Cardiff becomes youngest president in Ag. Society history
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This article was published as part of The Citizen's 2016 Salute to Agriculture, which can be viewed in its entirety here.
For an organization even older than the country it’s in, the Brussels Agricultural Society doesn’t have the chance to make history often, but it did earlier this year.
When Matt Cardiff was officially elected the society’s president, many believe he became the youngest-ever member to take the organization’s lead.
The Brussels Agricultural Society’s records, Cardiff says, aren’t nearly as complete as he and others would like them to be, but as far as the records show and as far as the memories of living members are concerned, Cardiff is indeed the youngest person to be named president.
When Cardiff stepped up from the position of First Vice-President at last month’s annual general meeting of the society, he was 23 years old. In doing so, he eclipsed Nicole Noble, who had previously been believed to be the youngest president in the group’s history.
He is also the third generation of his family to serve in the society’s executive. His father Jeff has twice served as the organization’s president, while his grandmother Betty was its homecraft president years ago.
At the same meeting where he became president, Cardiff also honoured a number of long-serving society members with special certificates, including his parents Jeff and Cathy and his grandmother Betty, all of whom have been members for decades.
What inspired him to step up several years ago and begin working towards the presidency (the incoming president traditionally serves in the vice-president role for the previous two-year term before stepping up and taking the big job) was a potential budding partnership between the 2017 Brussels Fall Fair and the International Plowing Match (IPM) set to be held in Walton the same year.
In an interview with The Citizen, Cardiff said that those discussions began with Bluevale’s Jacquie Bishop, chair of the 2017 match and Cardiff thought that bringing the two events together was a brilliant concept.
As one of the major driving forces behind the partnership, Cardiff said he felt that in many ways if he was going to be so in favour of the event’s coming together in 2017, then he had to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
In addition, he said that at the time he was considering the position, he was aiming to be more positive about a lot of things in his life – finding ways to talk himself into things that seemed challenging, rather than ways to talk himself out of them.
In a way, however, Cardiff says he feels like he’s been destined to serve as the Brussels Agricultural Society’s president for possibly his entire life. He’s been attending the Brussels Fall Fair for as long as he can remember, he says, and with how heavily involved his family has been, his service in this position seemed only natural.
Because he’s been attending the fair and pitching in for longer than he can remember, Cardiff says he doesn’t actually know when he first became an official member of the society.
“It’s hard to know when I went from just attending the fair to be useful,” Cardiff says jokingly.
In many ways – due to the solid team of the executive and members behind him – Cardiff says he doesn’t feel like the president. Yes, there is some added responsibility, he said, but he simply doesn’t feel like the man in charge.
Having said that, Cardiff says it is “pretty neat” to be the youngest president in the organization’s history, especially considering just how far back that history reaches.
He hopes that his presidency won’t be the end of the positive changes. He said it seems as though younger people are beginning to become involved with the society and, in turn, their ideas are being more widely considered.
For example, some of the younger female members of the organization have spearheaded a ladies night in November, Cardiff said. Younger people are stepping up with creative ideas and members of the society are embracing those ideas.
As for the society’s biggest, newest idea, partnering with the 2017 IPM, Cardiff says plans are beginning to take shape, advancing further every month with just about a year and a half until the big event.
He has been attending some of the IPM’s planning meetings along with society treasurer Brian Schlosser. These meetings, along with meetings of the society’s Fall Fair/IPM sub-committee, have really been helping the process along, Cardiff said.
He said support for the idea keeps growing and people are really starting to get excited about the idea.
Some discussions have already taken place, Cardiff said, in regards to rides that will be able to fit into what the fair does at the 2017 IPM.
Exhibiting, he said, will remain the same, including all of the categories regular participants have come to expect. While the fair’s display area will be smaller than it normally is, Cardiff says that situation should work itself out eventually, as the society is expecting a lower-than-usual number of entries that year due to how busy many members of the community will be with the IPM, whether they’re volunteering or simply planning to attend throughout the week.
Some things, however, are at a bit of a standstill as the society waits eagerly to find out if their Canada 150 grant application has been approved or not. Much of what the society hopes to do that year hinges on the grant.
Cardiff also said that the organization is rolling out a new sponsorship program to help finance the 2017 event. Details of that campaign will soon become available.