The 174th Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS) Annual Convention was held from February 13th  to 15th  in Richmond Hill.  Over 1100 people attended this event.  Young ambassadors, representing fairs across the province, also gathered to build their leadership skills as well as learning of careers in agriculture.

The OAAS Convention organized a special session on governance to meet a growing demand from their membership. Presenters Cathy Redden, Shawn LaPalm, and Tim Carson (from the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies) spoke on the basics, best practices and the roles and responsibilities as Board Members.

Seminars and panel discussions continued over two days.  Over 40 sessions covered topics such as attracting youth to the Board level, being better at meeting with your local politicians, getting your message out into the community and current regulations such as livestock traceability.  At the same time people could view provincial competition winners in posters, quilts, cookies, tarts, and photography.  Entertainment showcases were held every night as well as a busy auction which saw a John Deere pedal steel tractor donated by Huron Tractor in Exeter sell for $825.  There was a heavy competition to see if it could surpass the winning bid on a New Holland tractor,  which it did.

Farmer Tim May and incoming President Brian Slaughter 350Left Farmer Tim May and incoming President Brian Slaughter 350The opening speaker, Farmer Tim (Tim May), addressed a crowd of over 600 on his journey to agvocacy.  He is a dairy farmer near Guelph who has just under 60 000 followers on Facebook.  He shares stories and pictures of the everyday  activities of his family and their animals on their farm and takes a lot of time answering questions and explaining farming practices to his many followers on his Facebook page.  His humor and pictures illustrate the love farmers have for their animals and how they treat them with respect.  Many of his online followers in the audience waited patiently following his message to get their pictures with him.

The Convention closed with the Annual General Meeting.  The Convention Administrator, Kathryn Lambert, and Manager, Vince Brennan, spoke to the delegates about what they have done during the past year.  Outgoing President Doug Yeo from near Bayfield spoke on the things he learned during his year as President  He stressed that Ag Societies need to dream big, that fairs are thriving throughout Ontario and that the Ag Societies need to tell their stories.  The OAAS presented Helen Scutt, a recently retired OMAFRA specialist, with its highest honour – the Meritorious Award during the meeting.  Helen formerly worked with Agricultural Societies assisting with their  needs and questions about  government regulations and programs and was a yearly presenter at the Convention.  She was extremely well respected by the membership and proof of that was receiving two standing ovations during the presentation.  The closing speaker, Jen Puente from the Wisconsin State Fair, stressed the need to drop being around negativity and remember to do the things that actually make you positive.  At one point some in the crowd proved they could make the situations as positive as she could.  The room was filled with smiles and laughter and the challenge was to do that every day.  The incoming President Brian Slaughter from near Forest announced that the OAAS would be celebrating their  175th Anniversary  next year and invited everyone back.

The OAAS is very grateful to their many sponsors that make it possible for us to continue to provide the many programs and services for our member Agricultural Societies.

The OAAS is the umbrella organization representing over 200 Agricultural Societies in Ontario.  These Agricultural Societies organize and manager fairs in many communities ranging in size from small one day events to large multi-day events. The OAAS provides guidance, education and programs to assist the Agricultural Societies host their fairs and promote agriculture and a rural way of life in Ontario.