Too many farm voices and too few show up for meetings
By Maynard van der Galien
It was a snowy evening in February 2004 when 450 farmers showed up at a farm meeting in Renfrew County. At the end of the evening, Preston Cull, the organizer of this special meeting, asked for a show of hands to see how many people wanted a single farm voice like they have in Quebec. About 90 per cent of the hands shot up high into the air. I remember it well.
It was issues such as the Nutrient Management Act, the gun registration fiasco, the Clean Water Act, beef export issues, classifying piles of old sawdust as hazardous waste and other mind-boggling bureaucratic nonsense that got rural folks riled up some years ago. A new organization was born ó the Ontario Landowners Association. They attracted folks who were never involved in other organizations.
Two months ago a new farm organization sprang up from dissatisfied NFU and OFA members. We now have the Practical Farmers of Ontario. Whatís next?
You probably know people who belong to the old farm organizations, but theyíll never attend any meetings because they donít want to be saddled with a job. Itís so much easier to let someone else do the work and then criticize whatís being done. Many organizations, clubs, groups have the same people running the show year after year because no one wants to sit on the board of directors.
Some associations, organizations, meeting groups, clubs, committees, boards . . . whatever, that have been around for years are slowly petering out because they canít get new blood to keep the activities going. The people who are willing workers usually are involved in other causes as well.
There are many ways to kill an organization. The list below appeared in the April 1920 Holstein Journal under the title "Ways to kill an organization." Do any of the following sound familiar?
1. Donít come to the meetings. But if you do come, come late.
2. If the weather doesnít suit you, donít think of coming.
3. If you do attend a meeting, find fault with the work of the officers and other members.
4. Agree with everything said at the meeting and disagree with it outside.
5. Never accept an office, as it is easier to criticize than to do things.
6. Nevertheless, get sore if you are not appointed on a committee, but if you are, do not attend committee meetings.
7. If asked by the chairman to give your opinion regarding some important matter, tell him you have nothing to say. After the meeting tell everyone how things ought to be done.
8. Do nothing more than is absolutely necessary, but when other members roll up their sleeves and willingly, unselfishly, use their ability to help matters along, howl that the association is run by a clique.
9. Hold back your dues as long as possible or donít pay at all.
10. Donít bother about getting new members. Let the secretary do it.
11. When a banquet is given, tell everyone money is being wasted on blowouts, which make a big noise and accomplish nothing.
12. When no banquets are given say the association is dead and needs a can tied to it.
13. Donít ask for a banquet ticket until all are sold. Then swear youíve been cheated out of yours.
14. If you do get a ticket donít pay for it.
15. If you receive a bill for you dues, donít pay.
16. If you receive a bill after youíve paid, resign from the association.
17. Donít tell the association how it can help you, but if it doesnít help you, resign.
18. If you receive service without joining, donít think of joining.
19. If the association doesnít correct abuse in your neighbourís business, howl that nothing is done.
20. If it calls attention to abuses in your own, resign from the association.
21. Keep your eyes open for something wrong and when you find it, resign.
22. At every opportunity threaten to resign and then get your friends to resign.
23. When you attend a meeting, vote to do something and then go home and do the opposite.
24. Get all the association gives you but donít give it anything except hassle.
Maybe you find the preceding both humourous and enlightening. Some things never change.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and agricultural writer.