A grain farming couple from Saskatchewan and market
gardeners from Ontario were named Canada’s newest Outstanding Young Farmers
(OYF), Friday, at a national awards ceremony held at the elegant Empress Hotel
in Victoria, B.C.
Ryan and Lauren Maurer, who crop 11,300 acres with their
family at Grenfell, Saskatchewan, and Steve and Lisa Cooper, who along with
their family, grow vegetables and involve the community in their farming
operation at Zephyr, just north of Toronto, were selected the two national winners
before a panel of three judges.
(Pictured, making their
acceptance remarks, from left Lisa and Steve Cooper, and Ryan and Lauren Mauer)
The Maurers and Coopers were among a field of seven OYF
couples from across Canada who were selected as regional winners earlier this
year. Also vying for the national award were Josh Oulton and Patricia Bishop of
Port Williams, Nova Scotia; Jean-Francois Lemieux and Mylene Gagnon from
Saint-Vallier, Quebec; Jan and Tracy Bassa of La Broquerie, Manitoba; Ryan and
Annette Mercer of Lethbridge, Alberta and Gene and Shelly Covert of Oliver BC.
For the first time in the history of the program, a federal
agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz was on hand for the awards banquet, and was
event was Steven L. Pointe, Lieutenant Governor of B.C.
Senior OYF judge Garry Meier, who farms with his family near
Tisdale, Saskatchewan described the difficult task of trying to select only two
winners from a field of excellent candidates, all deserving of the award. He
said the judges were recommending to the OYF board that in the future the
number of regional nominees be trimmed to six (instead of seven) making it
easier for judges to “roll the dice” to select winners. Completing the judging
panel were Ross Hudson, an agriculture consultant from BC and James Peel,
general manager of Holstein Quebec.
It was the 30th year of the awards program, which
was launched in 1980 by the Jaycee organization as a means of recognizing the
talents and achievements of young farmers across Canada. Although the program
is now managed by the alumni of the OYF program, hundreds of farm couples from
all parts of the country, involved in all sectors of agriculture have been
As Derrick Rozdeba, on behalf of long-time OYF sponsor Bayer
Crop Science told nominees in remarks at the awards banquet, as the best of the
best “this program is not about winning. With the skills and knowledge you have
it is about going forward to mentor other young farmers to be successful.”
The Maurers and their four children operate Land & Sky
Grains Inc., an extensive cropping operation they have expanded and developed
They produce a wide range of grains, oilseeds and specialty
crops including spices, with 75 percent of their operation today involving
production of crops under an Identity Preserved system for specific end users.
The Coopers and their two children started with a mixed
farming operation, but have developed it into a successful market garden
operation producing a wide range of vegetables crops. They have also developed
a successful agri-tourism operation that each year hosts about 12,000 urban
visitors who come to participate in the farming “experience” and also wander
through an elaborately designed corn maze. Another aspect of their farm
business is an expanding Community Shared Agriculture program that involves
supplying some 400 subscriber or member families with fresh vegetables
throughout the year.
Along with Bayer Crop Science, other long-time national
sponsors of the OYF program include CIBC, John Deere and Agriculture Canada.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact
him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]