Ontario’s two berry grower organizations are proposing a merger to become one new organization. The Ontario Berry Growers’ Association and the Ontario Highbush Blueberry Growers’ Association have already received agreement from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission to conduct an “expression of opinion” vote among all eligible growers of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries in Ontario.
The proposed name of the new organization is Berry Growers of Ontario.
“We’re planning Berry Growers of Ontario in order to help us growers earn better returns,” says Jenn VanDeVelde, a berry grower and current director of the Ontario Berry Growers’ Association. “There are so many issues facing growers today that require a strengthened organization to effectively address on growers’ behalf.”
“The new organization will give us the structure and authorities we need to better serve growers,” adds Steve Kustermans, a blueberry grower and current chairperson for the Ontario Highbush Blueberry Growers’ Association. “A unified voice for all berry growers will enable us to better get government’s attention and resources to support our sector.”
According to a press release, the new organization isn’t looking for any authorities related to pricing or control of supply. Instead, it will be focusing its efforts on marketing and promotion, research and grower advocacy.
“Our budget will be lean and modest,” says VanDeVelde, “and will ensure that growers of each crop receive a fair allocation of resources towards that crop leading to more research, promotion and crop protection for every crop that we represent.”
The press release also explains that the proposed board of directors of nine would be comprised of three growers of each of the three crops. One of the key differences between Berry Growers of Ontario and the two existing organizations is that membership in the new organization would be mandatory rather than voluntary. Mandatory membership means that every grower of two or more acres of any combination of the three crops will be required to pay membership fees each year based on the number of bearing acres in production.
The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission expects to conduct the vote in late October and early November.