NLFA annual meeting attracted highest turnout in years

 Bob Aylward received the NLFA’s lifetime achievement award. From left, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, Aylward, Nancy Ryan (a teacher at the school where Aylward mentors), and NLFA president Merv Wiseman. (Submitted photo)

Bob Aylward received the NLFA’s lifetime achievement award. From left, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, Aylward, Nancy Ryan (a teacher at the school where Aylward mentors), and NLFA president Merv Wiseman. (Submitted photo)

 The Natural Gardener, a mixed vegetable operation in Ferryland, N.L., which also produces kelp-based soil conditioners, received the NLFA’s environmental award. From left, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, Brian and Jane Yager of the Natural Gardener, and NLFA president Merv Wiseman. (Submitted photo)

The Natural Gardener, a mixed vegetable operation in Ferryland, N.L., which also produces kelp-based soil conditioners, received the NLFA’s environmental award. From left, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, Brian and Jane Yager of the Natural Gardener, and NLFA president Merv Wiseman. (Submitted photo)

 Jeannette Mongeon spoke about her diverse farming operation in Ontario at the NLFA’s 43rd annual general meeting and workshop. (Submitted photo)

Jeannette Mongeon spoke about her diverse farming operation in Ontario at the NLFA’s 43rd annual general meeting and workshop. (Submitted photo)

by Merv Wiseman
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture’s 43rd annual general meeting and workshop took place Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at the Quality Hotel in Gander. The event attracted 111 people, the highest turnout in several years. Attendees included many farmers, industry stakeholders, and representatives from government and various other groups from across the province. The theme of the workshop was “Innovation, Diversification, and Collaboration.”
The workshop theme examined the recent trends and future directions needed to develop our industry to its full potential. Innovative approaches are necessary to overcome challenges farmers face and to maintain or grow their part of a competitive market.
As we look to expand our food security, we must also diversify as an industry to capture all available opportunities. In addition, we must collaborate as an industry with each other, government partners, and other stakeholders to ensure we are maximizing opportunities and are all moving in the same direction.
The first day of the two-day event brought together farmers and agriculture stakeholders to discuss the workshop theme. Jeannette Mongeon spoke about her diverse farming operation in Embrun, Ont., which consists of a 1,200-acre cash crop, rabbit production, a dairy farm, berry farm, and an apiary. She drew on her experience in farming as well as her 25 years of experience in banking.
Marlene Wynnyk, owner of The Healing Arc Inc., was next with a talk on Sea buckthorn, a crop she grows in Teeswater, Ont. She discussed how this ancient plant is rapidly gaining respect as a value-chain plant, with opportunities for diversification as a wild berry crop. She drew on her 17 years of experience working with the crop, and spoke about the related topics of sustainable land use and the value-chain concept.
At the end of the first day, facilitator Ivan Emke took delegates through an exercise to gather feedback on diverse and innovative approaches. This helped gauge what participants took from the presentations and how everyone could collaborate to help grow the industry.
Other workshop speakers included Peter Nelson from Farm Credit Canada, Leanne Wilson from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Keith Deering from the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.
At the evening banquet, greetings were extended from provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne and Melvin Wheaton of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Banquet entertainment was provided by comedian Snook (Pete Soucy).
Awards presented that evening were the environmental award to the Natural Gardener and the lifetime achievement award to Bob Aylward. Dick Oram was also recognized for his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all the recipients for well-deserved honours.
The AGM took place on the second day. Nominations were held for vice-president and one director-at-large, with elections taking place for both positions. Michelle Lester was re-elected as vice-president and David Simmons was elected as director-at-large. Congratulations to both.

(Merv Wiseman is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture. He owns M&E Fur Farm, a Silver fox farm in North Harbour, Placentia Bay.)