Klaver dazzles crowd at Brussels Agricultural Society's AGM
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
The weekend’s return of wintry weather did not keep members of the Brussels Agricultural Society away from their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday, Jan. 29 at the Brussels Legion. Attendees kicked snow from their boots and hung up winter coats as they gradually filled the majority of folding chairs set up and waiting for them in the space. The AGM is an opportunity for the organization to celebrate and review the previous year’s activities and achievements, and to plan for the year ahead.
Outgoing President Zoellyn Onn warmly welcomed the group and acknowledged the presence of several government dignitaries including Morris-Turnberry Mayor Jamie Heffer, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Mayor and Huron County Warden Glen McNeil, and Huron–Bruce Constituency Representative Bill Strong (standing-in for Member of Parliament Ben Lobb, who was absent due to the impending resumption of Parliament the following day).
Young person Sophia Burkholder absolutely dominated the awards portion of the afternoon tied to the previous year’s Brussels Fall Fair. Burkholder took home top honours for both the Junior Section Award, presented by Past-President Dorothy Cummings, and the Optimist Best All Around Participation prize, presented by Brussels Optimist Club President Doug McArter.
Guest speaker Maranda Klaver, Ontario Queen of the Furrow, delighted the assembly with remarks about her experiences as Huron County’s 2019 Queen of the Furrow and the new challenges she faces in her current role. Klaver reflected on the origins of her interest in the Huron County Plowmen’s Association, the importance of family and community in her life, compassionate strategies for addressing mental health issues in rural settings, and the difficulties encountered by girls and women in the traditionally male-dominated field of agriculture. After concluding her speech, audience members rose to their feet, offering Klaver a standing ovation. Onn presented Ontario’s Queen of the Furrow with a gift and expressed gratitude on behalf of the organization.
Brussels Fall Fair Ambassador, Deanna Haanstra, and Little Ambassador, Paislee Ribey, were on hand to provide updates on their official activities. Haanstra said she really enjoys participating in the community in Brussels, loved judging the dog show, and spoke fondly of pie she enjoyed at the fair, eliciting audible laughter in the room by referring to the pie as “a highlight.” Ribey recounted seeing a lot of people she knew at the Seaforth Santa Claus parade and the Clinton Santa Claus parade, and savoured a memory of enjoying hot chocolate in a warm sleigh while Haanstra was forced to deal with a float-related mishap at the Brussels Santa Claus parade.
Treasurer John Lowe updated members on the society’s financials, and provided detailed records looking back at the turbulent pandemic budgets of 2022, 2021, and 2020.
Late arriving to the meeting, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Huron–Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson rose to offer a few words of encouragement and remind attendees that their efforts are important for sustaining communities. The Minister spoke on the importance of local fairs throughout the province and commended volunteers for their hard work. Thompson concluded her remarks and departed shortly thereafter.
The election of directors was difficult to achieve on this particular Sunday afternoon. Most nominations were declined immediately, and the incoming First Vice-President Sean Mitchell decided to withdraw and become Second Vice-President instead. Crystal Blake’s name was put forward to fill the vacated First Vice-President position and the nomination was accepted. The Homecraft Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer positions were not filled by the meeting’s end.
Other business included an update from Farm and Food Care Ontario, a discussion about delegate subsidization for the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies conference in February, a discussion on whether or not to provide a gift for financial auditors, a discussion on whether or not to contribute an item to a fundraising auction and, if yes, how much should be spent on the item, and a successful vote to lower quorum at regular meetings from 15 to 10. The selection of a date and theme for the 2024 Brussels Fall Fair was deferred to the next meeting, with a date that has yet to be determined.