We’ll meet again — but not likely in person for a while

This year’s round of meetings will be mostly virtual but commissions hope producers stay involved

The fall meeting season hasn’t fallen by the wayside, but it will be very different.

“We haven’t done any in-person events since the pandemic started, and we will not be doing any in-person events until at least February or March 2021,” said Rick Taillieu, manager of grower relations and extension for Alberta Canola. “Along the way, we’ll re-evaluate, but at this time, that’s the milestone that we’ve marked down.”

Until then, Alberta Canola will be focusing on hosting the events required for all commissions by the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council — a regional meeting and an annual general meeting. Both will be virtual, with a trimmed-down agenda for the lone regional meeting.

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The business aspect of these meetings was usually secondary, with speakers — and the chance to catch up with folks — the real draw. But an update on its activities and finances will be the main focus of Alberta Canola’s lone hour-long regional meeting on Dec. 1.

“We’re re-evaluating everything we do in terms of getting information to growers,” said Taillieu. “In the meantime, we just want to make sure that the information we have to deliver — a report on the commission leading up to the annual general meeting — is in place.”

By scaling back, Alberta Canola hopes to avoid a “very crowded digital space” this winter while retooling its extension activities to make them more accessible for growers, he added.

“We think this is a good thing for growers — that they’ll have the opportunity to more easily be engaged,” said Taillieu. “This should be a game changer.”

Alberta Pulse Growers is taking a similar approach, with one-hour-long virtual meetings in each of their five regions between Nov. 17 and Dec. 7. (To find the date for your region, visit www.albertapulse.com.) Its annual general meeting will also be virtual.

Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley will be holding “hybrid” regional meetings and annual general meeting, said Brian Kennedy, grower relations and extension manager for the two groups.

“Following Alberta Health Services guidelines, a maximum of 50 people can be there live, and we’re also making it available through the internet,” said Kennedy.

“We appreciate that a lot of farmers or their families may be immunocompromised or just not comfortable attending an in-person event, which is why we thought it was really important to have the virtual option available.

“Following Alberta Health Services guidelines, we’re fairly confident we won’t have any problems. And if guidelines tighten, we already have the virtual option available.”

The joint meetings will follow the traditional regional meeting model, with presenters speaking on various topics during the day-long in-person meetings between Nov. 17 and 26 in each of their six regions. (See www.albertawheat.com or www.albertabarley.com for more info.) Some of the speakers will be at the meetings in person, while others will present virtually.

Because of physical distancing requirements, attendees must pre-register and if they can’t attend, “we would really appreciate it if they cancelled their registration so that, that seat can be open for someone else,” said Kennedy.

The cereal commissions are also calling for any member resolutions in advance, instead of from the floor, as the latter can “take a significant amount of time.” Nominations for directors and regional reps have to be made in advance (by Oct. 30). Alberta Wheat is looking for two directors and three regional reps in both Region 2 and Region 4. Alberta Barley is seeking a Region 1 director; one director-at-large in Regions 1, 4, 5, or 6; and delegates in each of its six regions.

Voting will open on the day of the regional meetings and continue throughout the day, said Kennedy.

“Because we’re using an e-voting platform, farmer members need to register ahead of time.”

Alberta Pulse Growers members will also need to pre-register on the commission’s website to vote (the nomination deadline is Nov. 1), while voting for Alberta Canola directors in Regions 2, 5, 8, and 10 will be done through a mail-in ballot (nomination deadline Oct. 30).

Letting your name stand for nomination is “a tremendous opportunity to have a great deal of influence on the industry,” said Taillieu.

“For a lot of people, commissions are just something that’s going on in the background and they don’t necessarily have the same understanding of what they do and why they’re important.

“People are busy, and it’s hard to get people who are busy to have more time for things like this. But it’s extremely important to all of our organizations that we have that grower representation to help guide and provide direction for the organizations. We need growers to step forward.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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