VENTNOR – After 25 years with the organization and two terms as president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Geri Kamenz, has stepped aside.
In a recent interview, the Spencerville-area farmer said, in his personal life the biggest challenge during his tenure was finding the balance between the OFA and his farm and family. Being president of the largest farm organization in Canada is a very consuming responsibility and keeping all the balls in the air was difficult. The position was more than a full-time job, he said.
The Ontario agriculture industry is the most complex entity in our society, he said, given the vast number of commodity groups. "Keeping everyone focused and going in the same direction from day to day is very challenging."
The implications of one commodity affect the other and it takes a great deal of time to build networks between them. "I believe we’ve done that very well," he said.
It has been said that the OFA should be more like L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), the OFA’s Quebec equivalent, but what many could not grasp, said Kamenz, was that unlike his Quebec counterpart he could not act unilaterally as president of the OFA. He had to keep the continuity and dialogue open between all the Ontario agriculture sectors.
The OFA is different from the UPA, he pointed out, "but it works here"
His mandate was to communicate, consolidate and take a consultative and co-operative approach. So, it would seem one of his greater challenges was also one of his achievements as president.
He strived to instill recognition that agriculture is closely tied to the economy of Ontario. Agriculture needs to be at the table on issues of energy, the enviroment and habitat protection, he said. "To be successful government must deal with agriculture from the get-go."
Kamenz leaves the OFA steadfast in his belief that the needs of agriculture in Quebec and Ontario are similar and partnerships with Quebec are critical to provide the leverage needed on a Federal level. Economically speaking, it is good for the whole country if the provinces of Quebec and Ontario are sound.
Of course, everyone leaves a position like this thinking they could have done better, he said, but he’s pleased to be leaving on a good note. "It is the life that you walk," he added.
Kamenz has yet to decide what the future holds although it will most certainly involve farming and the agriculture industry. In the short term, his wife would like him to go away with her for a week. And, in the long term, doing nothing is highly under-rated, he said.