COG's Governance Model
Canadian Organic Growers consists of a national office, eight regional chapters and four affiliated organizations. COG and its chapters are federally incorporated as a single legal entity which has been granted charitable status (13014 0494 RR0001). The national board of directors provides support to the COG chapters and their activities which are governed by rules set out in the COG chapter handbook. The affiliated organizations are independent organizations that share similar mandates. These organizations have agreed to work closely with COG to acheive common objectives.
National Board of Directors
COG is governed by a national board of directors elected by the general membership at an annual general meeting (participation at the AGM can be web-based, by telephone or in-person). Where board nominations exceed seats available, COG Supporters (members) are sent voting ballots one month prior to an AGM. All members in good standing at the time of an AGM are eligible to vote (magazine only subscribers do not have voting privileges).
The national board of directors in 2013 has changed from a advisory oriented structure to a new participatory governance structure. The board is now taking more of a leadership role through governance of 6 new committees that provide an opportunity for our board members, cog supporters, chapter volunteers and COG staff to collaborate and support the evolution of the organization. Management of ongoing activities and implementation of COG's strategic plan is still overseen by staff at the national office in Ottawa, ON.
Rochelle Eisen, British Columbia (President) Rochelle has over 26 years of assurance (verification, certification and standards), extension and consulting experience in and outside the organic sphere. She also works in a collaborative relationship with Dr. Brenda Frick and Gunta Vitins under the banner of Resilient Solutions Consulting, “a diverse, skilled and experienced agri-business consulting team that influences positive change through an innovative and open minded approach”.
Rochelle is involved with the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Safe agriculture program, which is focused on watershed health sufficient for native salmon to spawn and thrive. She is also an active member of CFIA’s Standards Interpretation Committee, and the Preparation Working Group convener for the Canadian General Standards Board Organic Technical Committee. In addition to being the President of COG, she is a founding member of the Society for Organic Land Care.
This is her second term as President of the Board of Directors.
Av Singh (Vice President) Av serves as the Organic & Rural Infrastructure Specialist with Perennia in Nova Scotia, working predominantly with organic and small-scale farmers on issues of production, processing and marketing of agricultural goods and services. Av emphasizes farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange and works towards revitalizing rural communities through increasing social capital.
Av has had the privilege of visiting over 2,100 farms across four continents which has shaped his extension of holistic, system-based farm management solutions. Av has authored over 160 peer-reviewed papers, chapters and extension articles, has been an invited speaker to over 400 workshops, conferences and symposia, and has guest-lectured at over 20 universities in Canada and the US. Av currently holds the Chair in Small Farm Sustainability at the Just Us! Centre for Small Farms and is a faculty member at Earth University (Bija Vidyapeeth) in India.
Maryruth Thiong'o (Director) Maryruth’s interest in organics and sustainable living stems from her childhood growing up on a farm; as such she has always been conscious of what she eats and her environmental footprint.
She has worked in the non-profit sector in a variety of roles, including volunteer relations with the Canadian Cancer Society and as part of the Executive Committee for AIESEC where her focus was on strategic planning for the Corporate Relations portfolio. In this role she met and established partnerships with different organizations for the Global Internship Program (GIP). Maryruth has a degree in Psychology, with an option in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, a B.Com in HR and is currently working towards her certified human resource designation.
Janine Gibson, Manitoba (Secretary, Prairie Rep) An author, educator and public speaker, Janine is an organic crop, livestock and process inspector with 20 years’ experience as well as an instructor. The Past President of Canadian Organic Growers, Janine was the recipient of the 2007 Manitoba Eco-Network Environment Award. She lives on a small mixed farm off grid, using solar and wind alternatives near Steinbach, Manitoba. Janine’s goal is to help COG increase organic acres across Canada.
Marilyn Crowley, Ontario (Treasurer) Professionally speaking, Marilyn is a CPA holding degrees in Economics and Commerce but she has been involved full-time in organic agriculture since 2003. Marilyn spent from 2003 to 2014 as the Director of Operations for one of Canada’s largest certified organic greenhouses and is now developing her own integrated agricultural enterprise based on her vision of a sustainable farming system that nurtures both the planet and its people. Marilyn was a member of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers’ Board of Directors and served as the chair of their Finance Committee from 2006 to 2008. She has also been a director on various non-profit Boards (primarily in the Treasurer’s position) for the past 25 years and has served as Treasurer on the COG Board of Directors since May 2015.
Sarah Dobec, Ontario (Director) It is with great enthusiasm that Sarah serves on the Canadian Organic Growers Board. Sarah believes organizations such as COG are vital for consumer education, collaboration for the sector and a voice for organics. She is eager to be a part of this work. Her skills and experience in management, planning, teaching and PR are certainly an asset to the organization.
In addition to her role on the COG board, Sarah is also a current board member for The Big Carrot Natural Food Market. In her daily position at the store she is the Marketing Lead and Public Relations Coordinator and she also sits on the Standards Committee. From 2009–2012 she ran a small tour company called Field Trip, offering trips to local farms to connect city folk to their food. In 2008 she was a CRAFT Intern at Meeting Place Organic Farm and has continued to grow her own food in the city ever since. This is Sarah’s second term on COG’s Board of Directors..
