Board of Directors

2017 Board of Directors

Front Row, Seated (L-R): Chair Markus Haerle, Mark Brock.

Back Row, Standing (L-R): Dave Park, Keith Black, Dave McEachren, Colin Elliott, Vice Chair Brendan Byrne, Executive Member Scott Persall, Henry van Ankum, Vice Chair Mark Huston, Jeff Barlow, Lloyd Crowe, Chuck Amyot, Jeff Harrison, Kevin Armstrong.

Meet Your Directors

District 1 - Brendan Byrne

Brendan Byrne is the director for District 1 (Essex). He was elected as director in 2015 after serving as a delegate for five years and the local chairman for three. He’s also a past local chair for the Essex Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Byrne was elected Vice Chair of the Board of Directors in 2018.

Byrne is involved with Grain Farmers of Ontario because he believes it’s important for the younger generation to keep the family farm alive. Through the organization he sees the opportunity to be a part of the broader business issues affecting farmers at the local and provincial level.

Byrne is an active member of the Communications Committee for which he leans on his background as a part-owner of a film and video production company. He believes proper messaging is important, especially when you are educating non-farmers about the reality of today’s agricultural industry.

Farming and family are the main aspects of Byrne’s life in Essex County. He operates a 1,500 acre cash crop farm with his Dad and Uncle. They’ve passed along a farming tradition that he is now starting to see take root in his own children Alyssa and Brendan.

When not busy on the farm, Byrne and his wife, Mindy, can be found getting the children to their various sporting events. During hockey and baseball seasons, Byrne can be found on the sidelines as the coach of their teams. He’s an active reader, is involved in film and video production, and enjoys social networking with other farmers as a means to further his knowledge of the industry and new crop management techniques. He can be found on Twitter @heybrendan.

District 2 - Mark Huston

Mark Huston is the director for District 2 (Kent) and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. He has held both of these positions since the formation of Grain Farmers of Ontario in 2010.

Huston farms 1,300 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat with his father, Larry, and his uncle, Terry, north of Thamesville. The Hustons have an interest in new technologies that can improve their farming operation and have been using precision agriculture technology (yield maps and yield data) to help manage their farm since 1999. In addition to their cash crops, the Hustons have about 1,100 finishing pigs.

Huston is a member of the Finance and Audit Committee and the March Classic Committee. He also serves as a representative of our organization to the American Soybean Association and the Ontario Agricultural Commodity Council. He is the chair of Soy Canada and the youth-at-large representative on the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

Huston has a strong interest in international markets and the potential that exists there for Ontario’s soybean crop. He feels it is important to find new uses and new markets for soybeans and for this information to be shared with farmers so they have a broader understanding of their role within the domestic and global value-chain.

Huston is the seventh generation to work the family farm. He and his wife, Alicia, hope their sons, Henry and Andrew, will carry on the tradition. In his spare time, Huston plays rugby and keeps his musical talent in tune by playing guitar. He can be found on Twitter @HustonFarms.

District 3 - Dave Park

Dave Park is the director for Grain Farmers of Ontario’s District 3 (Lambton). He and his father, Doug Park, manage the family farm near Sarnia where they grow 11,400 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. Along with his father and cousin, Larry, Park also operates a seed retail business and processes certified seed. They have 20 staff members to help keep everything running.

Park’s keen interest in agriculture led him to attend Grain Farmers of Ontario district meetings with his father and he was nominated as a delegate in 2011. He feels the organization is well set up to serve the needs of its farmer-members. As a director, Park is a member of the Market Development Committee. It was a committee he wanted to be a part of because he believes there is great opportunity for the development of new products for corn, soybeans and wheat, particularly bio fuels and bio products.

Park has participated in several agricultural leadership programs, including Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Grains in Action program and the ASA DuPont Young Leader program in 2012.

In his spare time, Park and his wife, Christine, enjoy going for motorcycle rides. He is also an avid sports fan who attends as many events as he can, particularly Toronto Blue Jays games. Park also enjoys playing baseball and hockey and going fishing.

District 4 - Dave McEachren

Dave McEachren is the director for District 4 (Middlesex). He was elected as director in 2016 after serving as a delegate for three years. McEachren was part of the Grain Farmers of Ontario Grains in Action program in 2012, and, as a representative of Grain Farmers of Ontario, was selected for the 2014-15 American Soybean Association / DuPont Young Leader Program.

McEachren is currently a director on the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, and has served as president of the Canadian Junior Hereford Association, president of the Glencoe Agricultural Society, and sat on the board of Agricorp.

