The Ontario Apple Growers (OAG) have elected a new chair and vice-chair. Brian Rideout of Blenheim steps into the chair’s role after serving as vice-chair since 2019; he’s taking over for outgoing chair Cathy McKay of Port Perry. Chris Hedges of Vanessa is the new OAG vice-chair.
“I’m looking forward to serving Ontario’s apple growers as chair of this organization,” says Rideout. “Ontario apples continue to be a popular choice with our consumers, and we are committed to encouraging the continued growth of our sector and working with government to ensure we have the needed legislative support to foster that growth.”
Rideout farms in Chatham-Kent with his wife and her family at Manitree Fruit Farms where, along with apples, they grow peaches, nectarines, pears, cherries, strawberries, tomatoes, melons and squash. His children are the fifth generation on the family farm.
He has been a director on the OAG board since 2014, serving as a member of the organization’s research committee as well as the first chair of the OAG’s Young Apple Grower group. In 2022, he was elected as the chair of the Crop Protection Section at the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association.
Hedges, a first-generation apple grower, farms with his wife in Norfolk County. He also owns and manages Ontario Orchard Supply, selling orchard supplies to fellow apple growers, and first served as an OAG director from 2005 to 2012 before returning to the board in 2020.
As a director, Hedges has been active with the OAG Risk Management Committee, as well as the Ontario Agricultural Commodity Council and the Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada Apple Working Group. He was also involved with the board of the International Fruit Tree Association for many years.
“As apple growers, we face many issues that affect the long-term viability and sustainability of our farm businesses, from labour and business risk management to crop protection and climate change, and we are grateful to all Ontarians who supports us by choosing to eat local,” says Hedges. “I appreciate the support of my fellow growers in electing me to this role.”
The OAG chair is elected annually, with a maximum of six one-year terms possible per individual. McKay will continue to serve on the OAG board as a director; other OAG directors include Jeremy Veens, Joe Van De Gevel, Brian Gilroy, Kyle Ardiel, Robert Shuh, Kara Pate and Manus Boonzaier.
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