The Ontario beef industry is an ally against discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and ability (visible and invisible), as well as linguistic discrimination. We recognize that we are not always a diverse industry, but we believe in fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms.
Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) joins with those in our community who are calling for an end to systemic racism, as well as discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation, gender, religion, and ability (visible and invisible), and linguistic discrimination. BFO is committed to advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion within the beef industry and the broader agri-food sector, and fighting racism and discrimination in all of its forms.
We recognize the beef sector is not always a diverse industry, particularly at the farmer and association level. Further along our supply chain, however, there is a great amount of diversity among the people dedicated to ensuring our product makes it to the tables of consumers. Likewise, our consumers are another integral and incredibly diverse group from all walks of life. We feel it is important to be a voice, build bridges, listen, learn, and support all members of our community.
We recognize and acknowledge this commitment is not a one-time thing – it’s a starting point for what needs to be a continually evolving conversation and effort, and ultimately a culture shift within the industry. These are more than just words on a page, they represent alignment and a commitment to future action at our highest level.
Recognizing the need to develop from within, we are focused on advocacy and education within the organization, its activities, and among the membership. There are a number of ways in which we are committed to development, including but not limited to the following:
- BFO is committed to listening and learning and speaking up against prejudice and discriminatory language, behaviour and actions.
- BFO is committed to increased understanding of how policies and programs related to agriculture affect Indigenous peoples. We commit to working with these groups on contentious issues such as allowing agriculture use on Crown land.
- BFO is committed to advocating for more diversity, equity and inclusion in agriculture.
- BFO is committed to education within our industry, including educating our membership on racism and other prejudice as well as promoting diversity and allyship.
- BFO is committed to ensuring our actions are not just self-serving, including promoting and using BIPOC-owned businesses, as well as developing more diverse and authentic recipes that appeal to and celebrate our diverse communities.
- BFO is committed to working in collaboration with other groups and individuals who are more knowledgeable than us on fighting discrimination.
- BFO is committed to evolving our commitments as we learn.
BFO will also continue to strongly support community organizations like Feed Ontario, AgScape and 4-H that we know provide important service, support, education and programing to diverse communities all across the province.
The BFO board and staff are actively looking at our own organization and current activities to see where we can do better and how we can weave education and advocacy around diversity, equity and inclusion into existing activities and programing. We are also looking at other ideas, initiatives, organizations or activities to support or partner on to put our commitment into action.
As we listen and learn, our commitments and actions will continue to develop over time as we work to evolve the culture within the beef industry and broader agri-food sector to be more welcoming to and supportive of all members of our communities.
This page will be updated and built upon as we learn, evolve, and put our words into action.
To view a PDF of BFO's Statement of Values on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, click HERE.
To view BFO's media statement on diversity, equity and inclusion, click HERE.
We are prioritizing our efforts to turn our words into action. Recognizing we, as an organization and industry, are starting at the beginning of our journey, our first tangible actions have been to chosen in effort to build a solid understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion, and ensure we have a system in place to maintain accountability.
The board recognized early on that DEI was new to many of the directors, staff and members. In order to ensure actions were not taken haphazardly or inadvertently harmful, a solid foundational understanding of DEI would be required. BFO partnered with a company called Bloom to provide a comprehensive learning experience that started from the beginning. In the spirit of sharing the experience wider, we invited representatives from local county/district associations, as well as Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Ontario Sheep Farmers to join the board and staff. Over the course of eight weeks, 65 participants engaged in facilitated sessions aimed at building a solid foundational knowledge of DEI, anti-racism and becoming actively anti-racist and restorative healing to digest the learnings.
To read more about our learning experience, please click HERE.
In effort to ensure we remain accountable to our commitments as we move forward with our DEI work, the board made the decision to install a permanent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that consists of three elected directors, the current president and a minimum of two staff members. In the spirit of inclusivity, the committee is an open committee. While the above are the minimum requirements of the committee structure, any board or staff member is welcome to join the committee at any time. The committee is tasked with keeping the organization accountable, as well as ensuring the work continues to move forward and addressing any DEI-related issues and questions as they arise.
