Flowers Canada (Ontario) recaps sector challenges, welcomes new board at 55th AGM
By Greta Chiu
Flowers Canada (Ontario) Inc. (FCO) recently hosted its 55th Annual General Meeting earlier this month, providing a recap of the year.
Representing the floriculture sector in Ontario, the trade association hosted the event on Zoom and livestreamed on YouTube, welcoming over 50 attendees on Dec. 1, 2021.
“FCO was especially excited to host a variety of speakers during the course of the morning’s agenda,” commented Andrew Morse, executive director of FCO. “Attendees enjoyed a wide array of information starting with a presentation from Jack Kingma of Grant Thornton on Bill C-208, Easing Tax Burdens on Intergenerational Transfer followed by an in-depth review from Brett House, Vice President and Chief Economist from Scotiabank on Flowers Canada Economics Update: Looking ahead to 2022. Finally, Mr. Randy Pettapiece, the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, closed the event by congratulating FCO on its longevity and success in supporting Ontario’s flower farmers and the floriculture sector”
Morse also provided a report summing up FCO’s activities and approaches to sector challenges in 2021. He noted that, over the past year, there had been “changes in what businesses and activities were considered essential, resulting in some members again, seeing lost sales opportunities through the spring season.”
They also saw amendments to travel rules that affected the arrival and accommodations for temporary foreign workers, as well as a few member farms who had to address outbreaks.
“I can’t stress enough how much pressure is put on a farm in an outbreak situation. These farms had to do everything in their power to preserve the wellbeing of their workers as a top priority, all the while being under close scrutiny by government, the media and public. That’s a ton of pressure with very high stakes,” said Morse.
With many member relying on access to the U.S. markets, the FCO team placed much of their efforts on keeping product moving across the border, working with the CFIA to address ongoing delays and to come up with solutions to common challenges.
“One major barrier to this has been the ongoing transition to the new GCP training program,” said Morse, who explains that it is the most critical trade program currently affecting their members. “Despite the value of the program, many members have struggled with the time crunch to change over operations and get approved for the new program deadline.”
So far, their online GCP training program has seen success, with over 320 users across Canada and in the U.S. “Our standardized modules have become widely adopted and CFIA now recognizes them when they get submitted.” Over the past year, they’ve continued to address changes in policy around pests, including strawberry blossom weevil, box tree moth, and Ralstonia, to name a few.
“Despite all of the export challenges faced, our sector continued to see sustained growth and export. Ontario exported over $353 million in flowers and plants in 2020 – a modest jump from 341 million in 2019, an increase of 31% since 2016. That’s really remarkable considering how the beginning of 2020 started and the impact that it had on members.”
Crop protection products continue to be re-evaluated on the regulation side. It’s not a new problem, but it’s an ongoing one that continues to create some stress for their members, said Morse. Their team continues to work on label expansions and improve tools available in growers’ toolboxes as well as work with the Canadian Ornamental Horticultural Alliance (COHA) to facilitate research activities.
Earlier this year, the FCO team undertook a study of automation and technology to better understand how technology could or could not alleviate labour challenges faced by their members.
“But as much as we like to look back at the AGM, I think it’s also important to look forward,” said Morse. “There are an unending number of challenges facing members as we look to the future and much, much more to do. Logistical challenges, shipping costs, cardboard and production input costs, inflation, changes to waste management, water management changes, light abatement – the list goes on and on and on. And of course, I anticipate that our challenges with COVID-19 are not yet over.”
FCO Board Elections
Following the AGM, elections were held for open positions on the FCO Board.
Rodney Bierhuizen of Sunrise Greenhouses, Arielle DeBoer of Rose Flora, Brian Gatcke of Foliera, and Gina Marchionda of Jeffery’s Greenhouses were re-elected for two-year terms. New director, Zach Redpath from Linwell Gardens, was welcomed on board.
The new board of directors also elected a new executive committee, including Ed Vermolen as President.
“I’m excited and humbled to accept the role as president for the coming year,” commented Vermolen. “I look forward to serving our members and helping to ensure the success of our sector”.
Vermolen succeeds Jan Van Zanten, FCO’s former President. Van Zanten will remain on the Board until the end of his term.
Rounding out the FCO Executive Committee are FCO’s Vice President Arielle DeBoer; Gina Marchionda as Treasurer; and Brian Gatcke as Board Secretary.
Visit flowerscanadagrowers.com for more information.
With files from Flowers Canada (Ontario) Inc.