Appointed by Rainy River Federation of Agriculture members as the sole choice for the job, Bernie Zimmerman was named president for a second term during the organization’s annual dinner/dance Saturday night at the Devlin Hall.
And Zimmerman already is looking towards the future, noting the “image” of both farmers and their products—whether livestock or crops—should be a high priority.
“It has to do with agricultural framework policy, food safety, and environmental concerns,” he said. “We do have the best food, but we have to make sure the public knows that.
“It’s about fighting public perception,” Zimmerman stressed. “Sometimes, they get a hold of a story where a certain farmer has something go wrong.
“But it’s usually an isolated incident that ends up getting generalized, and that can hurt us,” he remarked.
This also would entail stressing programs like “Ag in the Classroom” and “Ag Awareness” in schools and at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market in Fort Frances, he noted.
“Also, at the first meeting coming up (Nov. 5), we’re going to have to look at how we dealt with the [flooding] disaster that happened earlier this year,” he noted.
“What we could we have done differently in case it happens again.”
Zimmerman also took time to reflect at his first term.
“This was a year of weather—whether or not May would dry out, whether or not June would dry out, and whether or not August would stay warm,” he joked.
He also took time to thank Kim Jo Bliss-Calder for co-ordinating the district’s “Hay West” campaign, which saw about 200 bales of hay shipped to aid drought-stricken farmers in western Canada last month.
A total of about 500 bales had been donated by district farmers and Rainy River First Nations, but not enough railcars were available to ship all the hay.
Ron Bonnett, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, applauded the RRFA for its efforts and echoed some of the same sentiments as Zimmerman in his brief speech.
“I noticed in the budget the efforts you’ve been putting towards agri-food education,” Bonnett said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.
“The consumers should know there’s been a reduced use of pesticides among Ontario farmers.
“They need to know they’re getting healthy food,” he added. “One of the most important jobs as a member of the federation is to communicate with the consumers.”
Bonnett, who will be running for OFA president in upcoming elections, was taken on a tour of some areas flooded back in June and to the Manitou Mounds by RRFA member services rep Betty Salchert on Sunday.
The second guest speaker Saturday night was Barry Potter, a livestock specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Farming who kept the crowd of about 90 smiling with his tales of growing up farming in Timiskiming—a presentation he called “Cowboys, Cattle n’ Country.”
After switching from every sort of livestock from pigs to cattle in his youth, Potter noted farming of any sort has to be not only a way of life, but a labour of love.
“The best way to double your money in agriculture is to take it out of your wallet, fold it in half, and put it in your pocket,” he remarked.
Like Bonnett and Zimmerman, Potter stressed one of the most crucial parts of the industry’s future was the promotion of quality of product and its importance in rural economies.
He also applauded local efforts during the “Hay West” campaign.
“You folks don’t know what the ‘Hay West’ campaign has done to change the Alberta farmers’ opinions of farmers in the east,” said Potter.
Absent from the meeting was provincial director Kees Meijaar, whom Zimmerman noted was still in Thunder Bay and had not sent in a report in time for the dinner.
Also Saturday night, Rudy Sinninghe was re-elected to Zone One (Worthington-Blue), Sue Boersma and Christine Carpenter elected to Zone Two (Morley-Dilke), James Gibson re-elected to Zone Three (Chapple-Emo), and Tom Morrish elected to Zone Four (Off Lake Road East).
They will join the RRFA directors with another year remaining in their terms, including Ken Fisher (Zone Four), James Teeple (Zone Two), and Reg Kaus (Zone One).
Linda Armstrong was appointed director at large, Angela Halvorsen will remain treasurer, and Shirley Morrish will stay on as rural voice reporter.
Jason Teeple agreed to attend an OFA convention Nov. 25, while the position of secretary, formerly held by Kelly Teeple, was left vacant.
The board will continue to search for a replacement.
The dinner featured a smorgasbord of pork roast, corn, mashed potatoes, salads, gravy, perogies, cabbage rolls, and dessert, all prepared by Linda Zimmerman, Susan Irvine, and Marg Irvine.
The night wrapped up with a dance featuring music by the Rainy Lake Highlanders.