An egg farmer from Quebec, the late Ovila Lebel was a visionary, a trailblazer and an architect of Canadian supply management. He left his mark on Quebec and Canadian agriculture with his pioneering spirit and persistence to unite egg production across Canada in what would become today’s Egg Farmers of Canada.
In 1964, Ovila founded what became the first federated, province-wide, table-egg producers’ marketing board in Canada – and served as president of the Quebec egg producers’ federation for 18 years.
After establishing Quebec’s egg marketing board, Ovila quickly realized that it would be necessary for all provinces in Canada to work together to develop a coordinated egg production system. In 1965, he advocated for provincial egg producers to unite as one group. Within a few years, his dream was taking shape as he travelled around the country making contacts and friends and setting a plan in motion for the creation of the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, established in 1972, and now known as the Egg Farmers of Canada.
Also in the 1970s, Ovila urged the government to establish federal legislation regulating eggs and poultry production across Canada. The Farm Products Agencies Act – that owes its existence to Ovila’s vision and persistence – has grown to regulate chicken, turkey and hatching eggs across Canada and helps ensure a living wage for farmers.
Ever the visionary, he faced some significant challenges in his career and one of his most notable quotes summed up his collaborative approach “Nothing can resist the strength of a group united under common objectives.”
Ovila’s contributions to Canadian agriculture were seen at the local level in his 20-year presidency of the Nicolet Egg Producers’ Union, at the provincial level as founder and 18-year president of the Quebec egg producers’ federation, and at the national level when he helped establish the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency and 10-year term as a board member. In 2002, he was inducted into Quebec’s Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Ovila Lebel was a man of action and a man of his word. His vision and dedication created a national organization for egg producers that led the way for other farmer-led commodity groups.