Industry Insider Q&A
CEO, Organic Meadow Inc.
The mission behind Guelph, Ont.-based Organic Meadow Inc. might have been considered radical at the time. According to the company’s website, the founders, “pioneers of organics,” envisioned “a totally new food system” – one that moved away from industrialization and instead encouraged the flourishing of the family farm. That was 20 years ago. Today Organic Meadow Co-operative represents more than 100 family farms and its 55 different products – including dairy, eggs and a line of frozen vegetables – are found from coast to coast. The organization, says CEO Steve Cavell, also helped form another co-op in Manitoba, Manitoba Organic Milk, and is looking at establishing others in Nova Scotia and B.C., all with the idea of decreasing the distance products have to travel. In honour of its 20th anniversary this year, Organic Meadow is sponsoring concerts at several different venues across Ontario and participating in a series of other events. Here Cavell talks about what it’s like to be part of the Organic Meadow team.
What do you love most about your job?
“Dealing with the farmers, who own and produce for Organic Meadow, on a broad range of issues – from our social mission, business plan and investment plans to new ventures – is always refreshing. They’re straightforward, driven by a co-operative philosophy, and always fair and reasonable. They give respect where it is deserved and they earn respect in return. It’s business and human relationships without the politics and posturing so often found in business.”
What is your management philosophy?
“It’s pretty simple and revolves around creating an environment built on trust, respect and appreciation. I focus on outcomes rather than process and try hard to avoid micromanaging. We celebrate our successes and learn from our failures in an environment that does not focus on blame. And we make sure we laugh a little every day.”
What is the most challenging part of your job?
“For any business leader it should be strategic development and ensuring that we stay true to our strategy. It’s a positive challenge in the organic sector at the moment and is, frankly, a whole lot of fun. We’re like kids in a candy store with more opportunities than we’ll ever be able to realize, and sorting through the options is challenging and rewarding. The less attractive challenge in every job usually involves things like competitive attacks, trade allowances, supply pressures and so on. Even those can be fun to resolve.”