Pleased to represent his county on the Grain Farmers of Ontario Board, McEachren is looking forward to focusing on resolving major industry issues, while not forgoing other important factors like marketing our products to the rest of the world. McEachren is chair of the Research and Innovation Committee and a member of the Resolutions Committee. On the local front, he looks forward to continuing the good work the board has been doing at communicating our messages within the challenging local food market. McEachren is the fourth generation of farmers in his family. Together with his father, John, and uncle, Earl, they operate a 2,300 acre grain farm in Southwest Middlesex, producing corn, soybeans, and wheat. They dry, store, and market all of the grain from the farm. A focus on soil health and cover crops makes up a large part of the operation. McEachren has also been a DuPont Pioneer sales representative for 10 years.

When not busy on the farm, McEachren enjoys spending time with his two children, Mason and Samantha , and is known to collect pieces of John Deere memorabilia, from time to time. This hobby has opened the door to various speaking engagements in Canada and the U.S., as McEachren has become well-known for his knowledge of Deere & Co. facts.

He can be found on Twitter as @DeereDave.

District 5 - Scott Persall

Scott Persall is the director for Grain Farmers of Ontario’s District 5 (Elgin and Norfolk). He is the third generation to work the family farm near Waterford known as Roanoke Farm. Along with his father, Doug, and his wife, Sara, he grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 400 acres. They also have 13,000 laying hens.

Persall was a delegate for the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association and was elected as a director for that organization just before the merger that formed Grain Farmers of Ontario. He served as a delegate for Grain Farmers of Ontario for two years before being elected as a director in 2013. Persall has represented the organization on the Grain and Oilseed Biosecurity Advisory Committee and with Excel Grains, the Canadian on-farm food safety program for grains.

As a director, Persall now serves on the Government Relations Committee and the Finance Committee. He has chosen to be active in the organization because he is interested in educating consumers about where their food comes from and he wants to help fellow producers by working with industry and government to make a stronger and more sustainable grains and oilseeds industry.

Persall is also involved in his community; he works at the committee level with the Norfolk County Agriculture Society and looks after the lighting and sound at his church. When not busy on the farm during the summer, he enjoys racing sailboats. In the winter, he is a coach for his children’s hockey teams. Persall and his wife have three children Ethan, Justin and Lauren.

District 6 - Jeff Barlow

Jeff Barlow is the director for District 6 (Haldimand, Brant, Hamilton, Niagara). He was elected as director in 2016 after serving as a delegate since 2012.

Barlow got involved with Grain Farmers of Ontario because he believes the agriculture industry needs a voice, and just staying on the farm and hoping that our voice is being heard just isn’t good enough. He believes in the vision of Grain Farmers of Ontario and the direction of the organization is well aligned with his own. 

“Farming is becoming more than just about growing crops. Our industry needs to move forward united, and with common goals. I am passionate about technology and the future of farming and hope that we maintain the social license to use these technologies,” he says.

Barlow’s farm started in 1843 near Binbrook. He is the 6th generation to farm the land, and works alongside his father, growing corn, soybeans, and wheat, with a focus on white hilum soybeans for the export market. His wife Dianne works off-farm as an elementary school vice principal, and together they have three boys all eager to help out on the farm whenever they can.

Barlow enjoys aerial photography and using drones to capture field images. If he’s not at the farm, you can find him with his family going camping, snowmobiling, and fishing. You can find him on Twitter as @barlowfarms1843.

District 7 - Kevin Armstrong

Kevin Armstrong is the director for District 7 (Waterloo, Oxford). He is the third generation on his family farm in Woodstock where he and his parents grow 750 acres of corn, wheat, and soybeans.

Armstrong has been a director since 2012 and currently serves as a member of the Wheat Marketing Committee and Government Relations Committee.

Technological innovations in the agricultural industry are an interest for Armstrong, who is always looking for tools that will help increase on-farm efficiencies and production.

Armstrong, and his wife, Aggie, have one daughter, Eleanor. They enjoy the seasonality of cash cropping that allows them to follow their second calling – travelling.

District 8 - Keith Black

Keith Black was elected Director for District 8 (Huron) in 2014. Keith farms 400 acres near Belgrave growing corn, soybeans and wheat, and does custom planting and combining. He also pastures cattle each summer, finishing them over the winter. His farm has been in his family for over a century.

Black served several years as a Delegate for the Ontario Soybean Growers and was a Director at the time of amalgamation. He was a Grain Farmers of Ontario Delegate prior to his election as Director.

His involvement in local agriculture is evident as he has been a member of the Drinking Water Source Protection Committee since inception and is a Past President of the Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Keith also served on the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association Executive, serving as President in 2006.

