By the time you are reading this, tractors will be rolling, spring will be well on its way (hopefully), and the winter meeting season will be nothing more than a memory for most. I wanted to take an opportunity to turn the clock back a bit so that readers can share in something that Ontario Pork delegates got to be a part of at our Annual General Meeting in March.
We had an excellent meeting: the guest speakers brought in were diverse, informative, and pushed us to think beyond our own farmgate. The business section of the meeting was a success as well; delegates passed numerous resolutions to give our board clear direction for the year ahead. As great as the meeting was, that is not what I want to talk about here. This AGM marked the last time Amy Cronin stood at the podium as our Chair. Every producer in the room was standing when Amy finished her final address, I don’t think there has ever been a leader of our industry that enjoyed the breadth of support that Amy had and it showed when we gave her another standing ovation at the conclusion of the meeting.
I have enjoyed getting to know Amy over the past years and while I always knew she had a dynamic personality and astute mind, I never had a full appreciation for her until I worked at Queen’s Park. I would argue that government relations has become the most important role that our commodity boards play in today’s world and working at Queen’s Park gave me a unique opportunity to observe farm leaders in an environment that few farmers get to see. There was not another leader that could command the respect…and more importantly, the attention of elected officials and their support staff like Amy could. She spoke about complex problems in a way that a person who didn’t know a pig from a cow could understand and she had a skill for layering in genuine personal concern for her producers that made her communication effective.
When I left government last spring and Jess and I started to grow our farm business, we looked for people beyond our own families who demonstrated values that we would like to build into our operation and our family. Jess and I look at Mike and Amy as people that we would like to emulate. They run a successful business, they serve in their communities, whether it be local, global, or agricultural, they are raising wonderful children, and most importantly to Jess and I, they do it together. They are partners in every sense of the word and they provide an excellent example for young farming families.
If you looked around the room at this year’s AGM you would have noticed something very exciting. I have been attending the AGM for over a decade and for a long time; there were only a handful of us that represented the next generation of Ontario pig farmers. Our industry can be cruel and economic conditions can drive people from the business. Our industry can also be lucrative and economic conditions can bring people into the business. Recently, the good times have outnumbered the bad yet most of my millennial colleagues lived through the worst downturn in our industry’s history. We are getting involved at Ontario Pork and I believe that Amy’s leadership has played a big role in getting new farmers involved out to Ontario Pork events.
Her leadership inspired confidence in the producer body while navigating through some very difficult situations here in Ontario. When PED came to Ontario, Amy ensured that government was ready and had a plan to implement in a rapid manner. Her proactive approach allowed funds to flow quickly to combat the disease. Not long after PED, Quality Meats closed its doors and Amy had to lead Ontario Pork through another crisis. Amy’s aforementioned personal concern for her fellow producers must have made this exhausting yet the industry got through it. We still have work to do to ensure our processing sector remains viable but thanks to Amy, policymakers here in Ontario have an intimate knowledge of our sector’s importance and we have seen public investment at our remaining processors.
Amy is a rare combination of integrity, service, compassion, and intellect. There will not be another Amy Cronin but she has left a lasting legacy of how to lead an industry in today’s world. Thank you Amy!