NLFA annual meeting attracts highest turnout in years

by Paul Connors

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The 44th annual general meeting and workshop of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture (NLFA) was held Jan. 30 and 31 at the Quality Hotel in Gander. The event attracted 125 people, the highest turnout in several years, beating last year’s high turnout of 111. This figure includes farmers, industry stakeholders, and representatives from government and various other groups from across the province. “Working together for the future of the agriculture industry” was this year’s workshop theme.

NLFA’s AGM provides a chance for farmers, government representatives, guest presenters, and federation representatives to network. The event offered a great opportunity for farmers to understand their role in our organization and help elect the representatives that will serve their interests throughout the year. The workshop also provided a chance for farmers to get the latest information, collaborate with other farmers and government officials, and provide direction to the NLFA for the year.

Gerry Byrne, the provincial minister responsible for agriculture, greeted delegates at the start of the event and made an announcement of new assistance for new entrants Michael Alexander and Angela Richardson, who are setting up a farm in the Deer Lake area.

The workshop theme focused on working together to capitalize on recent trends in agriculture through the use of best practices, innovative approaches, and savvy marketing.

The first topic on the agenda was examining the similarities and differences between Newfoundland and Labrador and Iceland and how agriculture is approached and promoted in both regions. This topic was presented by Ivan Emke, a professor and researcher at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus.

Emke has spent a lot of time pondering rural communities, both in Canada and elsewhere, with a focus on Iceland. He concentrates on food production and the complexity of modern food systems, as well as the role of community media in social cohesion. In his spare time, he runs Kitchen Table Communications, which produces the podcast Fit to Eat: the NL Farm and Food Show, distributes an e-newsletter called Food Notes, and generally gets involved in projects that focus on food and rural development.

Next on the agenda was Cedric MacLeod, who operates Local Valley Beef, a 105-acre beef farm that provides local, sustainable beef in New Brunswick, as well as his agronomy business, MacLeod Agronomics. MacLeod spoke on agriculture value chain integration at our workshop, with a focus on best management practices in agriculture.

David Stover, the owner of Cultivating Success, an Ohio firm specializing in developing agribusiness marketing strategies, then presented on the topic of marketing. Stover drew on his 30-year career in agribusiness during which he held executive roles in marketing, sales, commodity risk management, and merchandising. He examined possible branding strategies that could be used by individuals or collectively to advance agriculture in the province.

At the end of the first day, Emke acted as a facilitator and took delegates through an exercise to gather feedback and have discussions on the day’s presentations and topics. This helped gauge what participants took from the presentations and how collaboration could benefit the industry.

Other speakers at the workshop included Faith Matchett from Farm Credit Canada, Troy Wiseman from BMO, Kelly Vodden of Grenfell Campus, Cheryl White with the Canada Food Inspection Agency, 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 by MHA Scott Reid from the provincial government, and Janet Steele of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Banquet entertainment was provided by comedian Vicky Mullaley.

Awards presented that evening were the environmental award to Sunrise Dairy and the lifetime achievement award to Roosevelt Thompson.

Veterinarian Dr. Ron Taylor was also recognized for his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame, and Chris Oram was recognized for his alumni award from Dalhousie University. Congratulations to all the recipients for well-deserved honours.

The AGM took place on the second day. Nominations were held for president, secretary-treasurer, and one director-at-large. Merv Wiseman was acclaimed as president, Terri Lynn Robbins was elected as secretary-treasurer, and Chris Oram was acclaimed as director-at-large. Congratulations are extended to all on being renewed in their positions.

The workshop was funded in part by a $20,000 contribution from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

(Paul Connors is executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.)