Chair, directors named for Ontario vegetable board

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission has named a new chair and four directors for the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers board, with another four directors to be elected by growers this week.

Suzanne van Bommel, a farm co-owner with a long history of work in the agriculture sector, has been appointed chair.

The province dismissed the previous board of directors and chair in March when negotiations over 2017 processing tomato contracts stalled. A trustee, former provincial agriculture minister Elmer Buchanan, dismissed senior staff and has run the board since then.

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Buchanan is stepping back with the appointment of a new general manager, Cathy Lennon, and the creation of the new board.

Van Bommel also has long-term ties to Ontario’s governing Liberals, serving as chief of staff to former agriculture minister Steve Peters. She is from near Belmont, Ont., has also been a federal Liberal election candidate and worked in the renewable fuels industry.

Van Bommel today is president of the GPS Group, a government relations firm providing public relations and issues management services within the agriculture, food and energy sectors. She and her family also produce corn, soybeans and peas on their 560-acre farm, and she manages a hog finishing operation.

As OPVG chair, she has been appointed for a two-year term, with the potential for reappointment up to 10 years.

The province has also appointed four other growers, all with extensive experience in processing vegetable production, to the board. They were selected by the Farm Products Marketing Commission after a public call for applications for directors.

The four were appointed for one-year terms and their positions will be filled in grower elections next year.

They include:

  • Eric Allaer, Port Lambton, who grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, seed corn, field corn, soybeans and wheat on 3,500 acres. He has farmed for 33 years and is a turkey producer.
  • Michael Denys, Wallaceburg, who has farmed for 41 years and operates 300 acres with his son producing sweet corn, seed corn, green beans, peas, soybean and wheat.
  • Tom Hebblethwaite, Blenheim, who has farmed for 42 years and runs 1000 acres with his son, producing tomatoes, corn, seed corn, soybeans and wheat.
  • Chris Stewart, Cedar Springs, with 35 years of farming experience, growing tomatoes, seed corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,500 acres.

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

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