Sheila Hamilton, Alberta (Director) Sheila and her husband Ron purchased their farm near Armena, Alberta in 1992 and immediately began the process of organic certification. Sunworks Farm was certified as organic in 1997 and the Hamilton family started raising their first flock of poultry for sale to the public that year. Sunworks Farm now raises a variety of organic poultry and livestock which they direct market at Farmer’s Markets in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as to selected restaurants and a private school. The farm has a mentorship program where individuals interested in learning about sustainable organic farming practices live with the family in order to learn every aspect of the farm business as well as the full depth of what the family believes in. Education in all aspects of organic agriculture, from the implementation of the new Canadian National Standards to the consumer who purchases organic products is very important to Sheila. Sheila has experience being a part of, or chairing, many non-profit Boards.
Jordan Marr (Director, Pacific Rep): , British Columbia Jordan is a certified organic veggie grower at The Homestead Farm in Peachland, BC. He has been in business for five years. In his spare time, Jordan produces a podcast about farming, gardening, and food politics called The Ruminant. He is also the administrator of SOIL, a non-profit organization that helps facilitate farming apprenticeships in Canada. This is his second term as a COG board member.
Georgina Bencsik, Quebec (Director) Georgina is a Director of the United Nations Association in Canada (National Capital Region Branch), Director of the Canadian Friends of Haifa University, and Climate Leader / Champion with Nobel Laureate Al Gore's Climate Reality Project.
She has much experience in leadership roles cross Canada for various not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations, and charitable organizations. She joined COG in August 2014 and has a strong passion for sustainability, particularly in areas related to the environment, food and food security, stewardship and water.
Niki Jabbour, Nova Scotia (Director) Niki is an organic food gardener, and dedicated to creating an environment that celebrates diversity and protects the entire ecosystem - from the soil organisms to the groundwater to the pollinators to her family. She aims to work with nature, paying particular attention to the soil health. Their garden is approximately 2000 square feet, and they harvest from this space year round and keep the soil in peak shape is essential. They also encourage diversity in their ornamental gardens, opting for native plants or those that thrive in our zone 5 B garden.
She brings to COG a strong knowledge and over 20 years’ experience in organic gardening, as well as extensive reach to home gardeners through my writing, radio show, speaking and social media presence.
Trevor Aleman (Director) Trevor has been farming organically in southern Alberta since 1989 when he worked on his father’s market garden. He took over the family business in 1999 and has been certified organic since 2000. Currently he wholesales onions, garlic and potatoes to Calgary and Edmonton, and grows small amounts of many other vegetables for his own market stall. Trevor also teaches high school full-time. He is married with six children ages 7-20. He has been on the board of Organic Alberta for three years and presently serves as the Secretary. He hopes to be a prairie voice on the COG board to help it build a strong organic network across Canada.
Shannon Brown (Director) Shannon joins COG’s Board of Directors with a lifelong dedication to promoting sustainable agriculture. With over ten years of experience in the Canadian non-profit sector, including most recently at the executive level in her role as Director of Business Development and Commercial Relations at Fairtrade Canada, she has demonstrated her passion for increasing justice in the world. She believes that you cannot have justice without accessible, healthy food. Everyone, including the most disadvantaged, needs access to sustainably grown, nutritious food, and it is her view that organic production is integral to meeting this need. She is pleased to contribute her skills in non-profit management and governance to help COG realize its vision and empower people from all different backgrounds to grow their own food and support their local farmers.
Shannon Jones (Director) Shannon owns and operates Broadfork Farm in Nova Scotia with her partner Bryan. They make their living by growing organic vegetables and herbs as well as cut flowers. They’ve been getting more and more into vegetable seed production and are excited to raise Khaki Campbell ducks this year for the first time! Shannon has been a committed organic eater since she was a teenager. While no longer a teenager, she still fits into the category of “young farmer” and has been involved with the NFU Youth and is on the steering committee of the National New Farmer Coalition. She has been completely inspired and thrilled to serve as a board member with ACORN (who she also represents on the Canadian Organic Technical Committee) and is happy to offer her time and energy to the good work the national COG Board does.
Tara Scott (Director) Tara Scott has been the Organic Transition Coordinator with ACORN since 2013. She studied at Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Olds College in Alberta. Tara managed production and marketing on farms in South Western Ontario and trained interns in the Principles and Practices of Organic Agriculture program through Ignatius Jesuit Centre. She has also worked with the Organic Council of Ontario, FarmStart and Ecocert Canada.
As the Organic Transition Coordinator Tara works to support new entrants and existing producers in their transition to organic certification as well as develop certification resources and training in organic production and marketing. Through facilitating kitchen table meetings and coordination of ACORN’s Annual Conference, Tara works to provide further outreach and networking opportunities to the organic sector in Atlantic Canada.
She is a member of the CFIA Standards Interpretation Committee and looks forward to building further relationships with members of the organic sector nationally.