by BETTER FARMING STAFF
She won’t run for re-election this year but Bette Jean Crews, Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s president, says she will return to the board table as the acclaimed zone director for Northumberland, Hastings, Prince Edward and Lennox and Addington Counties.
Crews announced her intention to step down from the province’s largest general farm organization in a Sept. 26 letter on the Federation’s website. On Thursday, she explained it was time to focus on the farm business.
“I’m 10 or 11 years into this,” she says of her involvement on the OFA executive. “We had organized things at home with the son coming into the farm and all of the support with my husband and the other kids to enable me to do the OFA time commitment. We were doing pretty well with that . . . But over three years bit by bit I knew things would be better if I were back home contributing like I always used to.”
Update: The organization budgets 42 days a year to pay each director, 200 days for its president, 135 days for vice presidents and 90 days for executive members, writes Neil Currie, the organization's general manager, in a Sept. 30 email. BF
Crews says there have been many highlights over her three years as president. She’s pleased with the way so many industry organizations came together to push for risk management: “For me that’s a huge success because it’s a change in the way we do things.”
Maintaining that unity and fostering its spread to other organizations may well prove challenging, she says. “We came together under OASC (Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition) because there were a lot of crises and disasters and we really needed each other and when things are going well there’s less of a tendency to talk to each other.”
On a personal side, she says she enjoyed attending local meetings and meeting farmers. “That might sound sappy,” she says. “There’s just something in the personalities and the outlook on life and even when they’re frustrated, there’s a sense of community there.”
Crews says she will miss representing the organization at meetings with government ministers as well as the challenge of helping members understand the OFA’s policy on different issues.
photo: Mark Wales
Mark Wales, OFA vice-president, says he plans to run for the president’s position. Elections will take place during the annual meeting November 21-22.
“I’ve been vice-president now for three years so it’s time,” he says.
Wales says one of the biggest challenges the organization faces is a four-year “era” of government cost cutting. The industry’s challenge will be to make sure governments understand “agriculture and agrifood and agribusiness are the biggest job creators in this province as well as a huge job creator in this country.”
Don McCabe, OFA vice-president, could not be immediately reached for comment on whether he planned to run for the top job. McCabe ran against Crews for the president’s position last year.
Wales notes that changes to the organization’s board model means that only those on the board are eligible to stand for the position. Nevertheless, there may be a number of people who decide to add their name to the election ballot, he says.
Crews’ words of advice to her eventual successor are to remain optimistic, trustworthy and true to your word: “I never lied to a minister and I never lied to a farmer. That’s key.”
The general farm organization represents about 37,000 farm families across Ontario. BF