A Hoot and A Half from Home – March Conference

March Conference 2020 JFAO

March Conference looked different this year for the Junior Farmer Association of Ontario (JFAO) as they switched to a virtual format with the theme of “A Hoot and A Half from Home”. With workshops, speakers and the banquet being held using Zoom, the focused remained on networking with members from across the province, sharing ideas with other clubs, learning about a variety of topics and of course, fun.

March Conference is designed to bring members from throughout the province to gather for a great weekend of leadership, networking and to recognize those who have shown outstanding community betterment. JFAO had two socials including a line dancing night and one where they learned how to make balloon animals.

The Saturday was full of activity with the keynote speaker starting the day off talking about how to recognize volunteer burnout and strategies to ensure that members of the various clubs feel supported in their roles. Following this was a club roundtable where members were split into breakout rooms to discuss topics like club socials, successful fundraising projects and new member recruitment ideas. In another session, JFAO members learned about local food and direct farm sales during COVID-19 from representatives from OFA and OMAFRA. The afternoon concluded with an exciting cooking workshop where members tuned in from their kitchens to follow along and make delicious bread in a bag and hot chocolate bombs. Their annual awards banquet was held in the evening where members brought their own supper to eat in breakout rooms while socializing.

Awards were presented for different milestones, our new board of directors was inducted with a candlelight ceremony and we enjoyed entertainment from comedian Jeff Estrela. The club of the year award was presented to North Simcoe Junior Farmers.  The Agriculture club of the year went to Huron Perth Junior Farmers.  The Rose Awards were given to an outstanding Novice JF member; Arin Douglas from Wellington JF, an outstanding JF member; a pair of ladies from Huron Perth, Lauren Bos & Jolande Oudshoorn, and an outstanding retiring member, Quintina Cuddihy.  Our communication awards were also presented during the banquet.  The winner of Best Social Media Post was Stormont – Glengarry.  Winner of multiple categories including: News Article Competition, Best New Member Recruitment, Best Community Betterment Club Photo, Best Century Farm Sign Photo, Best New Fundraising Idea was Huron Perth.  Winner of the Best Pandemic Club Social was Renfrew.

Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to the year ahead. March Conference marks the end of one Junior Farmer year and starts off the next year. With this, our 2020 President Elizabeth Bruce, from Oxford County, passed off the Presidential duties to the 78th President Kylie O’Neil of Middlesex County.

OYFF Virtual Program for 2020

OYFF group photo

Ontario Young Farmers Forum moves to a virtual program for 2020

[Guleph, Ontario] – The Junior Farmer’s Association of Ontario (JFAO) is excited to announce the session topics for the 2020 Ontario Young Farmers Forum (OYFF). The annual event will be held as a virtual event in 2020 and will consist of four sessions held during the month of November.

“Our committee has put together a well-rounded schedule that will offer something for everyone,” said Elizabeth Bruce, president of JFAO. “The individual sessions have been structured to provide attendees the opportunity to learn about an important industry topic, hear from an innovative Canadian farmer, and network with other attendees.”

The virtual program for the Ontario Young Farmers Forum will consist of a four-part speaker series during the month of November. A number of topics will be covered in these sessions and the final session with include a panel of young farmers from across Canada. Program dates are listed below:

  • Session 1 – Walk the Talk: Exploring Mental Health In Agriculture – Monday, November 2nd at 7:00 pm
  • Session 2 – 4R’s: More Sustainable Than You Think! – Tuesday, November 10th at 7:00 pm
  • Session 3 – Planning for Farm Succession – Wednesday, November 18th at 7:00 pm
  • Session 4 – The Canadian Young Farmer Panel – Thursday, November 26th at 7:00 pm

Each session of the OYFF program will also put a spotlight on a different Canadian farm. Here are the Canadian farmers who will be profiled throughout the program.

