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Craig Steven

Director, representing Gay Lea Foods Co-operative

Tell us a bit about yourself (i.e., your background (where you grew up, education, children, which co-operative you work for, your position, etc.)

I grew up on a dairy farm in Lambton County. I completed the Agricultural Business degree at the OAC at the University of Guelph. I am an active member in 4-H & Junior Farmers and attended the Co-operative Young Leaders (CYL) program back in the day when it was run by the United Co-operatives of Ontario (the precursor of Growmark, Inc.). I had the honour of managing the CYL and Education program for a year while working at OCA from 2004-2005. I’ve been with the Gay Lea Dairy Museum and Co-operative Education Centre for just over a year now. I’ve worked extensively in the agriculture and food industries, including the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair, Gourmet Cuisine (as part of Compass Group Canada), Farm and Food Care Ontario, as well as several food service and hospitality businesses. 

How long have you been involved in the co-operative movement, and what do you love most about it?

Co-operatives have been a part of my life growing up in rural Ontario, to the point where I never really thought anything different about them. My parents were involved with the local credit union in Wyoming, Bluewater Milk Transport Co-operative, the agriculture supply store co-op in Forest and Wanstead Farmers Co-op. I am always impressed and appreciate how co-operatives show concern for community. My family was also very involved in the community in multiple ways.  

If there is one thing you would want people to know about co-ops, what would it be?

Education and communication are always important. I think that to my point of growing up not knowing much about co-operatives even though our family was immersed in them, I know there are far too many people who know very little about them. We need to do better about getting our information out there and educating the public about co-operatives. 

Why is your co-operative a member of OCA?

Because it’s the right thing to do. Gay Lea Foods has been a longstanding member and supporter of the Ontario Co-operative Association. We believe in and live the principles of Concern for the Community and Co-operation among Co-operatives. 

What do you think are some of the benefits of being a member of OCA?

Being part of the unified voice and participating in the movement to educate the public about co-operatives. 

Why did you decide to join the OCA board as a Director?

My manager asked me if I would be interested, and it has been a long time since I was on a Board as a director, but I have loads of experience working with Boards from the employee side of things.

How has your past experience helped you in this role?

I’ve been involved with youth leadership development programs (4-H & CYL) for over thirty years. Hopefully my past experience working with Boards will help me to be a productive member of the board and help achieve some of OCA’s goals.

What do you think are some of the opportunities and challenges facing OCA in the next 3 - 5 years?

OCA is in a rebuilding phase right now (2023) and needs to focus on their core priorities: being relevant to their membership, while providing co-operative education and youth development programming, and government relations/advocacy support.

What is your vision for OCA?

To increase the membership and grow the movement, specifically through their youth leadership and education programs. 

Share a fun/silly thing that not many people know about you!

I’m an award-winning pickler! I had the pleasure of working for a friend at their preserving company during the pandemic. During this time, I picked up some of my mom’s recipes along with others, and entered some of my batches in the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. 

Contact Craig Steven at