Two eastern Canadian farm couples have been named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (CYOF) for 2016.
Andrew and Jennifer Lovell of Keswick Ridge, NB and Dominic Drapeau and Célia Neault of Ste-Françoise-de-Lotbinière, Que., were named to receive the national honours at the CYOF annual awards program held in Niagara Falls, Ont. in early December.
The two farming couples were selected from a field of seven regional nominees from across the country. While in past award years it has usually worked out that one of the awards went East and one went West, the CYOF policy aims to pick the top two regardless of geographic location.
“And it is a very difficult decision too,” says Luanne Lynn, CYOF president who lives near Moose Jaw, Sask. “All the regional nominees are just exceptional farmers, so making that final decision is extremely difficult.
“The judges spend much more time with each couple than the public sees. They get to know each couple more closely, and not only learn about their farming operations, but their commitment to family life, their commitment to the community and to commodity organizations and the industry. The judges use a scoring system and this year they said it came down to just a few points separating these regional nominees. They are all exceptional.”
Both national award families have dreamed of owning their own farm since they were young and were not afraid to make changes and embrace technology along the way. Their entrepreneurial spirits and adaptability has made them successful both on and off the farm.
“All of this year’s regional honourees have shown us their incredible passion for agriculture,” says Lynn. “It was extremely difficult for the judges to make their decision, but ultimately our winners stood out for their state-of-the art thinking and commitment to the future of Canadian agriculture.”
The Lovell’s story is different than most farm couples. Neither of them grew up on a farm. In 2012 they purchased their farm River View Orchards, west of Fredericton, with roots tracing back to 1784, and created a diversified u-pick fruit and vegetable operation.
It wasn’t an easy start as they sustained $100,000 in wildlife damage to their crop in 2014, but they persevered and adapted their plans until they were able to begin full production again. By offering fence and trellis construction services and building attractions that brought more than 1,400 visitors to their farm they were able to carry on with the farm they have always dreamed of.
Drapeau and Neault are third-generation dairy and field crop southern Quebec farmers who are not afraid to make changes and embrace technology. Raised in a farming family, Dominic got involved in the family business at a young age. When he was 16, he was performing artificial insemination on cows and developed his management skills by taking over the herd and feeding responsibilities.
In the barn they use genomic testing on young animals, motion detectors for reproduction, a smart scale on the mixer-feeder and temperature probes close to calving. In the fields, the farm uses a satellite navigation system for levelling, draining, seeding, fertilizing and spraying. With these innovations over the last four years, they have enabled the farm to increase overall yields by five to 10 per cent each year.
Celebrating 36 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.
Nominations are now open for the 2017 regional competition. Details are available at oyfcanada.com.