  • Session 1 – Sarah Judd, Meadow Lynn Market Garden & CSA
  • Session 2 – Greg Stamp, Stamp Seeds
  • Session 3 – Lori Smith and Martin Littkemann, Ontario Water Buffalo Company
  • Session 4 – The Canadian Young Farmer Panel: The Young Farmer Survival Guide

2020 will mark the 22nd year of OYFF and JFAO is excited to present an engaging and accessible program for all attendees. The virtual program will provide the opportunity for young people working in agriculture to learn, connect, and network with other members of the agriculture industry from across Ontario. Learn more and register for the program here.

Winter Games 2016

2016 Winter Games

170 Junior Farmer members came from counties across the province to take a walk down memory lane with this year’s theme of “Come Inside the Polka Dot Door”

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Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum Report

CYFF 2015 Group Shot crop
CYFF 2015 Group Shot
CYFF 2015 Group Shot

Lucky me! I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Young Farmers Forum held in Ottawa this year. The conference moves across the country annually, but I walked away from this one with a very bittersweet feeling. It was hard to leave, as much as I love home, I still had feelings uprising inside me as I was walking to the parking garage. I had met and/or reconnected with all these amazing individuals and then just like that, after four days, they are gone…only to hopefully see them next year when we celebrate agriculture and put our minds together all over again at the next CYFF.

Young farmers from one side of Canada to the other have the opportunity to network, learn and communicate. It is such a comfortable, fun environment and being a teacher I know that it is easiest for anyone to learn when they are in a comfortable environment. Often I am a very introverted person and am afraid to speak up and share my thoughts, but everyone was in the same position as me, having gaps in knowledge and expertise in one commodity or topic over another. That supportive environment and the quality of presenters is what did it for me. The quality is outstanding and even when we are tired from late nights and early mornings, we still watch with intensity because it is genuinely interesting what these presenters have to share with us young farmers. The topics truly do leave us feeling inspired and motivated. I take the most away from the virtual farm tours and family farm presentations. I think it is really touching to see each farmer talk about their journey and often hear a tremble in their voice as they talk about it, partly because of their passion and slightly because they are not professional speakers who get up in front of a large audience all the time. It is very real and when something is very real it is believable and inspiring. It is rewarding to see those individuals from different educational backgrounds take a leap of faith and combine it with education and a well thought business management plan. Some change their careers entirely and pursue farming. Farming becomes their way of life and their fear of the unknown becomes a wee bit smaller as their knowledge expands and trial and error sets in.

Confident Conversations was a topic that caught my eye on the agenda. Having confidence when speaking about agriculture and how to do it in a non-defensive manner is really important. Anyone can respond to a comment, but not everyone can respond in a professional manner. We need to represent agriculture in a professional manner all the time and that point was stressed in a positive way. It was also very interesting to hear about how relationships affect your business. Farmers generally work with their families, as many farms are passed on from generation to generation and a family business can be very trying at times. The way we react to situations can affect an outcome in succession planning or just the way you leave someone feeling and we were reminded to be mindful of everything we do and say. I cannot possibly touch on all the topics presented, but lastly I wanted to emphasize the push for social media. Several presenters expressed their passion for agriculture through social media tools and outlined strategies to use. Tweet about it, brand yourself and your business, write articles, blog it, facebook page it…most importantly share and educate in any form you can because there is a huge disconnect between agriculture and most of the general public population.

I got in my car and felt a few tears fall down my cheeks. I laughed at myself and drove off, pondering why I was feeling so nostalgic. I drove home for four hours and little of that time was spent thinking of anything else. Get a life, right? That is how I felt, but that is the impact that all these delegates and speakers left on me. They left me wanting more and created in me a very sentimental feeling that makes me want to do more, be as successful as I can in life and in agriculture and come back next year to share my successes with them and actively listen to theirs! I told myself I was being irrational, but that nostalgic feeling hit me with urgency. I already missed the conference before I turned left out of the parking garage. I already missed the friends I made and was reiterating interesting and fun conversations we had, just like someone might miss a part of their childhood that brought them comfort or seek memories of enjoyable times gone by. It is incredible that a conference can hold such an impact on an individual. If every person at the event walked away feeling the way I feel, CYFF did their job and impacted the minds of today’s young farmers. The conference has already become another sweet memory.

Claire Bunnik

Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario

President