Meeru Dhalwala, one of the three judges, commented, “In addition to judging such amazing farms as businesses, I was personally enriched by learning in greater depth how their farms work and how important so many family members of different generations are to the success of current and future farms of Canada.”
Both families assessed the challenges they face in farming and found new and innovative ways to address them, one taking over a generational farm and the other starting from scratch.
“Once again, the seven regional finalists exceeded our expectations as innovative, forward thinking, young agricultural leaders. The judging process of evaluating their applications, presentations, and interviews was not easy. The National Winners are strong role models and oozed with everything positive in their agricultural operations,” said OYF past president, Luanne Lynn.
Understanding that high inputs and timely rains were not always sustainable on a southern Saskatchewan grain farm, Axten Farms began to research their soil food web and soil biology. Their motto became “soil is our most valuable resource so how can we improve its health” and, the microscope became their best soil health tool. With cost of production and the soil’s health as their key focus, they have now incorporated intercrops (seeding one or more crops together), cover crops, controlled traffic farming (using same track for all operations), compost extract and compost teas into their operation. It is a real change in mindset for a Saskatchewan farmer.
Working with a human resource specialist, Véronique & François developed an employee guide that has helped to minimize the employee challenges that comes with their vegetable industry. They feel that enjoying your work, humour, a sense of achievement, and positive feedback all contribute to job satisfaction for their local employees. Aux petits oignons is fully organically certified, and offers weekly subscriptions for vegetable baskets as well as produce through their farm and local markets. They want to recreate the bond between urban residents and farmers while building confidence in authenticity, quality and freshness of their product.
Every year this event brings recognition to outstanding farmers in Canada between 18 and 39 years of age who have exemplified excellence in their profession while fostering better urban-rural relations. Axten’s and Bouchard/Handfield were chosen from seven regional finalists, including the following honourees from the other five regions:
- Gary & Marie Baars - Chilliwack, B.C.
- Marc & Hinke Therrien - Redwater, Atla.
- Brent & Kirsty Oswald – Steinbach, Man.
- Dusty Zamecnik- Langton, Ont.
- Lauchie & Jolene MacEachern- Debert, N.S.
Celebrating 37 years, 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, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative. The national media sponsor is Annex Business Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.