As a Director for Grain Farmers of Ontario, Black is a member of the Market Development Committee which advises the Board on strategic planning and initiatives for marketing and utilizing grains and oilseeds for profitable growth. Black wanted to be part of this committee because he has always been interested in alternative energy, exploring new uses and markets for crops, and learning about new opportunities.

Black says one of his best attributes is that he is a good listener and he wants to hear from farmers in his District about issues that concern them.

Black and his wife, Barb, have two married daughters - Vicky and Brent farm near Goderich, Ontario and Heather and J. C. live and work in Alberta. When not busy with farm work or serving on committees, Black enjoys family time, hunting, and fishing. The Blacks also enjoys travelling – Australia and New Zealand are on their bucket list, as are regular trips west to visit their daughter.

District 9 - Mark Brock

Mark Brock is the director for District 9 (Perth). He became a delegate for the corn and soybean organizations in the two years leading up to amalgamation and was elected to the Board in January 2010. He served as vice chair from 2012, and he served as chair from 2015 until 2018 (fulfilling the maximum three-year term).

Brock says it has been a pleasure to watch Grain Farmers of Ontario grow into the organization it is today. The dedication by both the Board of Directors and staff has resulted in many successes that he believes we can take great pride in as an organization. The future holds many possibilities for Grain Farmers of Ontario and that is what keeps him involved in the organization.

Brock has been involved with several committees including Research and Innovation, Wheat Marketing, and Wheat Trading. He has also been a representative for the Grain Financial Protection Board and the Canadian Grain Council.

Brock farms 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat with a focus on a corn-soybean rotation near Staffa. Brock is an early adopter of new farm technology and was named the Innovative Farmer of the Year in 2013 by the Innovative Farmers Association.

Brock and his wife, Sandi, have two children, Jackson and Jessica. When not working on the farm, Brock enjoys golfing and spending time with his family. He can be found on Twitter @Cropper01.

District 10 - Henry Van Ankum

Henry Van Ankum is the director for Grain Farmers of Ontario District 10 (Grey, Bruce, Wellington). He has served as director since the amalgamation of the legacy organizations in 2010 and served as chair of the Board of Directors from 2012 to 2015 (fulfilling the maximum three-year term).

Van Ankum farms 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat near Alma. He started farming in 1989 upon graduation from the University of Guelph with an associate diploma in agriculture.

Van Ankum chairs Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Research Committee and serves on the Wheat Marketing Committee. He feels Grain Farmers of Ontario plays an important role by offering a producer-controlled bid in the marketplace for wheat and providing farmers with marketing options such as the Wheat Pool program.

He serves as a representative for the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance, the Grain Financial Protection Board, and the Ontario Cereal Crop Committee. Van Ankum is also a board member of Cereals Canada and vice-chair of the board at the Canadian International Grains Institute.

Van Ankum has also been actively involved in numerous grain farming issues including the risk management program, plant breeder’s rights, and pollinator protection. He has regularly met with provincial and federal politicians to discuss how government policy is affecting farmers.

When not on the farm or in the Grain Farmers of Ontario boardroom, Van Ankum enjoys spending time with his family and watching sports. He and his wife, Susan, have four children, Holly, Jamie, Zach, and Alex.

District 11 - Colin Elliott

Colin Elliott is the director for District 11 (Dufferin, Simcoe, Halton, Peel, York). He has held this position since 2012, previously serving as a delegate for Grain Farmers of Ontario and its legacy organizations.

Elliott farms with his son, James, in Phelpston, milking 40 cows and planting 900 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and, on occasion, specialty beans.

Elliott is passionate about representing the interests of farmers in his district. He also looks forward to bringing the face of Grain Farmers of Ontario to local organizations and events in his area, sharing our activities and accomplishments. Elliott is active in his local community as a member of the Simcoe County milk committee, the local fair board, and the Simcoe District Co-operative. Elliott has also been involved in the Source Water Protection Committee representing agricultural interests and proposing a water protection model for others across the province.

A graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College in 1967, Elliott is the second generation on the family farm. He and his wife, Susan, enjoy the lifestyle farming provides them.

District 12 - Jeff Harrison

Jeff Harrison is the director for District 12 (Durham, Northumberland, Kawartha, Peterborough, Hastings). He farms in the rural area of the City of Quinte West which is an amalgamated municipality in between the counties of Northumberland and Hastings.

Harrison has been a delegate since the inception of Grain Farmers of Ontario, and has served as the district chairman for the past three years. He has served on the research and innovation committee for two years and the government relations committee for one. 

