Cropthorne Farm takes BC Outstanding Young Farmers award
By Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ Program
A third generation farmer who chose not to take over her parent's 18-acre vegetable greenhouse but instead strike out on her own has been named the 2014 BC & Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer. Twenty-nine-year-old Lydia Ryall of Cropthorne Farm in Delta, B.C. was named the 2014 recipient of the prestigious award at a ceremony in Abbotsford on January 16.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from the University of Lethbridge and a diploma in Agriculture Production from Olds College in Alberta, Ryall worked for several years as an environmental farm planner in Alberta before returning home to Delta.
After beginning a market garden on a corner of her parents property in south Delta, Lydia and her sister Rachel moved to Westham Island four years ago. Lydia now grows over 50 crops and raises 100 free-range laying hens on 10 acres.
"We focus on high value crops and crops which you can't find in regular grocery stores," says Ryall. Using two small greenhouses (one movable), tunnels, row covers and raised beds allows Cropthorne Farm to grow crops 10 months of the year. The farm's products are sold through five farmers markets in the summer and two winter markets. Cropthorne Farm also operates a CSA box program which has grown from 25 members in 2010 to 90 in 2013 and added a farm stand in 2013.
Cropthorne Farm is certified organic by the Fraser Valley Organic Producers Association. Although Ryall believes in organic principles, she notes the decision to become certified was a "business" rather than a philosophical decision.
"It's what my customers want," she says.
Lydia and Rachel have two full-time year-round employees and three full-time seasonal employees. Full-time staff are augmented by up to eight part-time employees and "apprentices." Encouraging the apprentices is very important to Ryall, who notes two of her apprentices are now farming on their own while a third has become a full-time Cropthorne Farm employee.
Cropthorne Farm uses the tag line of "Real. Good. Honest. Food." Ryall saying it summarizes the farm's mission. "I want my farm to be a positive example of sustainable agriculture."
Ryall won the award over three other finalists that included Jacqueline and Richard Boer of Elmido (dairy) Farms and Brightside Poultry in Chilliwack and the Lower Nicola Cattle Company in Merritt, broiler growers Kerry and Anita Froese of Triple F Enterprises in Abbotsford and blueberry grower Anmol Mahil of Mahil Packers in Abbotsford.
To be eligible for the Outstanding Young Farmer award, farmers must be between 19 and 39 years and derive at least two thirds of their income from farming. Nominees are judged on conservation practices, production history, financial and management practices, and community contributions. Selecting the winners were OYF alumnus Karen Brown, Abbotsford turkey and egg producer Ray Nickel and Chilliwack agricultural consultant Walt Goerzen.
Ryall will now represent BC at the national OYF competition this fall.
The BCOYF program is sponsored by BMO Bank of Montreal, BC Broiler Hatching Egg Commission, BC Egg Producers Association, BC Chicken Marketing Board, BC Milk Marketing Board, Clearbrook Grain & Milling, Country Life in BC, Farm Credit Canada, Ritchie Smith Feeds, RBC Royal Bank, and TD Canada Trust.
Celebrating 34 years of identifying great agricultural successes, Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers' program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer CropScience, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and supported nationally by AdFarm and Farm Management Canada.
Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers for 2014 will be chosen at the National Event in Quebec City, Quebec from November 26-30, 2014.