselves so they can hear their stories. Field Day is also an opportunity to talk to politicians about the challenges Ontario farmers face. While MPPs and their staff enjoyed a greenhouse tour and lunched on Ontario-grown fare, OFA representatives shared suggestions for growing our provincial rural economy, raised concerns with the Changing Workplaces Review and the impacts of the minimum wage increase, and highlighted the work Ontario farmers have done to reduce phosphorus and nutrient loss from fields into our waterways.
The event’s rural setting was the perfect backdrop to remind politicians of the potential and possibilities rural Ontario has for growth, job creation and contribution to the provincial economy. OFA reminded attendees of the investments necessary to grow Ontario – expanding natural gas, upgrading rural roads, bridges, drainage systems, reliable high-speed broadband and a secure school system.
Many famers, including greenhouse growers, employ farm workers, making the discussion on the Changing Workplaces Review and the rise in minimum wage a timely discussion. OFA has made it clear to the Ontario government that the rise in minimum wage will have negative impacts on our agri-food industry and any changes to the Employment Standards Act will further compound the effect.
Phosphorus entering Ontario’s waterways and Great Lakes is an important topic. Ontario’s farmers are committed to reducing phosphorus by implementing on-farm practices and working with collaborative groups to address the issue.
Field Day was another successful event, sending politicians home with a new respect and understanding of the greenhouse sector and Ontario’s agri-food industry. OFA was able to start and continue conversations about new and ongoing issues affecting our 36,000 farm business members. Many of the discussions at Field Day will carry on into the fall legislative session as part of OFA’s ongoing advocacy efforts.