Written by Kim Hooey
“…The sustainability of our system relies heavily upon our people.” This is a quote taken from 2014 GROWMARK Annual Meeting’s CEO Jeff Solberg. It directly pertains to the strength of the co-operative system, but also holds true to the structure and longevity of JFAO. This point as well as the theme for the 2014 GROWMARK Annual Meeting – building on the best – was demonstrated clearly by the support and friendship that I saw at the annual meeting and reflects in our organization JFAO.
The 2014 GROWMARK Annual Meeting took place in Chicago at the end of August. I know many other members of JFAO that have been a part of this opportunity and greatly enjoyed it, so I was eager to meet the other youth delegates and take part in the program. It was my first time as a youth delegate to the GROWMARK meeting; however I was fortunate enough to attend a few years ago when I accepted a scholarship through my internship at the Lucknow District Co-operative. This time was much more exciting, as the Ontario youth delegates arrive earlier than everybody else and get to do some fun touristy activities in Chicago. Besides incredible pizza, the architectural river boat cruise and visiting the Chicago Board of Trade were my favourites. The CBOT floor is almost empty, an incredible sight in comparison to what you might expect. Almost all of the trading for financials and grains is done online, with only a few trades done in person on the floor every day. It was a ghosttown!
The two other delegates that joined me were 4-H Ontario Ambassador Brooke Thompson and Matthew Gerrits from Ontario Co-operative Association’s Co-operative Young Leaders Program (CYL) who delivered an incredible speech about using the co-operative structure to raise the developing world out of poverty. With him were Future Farmers of America (FFA) counterparts that all spoke of the importance of a co-operative structure when it comes to the longevity of an organization or even a country.
It was enlightening to know that so many of the values and goals of GROWMARK and JFAO are similar. Perhaps this is why I enjoy being a part of JFAO and working for my own co-operative back at home. A very important message from the meeting came from President John Reifsteck – “the boards of each of our member co-operatives (our clubs) play a critical role in charting the course for the future of the system (JFAO in our case).” Our individual clubs are very important and are the backbone of JFAO as we all know. He discussed three important factors that we should try to focus on:
- Our clubs need to be able to handle a wide variety of issues
- We need to increase our emphasis on succession planning – JFAO and club level – are we doing enough of this?
- We must evaluate and consider what motivates our members – it is critical that we appreciate their sacrifice and reward their dedication – are we doing enough of this?
These points are just thinking points that perhaps we should bring up with our clubs and at the JFAO board level. Communication and dialog is a good thing!
The experience of going to the GROWMARK Annual Meeting is something that all members should take advantage of. It was a very rewarding trip and I would like to thank JFAO and GROWMARK for the opportunity.