Rick Neilson was declared the new president of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture during the organization’s annual dinner, which was held Saturday night in the Barwick Hall.
Linda Armstrong and Angela Halverson agreed to stay on as secretary and treasurer, respectively, for another year.
Also elected to the board were directors from the four zones of Rainy River District.
“We plan on concentrating on the importance of local food,” pledged Neilson as he officially accepted the gavel from outgoing president Trish Neilson.
He also thanked Trish Neilson and last year’s board for their hard work and dedication in representing the needs of the local members of the federation.
On hand to bring greetings from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture were Peter Aalbers and Ken Tomlinson.
The provincial organization for the coming year has been reorganized. The new structure of the OFA will reduce its directors from 109 to a much smaller board of only 18.
Tomlinson, the new provincial zone director, will represent Northern Ontario, which will continue to be the largest area of the OFA.
“The prime goal of the new board will be to improve communication between members across the province,” he remarked.
Tomlinson, from Sault Ste. Marie, realizes this will be a challenging task, but promised he will do his best to represent the needs of Rainy River District and be available to assist RRFA members at any time.
The OFA has a long and respected history. For more than 70 years, the provincial organization has represented the interests of its members as “the voice of Ontario farmers.”
Today, with more than 38,000 members, the OFA has grown to become the largest voluntary farm organization in Canada.
Over its long history, the OFA has promoted programs and policies that not only benefit farmers, but also improve conditions in the entire province. Their concerns have included everything from property taxes and income stability for farmers to the environment and water quality.
The needs and concerns of the local members are brought forward by the district federation and committees to the provincial board of directors. When they are approved, the OFA’s research staff and standing committees turn these resolutions into recommendations which then can be presented to the Ontario government.
About 95 RRFA members, community supporters, and honoured guests were on hand for Saturday night’s supper, which included ham, chicken, mashed potatoes, perogies, a variety of salads, dinner rolls, and dessert.
Following the meal and the annual meeting, people visited with each other and with the guests from the OFA. The entertainment portion of the evening soon followed.
Ryan M. Taylor, the Democratic senator from North Dakota, is a journalist whose column, “Cowboy Logic,” appears regularly in several magazines. He also is an after-dinner speaker who loves to share his unique philosophy on life, along with several Will Rogers-style rope tricks, with audiences from Alberta to Nebraska.
From his opening remarks to his grand finale, Taylor, a fourth-generation cattle rancher, had everyone laughing and chuckling at his personal accounts of growing up on a ranch outside a small town in North Dakota.
His column, his books, and his live performances look at the lighter side of going broke and living on the Prairies.
It is the everyday lessons of life in a small town, along with Taylor’s humorous reflections, that seem to appeal to his rural audiences. People see the humour in his tales because they see themselves and their neighbours in the stories he tells.
As a result, Taylor was able to create an almost instant rapport with the audience in Barwick.
The part of his program Taylor, himself, seemed to enjoy the most was his Will Rogers-type rope tricks. He expertly blended his stories of courtship, marriage, fatherhood, politics, and ranching on the Prairies as he demonstrated each new trick.
Taylor takes his rope spinning seriously and passes the skills he has learned along to youngsters whenever he gets a chance. So on Saturday, he invited Tanner Neilson up on stage for a few lessons.
After showing the youngster how to get the rope spinning, Taylor invited him to challenge someone to a rope-spinning contest.
“Tanner thinks he can beat his mom,” grinned Taylor as he called Trish Neilson to the stage.
The competition was close, but Tanner spun his rope just a little longer than his mom and was declared the winner by Taylor and an appreciative audience.
In closing the evening, Rick Neilson thanked Taylor for his marvellous performance, thanked the kitchen staff for preparing such a fantastic supper, and thanked all those on hand for supporting local farmers.