The Canadian Farm Builders Association (CFBA) has taken great strides to become the voice of the farm building industry in Canada for the past 40 years, but it’s time to look to the future, said charter member Gary van Bolderen.
“I think with the celebration of the 40th year we should look back and see what we’ve done and be very proud of where we are, we’ve done a lot of good things, but I think this is a good time to look at the future,” said van Bolderen. “We need new people to volunteer, we need new board members, new committee members and I can tell you from living it, the best thing I ever did was volunteer. I gained so much from the people I met and feel very satisfied with the accomplishments we made together with all of you.”
Van Bolderen was asked to write about the history of the association to celebrate the 40th anniversary and ended up producing a book based on his recollections called Harvesting the Experience that looks back on the association’s past 40 years, 1980 to 2020. Everyone attending this year’s conference, held Feb. 28 in Stratford, Ont., received a copy.
“In the last 40 years we’ve done a great job of promoting our industry,” said van Bolderen. “Now that we’ve attained that, we have to do what we said we wanted to do.
“There are repercussions to not being heard and I think we have a responsibility now that we’ve asked to be heard that we have something to say and that’s going to require leadership from the people sitting in this room, it’s going to require some money, it’s going to require a lot of work and it’s going to require collaboration with other associations.”
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture supported the farm building industry and farm producers with direct services until the early 1980s when it eliminated the direct service model, leaving a gap that needed to be filled by the industry. A meeting was held in February 1980 in Guelph, Ont. where the decision was made to apply for a not-for-profit association charter and a board was elected. The final approved Letters patent was signed in May 1981 by members of the charter board of the directors.
There was some discussion about whether to call it the Ontario Farm Builders Association but because there was interest from other provinces they decided that it had the potential to become a national organization, therefore it was called the Canadian Farm Builders.
“The National Farm Building Code was adopted by Ontario and in the last 40 years it was made mandatory that you had to get a building permit for a farm building,” said van Bolderen. “That sounds like a real pain because now you have to get permits but the fact was that was very good. Before we didn’t have a farm building code, we had to use the other code and that restricted us to what we could do.”
Another big change was in health and safety.
“I can remember guys not wearing hard hats, hardly ever seeing a safety inspector, we didn’t have to have harnesses on to climb a roof to put steel up,” van Bolderen recalled. “All of these things have happened for a reason and that’s to make the job site a safer place to go and nobody can argue against that and we have been part of the process.”
One of CFBA’s most important roles is to be an advocate for the industry, he said.
“When it comes to advocacy, which I believe is the most important role we have for our members, we have to take a long look…we have to think of our customers, our communities,” said van Bolderen. “If we have a farm and agricultural industry that is healthy, producing money, producing good products and is viable, we have customers.”
The CFBA should be careful to retain its political non-partisanship, he added.
“As soon as we are seen as a body that is associated with one party or another we have lost our advocacy ability completely, because as soon as you are just a voice for somebody you are no longer an advocate, you are just a spokesman,” he said. “We should be basing our advocacy on an issue by issue basis.”
The association also has to collaborate with other associations such as COCA and CCA “because together we have a voice, we can be heard and we can make a difference.”
Terry Rothwell, president of the CFBA, presented awards of recognition to past presidents and members who made a significant contribution to the association.
“What started out as an idea 40 years ago is now a vigorous national organization representing and working for the farm building industry,” he stated.
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Thanks for summarizing my comments at the conference accurately. I appreciate your professionalism.
Gary van Bolderen