Harrison graduated from the University of Guelph in 1995 with an Hons. Bachelor of commerce degree in agricultural business. He is passionate about agriculture and the best interests of farmers. 

Harrison and his family farm 850 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat. He enjoys providing for the needs of local farmers through his custom farming and on-farm seed dealership.

When not busy on the farm, Jeff enjoys spending time with his wife Janie and their four children, Michael, Rachel, Brian, and Charlie.  Jeff is very proud of his farm family and gets great joy out of watching his children grow up on the farm while instilling in them his same passion for agriculture.

He can be found on Twitter @feedn4kids.

District 13 - Lloyd Crowe

Lloyd Crowe is the director for District 13 (Prince Edward, Lennox, Addington, Frontenac, Lanark, Leeds, Grenville, Renfrew, Ottawa). He was elected to this position in January 2015 after serving as a delegate and district chair for five years. He is excited to lead a great group of active, young delegates and meet the challenge of representing farmers across such a large and diverse geographic region.

Crowe is the chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Wheat Marketing Committee and Wheat trading Group and serves on the Communications Committee. He also represents the organization to the Canadian Seed Growers Association and the Grain Industry Advisory Committee. Crowe previously served as president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

Faith and family are the cornerstones of farm-life for Crowe who feels he has received many blessings. He is the 10th generation to work the family farm in Picton (Reynolds Farms Inc.) which he co-owns with his Uncle. Together they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat on several farms in Prince Edward County. They also harvest peas and lima beans for an Ingersol frozen food plant, after planting is done and into the fall.

Crowe and his wife, Dorothy, have four children and 20 grandchildren. Crowe is an active member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church community in Bloomfield and teaches a Bible study. Even though he prefers the home-life, he occasionally indulges Dorothy’s passion for travel.

District 14 - Markus Haerle

Markus Haerle is the director for District 14 (Prescott, Russell, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry), and in 2018 he became Chair of the Board of Directors. He has sat on the Board of Directors since 2010, and he served as Vice Chair from 2015-2018. Haerle is also a member of the Wheat Marketing Committee and is a representative for Grain Farmers of Ontario with the American Soybean Association, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition, and the RMP Reference Committee.

Haerle sees our organization as the voice of farmers; he feels Grain Farmers of Ontario is there every day to do the work that farmers don’t necessarily have the time to do themselves. Lobbying is one focus that Haerle feels very strongly about. He believes that if the government supports farmers it helps the industry as a whole. Another focus is public outreach - District 14 delegates built and run a fair and event trailer to help educate the public about grain farming and agriculture in general. Haerle believes his success as a director can be attributed to the support he receives from his district delegates and the farmer-members they represent.

Haerle and his wife, Roxane, farm more than 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat near St. Isidore. They also have 20,000 laying hens and Haerle is a councillor for the Egg Farmers of Ontario. When not in the field, Haerle can be found in the farm shop as he enjoys welding and creating or altering his own farm implements and machinery.

The Haerles have four children - Sabrina, Kassandra, Mathew, and Christopher Robin. They are pleased to see the farming tradition being carried on by Mathew who now works the farm with them, and by Christopher who helps maintain the equipment when free from his apprenticeship as a heavy diesel mechanic.

District 15 - Chuck Amyot

Chuck Amyot was elected as the director for District 15 (Northern Ontario) in January 2017. His cash crop operation in New Liskeard includes a rotation of cereals, beans, oilseeds, and pulses. Amyot says his keen interest in agronomy and financial markets make the challenges of higher yields and crop marketing the most interesting aspect of the farm business.

Amyot attended Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Grains in Action program in 2014 which prompted him to get involved with our organization. He views his involvement with Grain Farmers of Ontario as a way to deal with the important issues related to agriculture both locally and provincially. Northern Ontarians face different challenges than their southern counterparts, such as transportation, weather, marketing, and environment. With millions of acres of potential undeveloped prime agriculture land, Amyot is committed to ensure that the North is very much a part of discussions and not forgotten.

Amyot serves on the Grain Farmers of Ontario Grain Issues Committee, Research and Innovation Committee, and Finance and Audit Committee.

Amyot is also involved with multiple local agriculture organizations, including the Temiskaming Crop Coalition and the West Nipissing East Sudbury Agricultural Support Projects.

Amyot grew up on a small farm in eastern Ontario. He moved to the North in 2011 with his wife, Vicky. When he gets away from the farm, Amyot enjoys spending time with friends and family around a bonfire, sampling Ontario craft brews, and heading out into the Northern Ontario bush to hunt and fish.

He can be found on Twitter @Boreal_Farms.

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