In addition to training and accountability, BFO has taken and/or been a part of a number of different activities:
- Participated in several meetings with other commodity and ag sector organizations to start conversations in the broader industry and discuss possible collaborations to move the conversation forward.
- Made improvements to the BFO office building to increase accessibility.
- Created a policy and best practices for addressing inappropriate comments made during BFO meetings and events.
- Collaborated on a joint statement recognizing the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We were pleased to have 14 commodity and ag sector organizations sign on to the statement. Read the statement HERE.
- Took steps to ensure DEI was top of mind when selecting influencers, spokespeople and companies to partner with for our consumer engagement and public relations work. In 2021, we worked to have 50 per cent of the influencers be people of colour, and 50 per cent of our partner companies were either women-owned, BIPOC-owned, or both.
- Continued to strongly support community organizations like Feed Ontario, AgScape and 4-H that provide important service, support, education and programing to diverse communities all across the province.
- Increased support to AgScape to specifically support their efforts to translate and deliver their resources and programming in French language and French-Immersion schools.
- Increased advocacy for mental health resources and support services for farmers. Find more mental health information and resources HERE.
- Participated in DEI focused initiatives and projects through Canadian Centre for Food Integrity and Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council. Watch for a new Community of Practice to be launched in the near future. This will be a space for folks to gather for learning ooportunities, information, resources and discussion.
- Delivered presentations to other organizations on how and why we started our work.
- Participated in several media interviews and speaking engagements over the course of the year.
This is just the starting point. We continue to actively look at our organization and current activities to see where we can do better and how we can weave education and advocacy around diversity, equity and inclusion into existing activities and programing. As we continue to listen and learn, our commitments and actions will continue to develop over time as we work to evolve the culture within the sector to be more welcoming to and supportive of all members of our communities. If you have questions or if you have thoughts or ideas on actions to consider or areas for improvement, please connect with us. We will continue to update as we continue to learn and evolve our actions.
Part of the Conversation
In addition to our efforts to create action, BFO has had opportunities to be part of a number of conversations in different forums across the agri-food sector and beyond.
Growing Organic Inclusion Webinar featuring Jesse Wente
This webinar was hosted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity and also featured a panel discussion that included BFO Director Jordan Miller.
Rogers TV HEALTH LINK
Health Link host Carol Merton has a conversation with BFO Director Jordan Miller and BFO staff member, Jennifer Kyle, about BFO's commitments, action plan and the importance of the efforts.
The Diversity Imperative Podcast
Hosts Erin and Hannah speak to guests Joe Dickenson, beef producer and director with BFO, and Chantelle Donahue, grain farmer from Saskatchewan and Vice President & Commercial Leader for Global Edible Oil Solutions-North America for Cargill. They discuss the ways BFO and Cargill, two very different organizations, are working to hold themselves accountable when it comes to building diversity, equity and inclusion into their organizations. Erin and Hannah also discuss some learning they did on transactional and transformational leadership.
Real Ag Radio
Host Lyndsey Smith chats with BFO Director Joe Dickenson about BFO's statement of values on diversity, equity and inclusion. Check out the article HERE, or take a listen to the audio interview below.
Other Media Articles
Farmwork to Feed Canada
If you are interested in DEI learning opportunities, there are some great options available.
- Bloom Academy: Bloom is the company through which BFO did our DEI learning experience. Their Bloom Academy is a great option for individuals wanting to learn more.
- University of Alberta's Indigenous Canada Course: This course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. The course is free to complete, and for a nominal fee, participants can also receive an official certificate from the University of Alberta.
- Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.: The folks at ICT Inc. help people work effectively with Indigenous Peoples through training and free resources. There are a number of great courses and resources available for those interested.