The national awards for Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (COYF) stayed east in 2019 as Justin and Laura Rogers of Brae, P.E.I., and Simon Michaud and Mylène Bourque of Kamouraska, Que. were chosen in December as overall winners from seven regional OYF finalists from the across the country.
At competitions hosted by the Atlantic Canada OYF committee and held in Fredericton, N.B., the Roger’s mixed farming operation on Prince Edward Island called Picturesque Farms and Michaud and Bourque’s dairy operation, Ferme Règika Inc., on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, east of Quebec City, won the nod of judges for national award honours following three days of interviews and presentations.
In the 39-year history of the Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, often two farm couples from across Canada, usually (but not always) representing Eastern and Western Canadian regions are selected each year from the group of seven regional finalists.
At Picturesque Farms, the Rogers produce pedigreed seed, forages and beef cattle. Justin’s love for agriculture began when he purchased his first heifer at age eight and his first tractor at 13. Picturesque Farms requires feasibility studies and business plans for all major projects or investments while their pedigreed seed business relies on ongoing communication with local customers. In 2020, thanks to Dairy Farmers PEI New Entrant Program, they will be converting their 75-head beef cattle sector to a dairy operation.
Simon Michaud considered different career paths before returning after college to the family’s fifth generation dairy farm. Mylène Bourque, who was raised on a farm as well, always knew she loved agriculture, so it was an easy decision to follow her heart and join Simon in Ferme Règika Inc. After a freestall barn built in 2005 didn’t perform as well as expected, the couple remodeled again to develop a tie-stall dairy barn, which improved cow comfort and led to improved herd performance, increasing their average milk production from 9,500 to 10,600 kg per cow.
The scale of farming operation isn’t a factor in who wins awards says Steve Cooper, incoming chair of COYF program. “It’s so easy in Canadian agriculture to have the ‘wow’ factor revolve around size and scale of operations,” says Cooper.
“In our program it’s way down the list and our chosen honorees have proven that once again this year. Incredible passion, business acumen, the ability to change on a dime, and taking really tough scenarios and not only surviving them but turning them into real successes. This is the real ‘wow.’ This is what makes our farmers ‘outstanding.’”
The other regional finalists for 2019 were: Dallas Vert and Natasha Pospisil, Conquest Agro Services Ltd., Kirriemuir, Alta.; Will and Jen Bergmann, Bergmann Bros., Glenlea, Man.; James and Cammy Lockwood, Lockwood Farms, Cobble Hill, B.C.; Jason Ranger, Jaran Farms Ltd., Shellbrook, Sask.; and Jan and Jony Roos, Roos Dairy Goats Ltd.-Brownsville, Ont.
The search is underway for the 2020 regional finalists.
COYF is sponsored by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer, Sollio Agriculture and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The program is supported nationally by BDO and Farm Management Canada.