Lanark County -- When Lillian Drummond joined the Lanark Federation of Agriculture (LFA) in 1977, she did so because she felt the federation was a strong lobbying voice for the agricultural community.
"For agriculture to have a voice, you need a large-like number membership to make that voice heard sometimes," says the Union Hall dairy farmer.
Also a member of the LFA since 1998, Beckwith Township Reeve Richard Kidd joined for similar reasons.
"It is a lobby organization for agriculture and I thought that was important, and to communicate with the municipal partners directly," Kidd states.
For Andrea McCoy-Naperstkow, one of the reasons she purchased a membership more than 10 years ago is because of her late mother Inez McCoy's involvement in the county federation. As well, the Beckwith Township resident who raises Highland beef cattle and operates a horse hay business with her husband Arvin Naperstkow on the farm where she grew up says she was interested in agriculture "and always has been."
The three are among the more than 400 current members of the LFA, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year.
Originally known as the Lanark County Federation of Agriculture, the LFA is one of the longest serving federations in Ontario. Just five years younger than the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), the county federation had its beginnings on Nov. 13, 1941, at a meeting called under the auspices of the Agricultural Committee of Lanark County Council.
"On motion of J.H. Ebbs and Kenneth Robertson, the meeting went on record as being in favour of forming a Lanark County Federation of Agriculture," states a report on this first meeting that appeared in a commemorative booklet that was published on the 50th anniversary of the LFA.
It is also reported that R.A. Stewart was elected as the first president of the new federation, as well as Lanark County representative to the provincial board of the OFA. Other members of the first board were Robert Boal as first vice-president, Mrs. Ben James as second vice and Milton Cochrane as secretary-treasurer.
Not surprisingly, with the county federation starting up during the Second World War, some of its activities during the early years related to the war. For instance, in 1943, it is mentioned in the 50th anniversary booklet that, "through action taken by the Lanark Federation, Lanark County maple producers took the lead in Ontario in developing negotiations regarding the rationing and sale of maple products during the war."
Throughout its history, the LFA has always advocated on behalf of its members. And while the costs of operating a farm may have changed -- it was mentioned at the federation's annual meeting in 1954 that it would cost $28,000 to set up a dairy farm -- some of the issues facing those in the agricultural community such as financial needs have remained constant. A resolution approved in 1948 "to educate the consumer about the cost of producing food" could just have easily been passed by the current board.
Among the issues that the LFA is currently dealing with are environmental, ranging from species at risk to the potential impact of the cap-and-trade system that will be part of the Ontario government's "climate change action plan."
"The costs (of cap-and-trade) we really don't know yet, which is the problem," says Drummond who is a past president of the LFA and currently serves as secretary.
The county federation was also in agreement with wild parsnip being added to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) list of noxious weeds. Likewise, the LFA lobbied the County of Lanark to spray the county roadsides to help control the spread of the invasive plant and is grateful that, after a trial spraying program along some of its roadways in 2015, county council gave approval this year to continuing the program along all its roadsides for two years. While Kidd who is a director in the LFA acknowledges that some people are opposed to the spraying -- No Spraying signs were available from the county for those who did not wish to have the road allowances in front of their properties sprayed -- he feels it is needed.
"It is a matter of the health and welfare of farmers and our animals that this stuff gets stopped," Kidd states.
As well, the LFA has forwarded a resolution to the OFA seeking an accounting of the provincial "tire tax on farm machinery."
"Trying to buy tires in Ontario is so much more expensive than buying them elsewhere," states Drummond.
To be a LFA member, you have to be a member of the OFA.
"Today, we have 52 regional and county federations with membership in the OFA, plus 27 commodity organizations," notes Debra Pretty-Straathof, OFA director for Zone 8, which includes the three counties of Lanark, Renfrew and Ottawa, plus a regional federation called the Arnprior Region Federation of Agriculture that is carved out of those counties where they meet at Arnprior. "The Junior Farmers Association of Ontario and the L'Union des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontariens are also members of the OFA."
In honour of its 75th anniversary, the LFA has several special activities planned. The local federation is doing a county version of the gateway beautification project being undertaken by the OFA to mark its 80th.
"Anything depicting the 75th anniversary of the LFA -- it doesn't have to be flowers," explains Drummond.
Those taking part in the project are asked to contact her at 613-256-3628. The county winner will receive a four foot Douglas fir tree.
Douglas fir trees have also been given to the rural municipalities in the county, as well as the County of Lanark.
"It's in recognition of the support that municipalities have given us," says McCoy-Naperstkow, a director and past president of the LFA.
Likewise, thanks to a grant from the OFA, the county federation is hosting a first aid course for members at the Brunton Community Hall at Blacks Corners on Wednesday, Aug. l7 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $35. Because there are only 24 spaces available, anyone wishing to register for the course is asked to contact McCoy-Naperstkow by phone at 613-257-5750 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another anniversary project she is working on is a video showcasing the history of the agricultural industry in Lanark County. With that in mind, she is collecting photographs, past and present, of the farming community. The photos will be scanned into electronic form and then returned to their owners.
McCoy-Naperstkow and Lorne Heslop, second vice, are also researching the idea of an agricultural hall of fame.
Seventy-five years is a long time for any organization to be in existence. McCoy-Naperstkow believes one of the reasons for the longevity of the LFA is the dedication of its volunteer directors.
In addition, says Drummond, "I think it is that most farmers do realize we need one voice to go when we do try to lobby government. I think it is the realization of one voice to try and get the change we need."
As an indication of the important role that agriculture plays in Ontario's economy, according to an October 2013 report prepared by JRG Consulting Group on the economic contribution of the Ontario farm sector, agriculture contributes $13.7-billion to the province's annual GDP.