[UPDATE (at bottom): Nov. 13, 2020] Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (COYF) alumni, nominees and guests will have to wait another year to experience the hospitality of the “Paris of the Prairies,” as the 2020 national awards event to be held in Saskatoon in early December has been cancelled.
- Read more: COYF plans virtual program
The Saskatchewan regional committee of Outstanding Young Farmers was well underway earlier this year with plans to host the national awards program in Saskatoon, but decided earlier this summer that with group-socializing restrictions related to COVID-19 it was best to pull the pin completely.
“It was a difficult decision,” says Darlene Krikau, chairperson of the Saskatchewan OYF board of directors. “But we felt that the personal contact of the OYF program, getting to meet, socialize and network with each other face-to-face, was such an important element of what the program is about that trying to organize a virtual awards program just wouldn’t be the same.
“Another important element of the national program is to bring alumni together in various parts of the country to tour and experience agricultural operations and the community and culture of the hosting province,” says Krikau. “That experience would also be lost with a virtual online awards program.”
Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers Program was gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary in Saskatoon in 2020. There are seven regional (or provincial) OYF organizations across the country, and each year those regional bodies stage a competition to nominate a farm couple “that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture.”
Those regional nominees come together at the national awards program where two nominees are selected as Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for that year. The competition is open to participants 18 to 39 years of age making the majority of income from on-farm sources.
And that was another complication of trying to hold the national awards program in December — while some of the regional committees had selected their nominees for the year, others still had to hold their regional competitions later in 2020. “With the social-gathering restrictions, it would have been difficult for regional committees to organize their regional competitions,” says Krikau.
Regional winners named earlier in the year include Roelof and Mary van Benthem, dairy farmers from Spruceview, Alta.; Raymond and Tracey Bredenhof, poultry and hop producers from Abbottsford, B.C.; Andre and Katie Steppler, a mixed grain and livestock operation near Miami, Man.; and Phillip and Katie Keddy, potato, fruit and beef producers from Lakeville, N.S.
The national OYF awards program usually alternates between eastern and western Canadian hosting committees. In 2019, the national awards were hosted by the Atlantic Canada region in Fredericton, N.B. The Saskatchewan regional OYF group, in its invitation to host the national program in the province, referred to Saskatoon as “The Paris of the Prairies.” This complimentary term was apparently coined by the late Gord Downey, lead singer of the rock band The Tragically Hip.
“Planning that was started for the 2020 awards program in Saskatoon will just be rolled over to 2021 and, hopefully, we will be able to hold the national program in Saskatoon in early December next year,” says Krikau.
Similarly, any of the regional nominees that were selected before the decision was made to cancel the 2020 event will stand as the regional nominees for those provinces in 2021.
In the meantime, the 2019 Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers, Justin and Laura Rogers of Atlantic Canada and Simon Michaud and Mylene Bourque of Quebec, will carry the most recent national honours for another year.
The OYF program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer, Sollio Agriculture, CN and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; media partners WS and Glacier FarmMedia; and supported nationally by BDO and Farm Management Canada.
*Update: A virtual event will be held on Dec. 4, 2020. For more details, visit oyfcanada.com.