Get on Board

There are many benefits to getting involved with a farm commission Board of Directors

by Delaney Sieferling

Two years ago, Trent Richards felt that southern Saskatchewan pulse farmers were dealing with emerging issues related to pulse and soybean production, and that Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) could benefit from input from growers in his area. And he decided to do something about it.

“There are a lot of people who talk but are  not willing to do anything about it,” says Richards, who farms in the Assiniboia area. “My theory is to get active.” Richards put his name forward as a candidate for SPG’s 2015 elections and officially became a Board member in January 2016.

Laura Reiter is another Saskatchewan farmer who was attracted to the idea of having input on the industry that is her livelihood. Reiter, who farms in Radisson, was elected to the Board of the newly-formed Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat) in January 2014. “I knew the possibilities that a levy could bring as far as research, having watched the pulse and canola industries, so I was actually pretty excited to be part of deciding what the priorities would be for this new levy in the wheat industry,” says Reiter, who was reelected for a second term in late 2015.

What Richards and Reiter did – getting involved with a farm commission Board of Directors – is one of the most impactful ways that farmers can play a role in influencing the future of Saskatchewan agriculture, says Corey Ruud, General Manager of the Agri-Food Council.

“People who sit on these Boards have an important role to play in shaping their industries,” he says. “The role of the Boards overall on each of these commissions is to set the direction for the agency and to ensure they are following their prescribed mandate, which is research, market development, and promotion.”

SPG’s Board in particular is a great example of how an agency that puts a strong emphasis on Board governance can help advance an industry, Ruud says. “SPG, and as a result the pulse industry, have come a long way since they were first established,” he says. “SPG’s strong focus on board governance has allowed them to provide strong leadership for the industry, and to make decisions that have benefited producers and advanced the industry.”

The Benefits of Being a Board Member

Since Richards joined the SPG Board more than a year ago, he has learned that the benefits of being on a commission Board go both ways. He has been able to share his perspectives and opinions on issues that affect his pulse-growing area, and his Board experience has benefitted his own
on-farm practices. “It gets you outside your realm of just being on the farm and it gives you the global perspective,” he says. “Knowing why markets are working and the issues that affect markets – there is an advantage to that from a farming perspective.” He says his first full year on the Board was not only a learning curve but also a humbling experience. “The biggest thing for me was I thought I knew more than I did,” he says. “There is a lot more to it than just the farm perspective of things.” 

Reiter, who also sits on her Board’s research committee, agrees that the benefits of being a Director are reciprocal. “I get to have access to some of the research scientists and see what is up and coming, and I also get to put my two cents into their programs so they can see what is important to farmers,” she says. “I also have a bigger network now. If I run into an issue, I know someone I can talk to whether it is in the science or producer community – that is a huge asset.”

Considerations for Potential Directors

If you are considering running for a farm  commission Board, it is a good idea to do some due diligence to know what the expectations are, Ruud says. “Talk to other board members, talk to the agency itself, and make sure you have the time available to commit to activities of the Board.”

Richards also recommends making yourself familiar with the current issues the Board is facing and doing a thorough read-through of its website and other publications. 

What qualities make for a good Board member? All farmers in Saskatchewan have the potential to bring something valuable to the Board, Reiter says. “The value around the table is that everyone that is there has a different opinion and experience,” she says. “It does not matter if it is filled by a 60-year-old man or a  25-year-old women or anything in between.”

The most important aspect is being engaged and coming prepared to participate at meetings, says Ruud. “Hopefully you have that passion you bring to the table, where you are willing to share opinions and contribute to the discussions and decisions being made.”

The time commitment may be a deterrent to many of today’s busy farmers, but for these people there are other ways to be engaged, Ruud says. “Even if you are not running for a Board, farmers have the opportunity and responsibility to elect the people that are going to represent their industry and make decisions that will affect their farm,” he says. “Get out and vote, and make sure you vote for someone you think will best represent you and your industry.”

What are the Responsibilities of SPG Directors?

  • Supervising the  management of the business and affairs of SPG including oversight of management, providing strategic direction, and ensuring effective governance of the organization.
  • Attending Board meetings approximately seven times per year and conference calls as required.
  • Representing SPG at other meetings and events throughout the year. 

Deadline for Director  nominations is Friday, September 15, 2017. Find a copy of the nomination form here.