Farmers honoured for innovations

Innovative ideas grown by Ontario farmers were celebrated May 22 at a ceremony honouring local winners of the province’s regional awards for innovation excellence.

“These innovations help to strengthen our local agri-food sector, which is such an important contributor to Ontario’s economy,” said Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson.

“These awards show that our province celebrates the achievements of our rural innovators.”

The Premier’s Agri-Food Innovation Excellence Awards are part of a $2.5-million, five-year program (now in its third year) established to recognize innovators who contribute to the success of Ontario’s agri-food sector.  

Local events across the province are recognizing 55 regional award winners, who are receiving $5,000 each for their innovations.

Area winners included Best Baa Farm in Conn, Lawrence Brubacher of Harriston and the Ontario Farm Animal Council in Guelph.

Best Baa Farm

Eric Bzikot counts ideas instead of sheep at night. This innovator has created a value-added venture for his farm that also benefits other producers.

A processing plant and a small co-op have been established for the sale of sheep milk product. The co-op currently produces 12 types of artisan sheep cheese, two types of yogurt and is looking at potential in the ice cream market.

With distribution to 60 stores and restaurants, Best Baa is creating innovative growth opportunities for Ontario’s sheep milk product market.

Lawrence Brubacher

Calves in Wellington County get the royal treatment by having their milk delivered right to them whenever they want it. 

Lawrence Brubacher spent several months devising an automated system that includes a heated outdoor tank and pipeline.  He knew there had to be a way to save the time it took to manually feed all his calves with buckets. 

Now, Brubacher is happy, the calves are happy and healthy, and the system may be coming to other farms in Ontario and Canada in the near future.

Ontario Farm Animal Council

Do you want “the real dirt on farming?” The Ontario Farm Animal Council offers a booklet under the same name, just one of the many creative materials it has developed over the past 20 years to promote agricultural awareness.

The council continuously finds innovative ways to tell the story of Ontario’s farmers. Almost 100,000 visitors have accessed its “Virtual Farm Tours” with a click of their computer mouse. People also enjoy the “Faces of Farming” calendar, which is sold out each year.

The non-profit education organization is a leader in developing resources and participating in events that help educate and raise awareness of Ontario’s agri-food sector. 

About the award

In its first three years, the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence has attracted more than 550 applications highlighting on-farm innovations.  

A farmer, primary producer, groups of farmers, combination of agri-food businesses or an agri-food related organization are all eligible for recognition under this initiative. A farmer must be one of the applicants of any group.

This program is not intended for the research community as there are other government recognition programs available to this sector.

Applicant/nominees must reside in Ontario and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Ontario public service staff and immediate family are not eligible to apply for this program.

Examples of innovations for this program include (but are not limited to) improved farm practices, responding to consumer demands, environmental stewardship, health and safety on the farm, energy innovations, education and marketing of agriculture to society, and promoting local food.

Ontario’s agri-food sector is one of the province’s leading industries, contributing more than $33-billion to the economy every year.