By Tom Collins
LONDON — OMAFRA has appointed a new chair to the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers after the former chair left before her two-year term was up.
Dave Hope — who has been a market analyst in Alberta, OMAFRA’s manager of economic analysis and has held various assistant deputy minister roles within OMAFRA — was appointed as the OPVG’s chair late last month. The OPVG is a non-profit grower organization for producers of 13 crops — including tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, carrots and pumpkins — for the canning, freezing and pickling industry.
Appointing a bureaucrat was not an issue for Chatham-Kent grower John Lugtigheid, who said he has worked with Hope before and said he was a good choice for chairman. Former chair Francis Dobbelaar said Hope is highly respected and is a good choice, but Dobbelaar would also like to see the board go back to electing its chair.
During heated contract negotiations between tomato growers and processors in early 2017, then-Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal dismissed the entire OPVG board, including the elected chair. Later that year, cash crop and hog farmer and former OMAFRA chief of staff Suzanne van Bommel was appointed chair for a two-year term in October, 2017.
Van Bommel resigned last month to become a regulated marketing advisor to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Hope has been appointed chair until October, the end of Van Bommel’s two-year term. It is unclear if there will be another appointment in October or if the OPVG will go back to electing the chair.
Hope says that the main issue facing processing vegetable growers is not that different than other industries.
“It’s how to be a competitive industry and reach your potential when times are challenging, whether it’s competition from abroad or whatever,” he said. “The industry has a lot of potential. All businesses face some real challenges, and I’m sure I’ll find this one does as well. How do you put your best foot forward and thrive at a time when many things are in flux?”
Hope, who has also been on Agricorp’s board of directors and chair and the Farm Products Marketing Commission, said it would presumptuous for him to think he has all the answers when there are plenty of knowledgeable people already involved with the board. He plans to spend his first bit of time as chair listening to others and learning.