Peggy Brekveld’s election as Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s (OFA) 32nd president is a first.
Brekveld, along with the rest of the executive committee, is the first in OFA history to be elected by the board of directors and not the membership following the bylaw ratification vote at the annual general meeting Nov. 23.
“I am really excited and humbled and thrilled. I’m building on an amazing foundation at OFA,” she said. “And Keith is a fundamental part of that foundation. He has built our government relations, along with the team, and I’m really happy with how he has lead the OFA up until now.”
Keith Currie, who Brekveld defeated in a secret ballot of the OFA board of directors, had been president of the OFA for the past four years.
Brekveld, who is the third female OFA president, said strengthening the OFA team from the members through to the board and staff is her goal to ensure everyone is moving in the same positive direction.
“My favourite quote is ‘We are one message, many voices’,” she said. “And that’s the strongest lobby you can have.”
Living in the north has developed a healthy respect for community spirit and collaboration to get the job done, said Brekveld. She hopes to bring that perspective with her and encourage further partnerships between commodities to accomplish common goals, in the same way the industry came together to push for Bill 156.
“I believe there’s a strength in that perspective,” she said, adding through her experiences with the OFA and other agricultural associations she’s developed connections with the people represented by OFA.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the people,” Brekveld said. “It’s about their stories and how their stories fit into policy discussions that the government brings forward.”
Brekveld said addressing ministerial zoning orders would be at the top of her priority list over the next 12 months.
“Municipalities have put a lot of effort into land-use planning . . . (and) our membership has developed relationships with those municipalities,” Brekveld said. “We have things like the agricultural impact assessments, and a process to appeal when we’re concerned about how a major project’s location can affect our agricultural community. To remove that process, I think, brings a lot of anxiety to our members.”
The Northern Ontario dairy farmer was elected as OFA’s Director at Large. She also serves as vice-president of the Agricultural Adaptation Council and was recently recognized as one of the six 2020 Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture.
Brekveld said her family has been very supportive of her involvement in the OFA and other groups over the last decade.
“I have an amazing support team here,” she said. “ We’re a great team and I couldn’t do this without them.”
Brekveld’s husband Gert, son Andrew, 26 and daughters Susan, 16, and Faith, 14, help maintain Woodstar Farm, their 75-cow dairy operation near Thunder Bay. She said her oldest daughter Judy, 25, is a nurse, and Derek, 23, who works on a dairy in southwestern Ontario, offer her plenty of moral support.
Along with Brekveld, Mark Reusser was re-elected for a fifth one-year-term as vice president, Drew Spoelstra was elected as first vice-president after four years serving as an executive member. Crispin Colvin rounded out the board elected executive committee as an executive member. He was acclaimed.