RUSSELL – Tom Van Dusen, longest-serving manager of the Ottawa Valley Farm Show, has resigned, a decision prompted by deteriorating working conditions in the past 18 months.
This comes a little more than a month after the 90th anniversary show.
His departure was made official at the Tues., April 11 meeting of the Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association (OVSGA). Along with Van Dusen, longtime directors John and Mary Joynt, Lynda McCuaig and Jim Arbuckle also stepped down.
“For most of the time I served in the position, I was pleased and proud to be known as the farm show manager,” Van Dusen said. “I felt I was part of something reflective of a vibrant Eastern Ontario agricultural industry.”
After answering a job posting and being interviewed along with a number of other applicants, Van Dusen got the job.
“I had been a reporter for daily newspapers and had worked on Parliament Hill. But my roots were rural and I had developed an appreciation for agriculture,” he said.
At the time, Van Dusen explained, the OVSGA had established a trend of hiring news media people as manager, a nod to their promotional skills.
“I had become an agricultural writer and managing the show on a part-time basis fit right in. I followed Hal Botham of CJET in Smiths Falls, and television personality Cindy Day who did the job for a year,” he said.
Unhappily, but predictably, most good things come to an end, Van Dusen noted.
“Over the past 18 months, the spirit of camaraderie surrounding the show has withered,” he said. “Several overlapping committees were formed under the direction of relatively new board members, and the manager’s role was reduced.”
For 15 years, Van Dusen noted, support from the board and former secretary-treasurer Mary Joynt led to a successfully organized show, including the relocation to a new site.
“It was a money-maker, it was recognized as one of the best in North America by the Farm Show Council, and it was seen as a friendly, down-home event,” he said. “Faced with increasing undermining and obstacles, I’ve continued to get the job done. But the spirit has gone out of it, at least for me.”
Van Dusen added that despite being structured as a not-for-profit, new personnel view the show as “big business,” and aim to operate it as such.
“They’ve imposed bureaucratic procedures, typical of government department, and they push out anyone seen as getting in their way,” he said. “And they don’t understand the essential nature of the show.”
The four directors are said to have resigned for the identical reasons.
Jim McCuaig, who had served as webmaster for the association, also resigned in late 2016, and according to him “the organization has some serious internal problems to resolve.”
Those remaining with the OVSGA have remained quiet when questioned about the recent departures.