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  • Farm Community Mourns Loss of a Pioneer
    By Grant Robertson

    Current NFU and retired members reacted with sadness to the recent news that Joyce Dowling had passed away. With her passing coming close to Mother's Day it was hard not to think about the many roles a woman like Joyce Dowling played in her life.

    In 1969 Joyce was a founding member of the National Farmers Union. She was elected to the National Board of the NFU on two separate occasions. In her home Kingston area local (Local 316), Joyce held the positions of Secretary, President, Women's District Director. As well Joyce held the Ontario Women's Advisor.

    Joyce Dowling was a leader, yet she was also a pillar of support for her late husband, John, while he was the NFU Ontario Coordinator. It is easy to see that Joyce Dowling had an impact on her community and the issues that drove her passions. The hours of ceaseless dedication to the NFU yes, but to her world more importantly is a testament to her principles, her convictions and her desire to create a better world. The NFU and her community are the better for having had Joyce Dowling involved in them.

    Joyce Dowling's death came near to the time we celebrate Mother's Day. We make a big to-do about this role women are involved in. Certainly I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate my own mother. But women like my mother and Joyce Dowling have an impact on us far beyond the nurturing role of mother. Women are so much more than mothers but so often the work they do goes overlooked or is done in the background. It is rarely celebrated even today. When Joyce Dowling and her cohorts stood up, it was often a rare thing to see. We never really celebrate the full face of women's accomplishments and dedication. Sure we have International Women's Day, an important time it is true. But when was the last time you saw a sign suggesting you book your table early at a restaurant for International Women's Day? When was the last time the role women play in organizations was celebrated like it should be? Women like Joyce Dowling helped to form an organization that recognizes the fundamental importance of women to the success of that organization through the leadership they provide. Leadership Joyce Dowling exemplified for many, many years.

    Rightly or wrongly we have chosen Mother's Day to celebrate women, but only one aspect of them. Joyce Dowling showed us how much women accomplish and how important their involvement can be to a community and an organization. The NFU is made stronger by the great many women involved at all levels of the organization. All or us, men or women involved in the NFU are following in the footsteps of giants when we follow along behind women like Joyce Dowling and the women of her generation and those who came later under their leadership. It is a mantle to cherish and be in awe of.

    Joyce Dowling and all the women involved in the NFU have done so much for farm families in this province and we mark their passing with sadness but also with a great thank you for the dedication and example of the importance of food and agricultural issues. Their leadership is needed now more than ever, but the challenges are now passed on to us to contribute and accomplish as much as someone like Joyce Dowling did in her time.

    Grant Robertson is a senior elected official with the National Farmers Union-Ontario and a National Board Member of the NFU. Grant and his family farm near Paisley, Ontario. The author can be contacted at

    Editor's Note: The sense of social justice and commitment to the NFU shared by Joyce and John Dowling has been carried on by their son, Peter, Ontario Coordinator for nine years and eight as a member of the national executive. He is now a director of NFU Local 316.

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