Introducing the next generation of farm leaders to advocacy

Apr 30, 2024

By Sara Wood, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Canada is in the midst of a generational shift as more and more Canadians reach retirement age and younger generations are moving into leadership roles.

Things are no different in Canada’s farming sector, where both farm businesses and farm organizations are seeing younger people step forward into positions of ownership, leadership and management.

I farm west of Stratford in southwestern Ontario with my husband on a farm I’ve taken over from my mother, who has transitioned from principal decision-maker to our advisor.

I’m also a Vice President with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), an advocacy organization that works on behalf of approximately 38,000 farm families across Ontario to represents their needs to government, the general public or other stakeholders.

My fellow executive members and I are very reflective of the generational shift in agriculture – all of us are transition-farming with multiple generations of family on the farm so we know first-hand how valuable it is to give young people hands-on experiences that will prepare them for future leadership roles.

Every year, the OFA organizes an advocacy day at Queen’s Park where we meet with elected officials to discuss the issues facing the agriculture sector and the opportunities we can offer to support provincial goals in growth, housing, food security, healthcare and more.

For the last five years, that advocacy day has included not just OFA board members, but also up and coming young leaders from our county and regional federations across Ontario as part of our efforts to develop and encourage the next generation of leaders for our organization.

Before joining the OFA board, I was part of the very first cohort of young leaders participating in advocacy day in 2019. It was a tremendous opportunity for me to get a better understanding of how government works and how to interact with different stakeholders.

On OFA’s provincial board today, three of us have progressed through the emerging leader program which was instrumental in helping us make our commitment of time and energy to this organization.

This year, five progressive young farmers who are already active leaders in their local federations were part of our advocacy day in April. We also invited young leaders to join us at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual conference this past February.

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