Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence

2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2012-13 / 2011 / 2010 / 2009 / 2008 / 2007 / 2006

Message from the Premier

On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I am delighted to welcome the leaders of and stakeholders in the agriculture and food industry to the Premier's 2008 Agri-Food Summit.This event coincides with The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence - an ideal opportunity to recognize the contributions of outstanding individuals in the industry and to celebrate the spirit of innovation that has helped to build Ontario's much-envied prosperity and quality of life.

A strong agricultural sector is vital to creating and sustaining a strong and dynamic society. In today's competitive global market, agricultural innovation is essential to our province's success. That is why we remain committed to working with our industry partners to develop a long-term comprehensive strategy to help keep the agri-food sector moving forward. Be assured that we remain committed to doing our utmost to ensure the ongoing vitality of our agri-food industry, and to foster a culture of excellence in the agri-food sector.

As Premier, I am proud to recognize the farmers who have thrived in this competitive business through their vision, creativity and hard work.My special congratulations go out to the award recipients. Your ideas are crucial to generating new products, creating jobs and building opportunity.

Please accept my best wishes for an inspiring awards ceremony as we continue to work together to build an even stronger Ontario for present and future generations.

Dalton McGuinty, Premier

Message from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Our government is committed to fostering a culture of innovation in every sector of the agriculture industry in Ontario. Ontario's innovators create jobs, build our economy and develop new markets, and we know that encouraging agricultural innovations will help our agri-food sector get ahead in a challenging marketplace.

The call for nominees for the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program, now in its second year, brought submissions from over 125 inspiring individuals and businesses who shared with us their ideas, inventions and innovations. It is important to highlight that the spirit of innovation is alive and well on farms and in rural communities across Ontario.

It gives me great pleasure to recognize the 2007 recipient of the Minister's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. On behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I congratulate all 55 winners of the 2007 Premier's, Minister's and regional awards for Agri-Food Innovation, and salute everyone who shared their stories with us. I wish you every success in 2008.

Leona Dombrowsky,Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Premier’s Award Winner

High Tunnels Extend Field Crop Growing Season

Bill and Caroline Nightingale flew to Europe on an 'under cover'mission. They researched the benefits of covering vegetable crops under high tunnels, a practice used in Portugal, Spain and England. Seeing 20,000 acres flourishing under canopy convinced them that bringing the idea home to Ontario would result in greater yields and a better product. They were right.

The high tunnels, which were modified for Ontario's climate, have extended their growing season by six to eight weeks, doubled cropping opportunities, decreased pressures from insects and disease and resulted in a high quality, consistent product.

The Nightingales have implemented a change in Ontario fresh vegetable farming - helping growers move from conventional field production to covered production, and towards organic production.

Through their company, Tunnel Tech, they manufacture and market high tunnels to other growers. They not only sell the systems, but also provide valuable technology transfer in the form of research data on varieties, yields, use of plastics and irrigation, and demonstration days.

When it comes to enhancing Ontario's fresh vegetable growing opportunities - B & C Nightingale Farms have things covered.|

Minister’s Award Winner

Freeze Dry Technology Captures Value

David and Lynn Freeman know that freeze-drying plant material preserves the quantity of the active component found in plants for nutraceuticals. They worked extensively with the University of Guelph to develop freeze-dry technology that captures Mother Nature's gifts. As a result of this work, their farm's first project is to manufacture garlic powder with allicin.

Freeman Farms also built a state-of-the-art large-scale, good management practice certified processing plant that can freeze-dry botanicals such as garlic, blueberries, herbs and other plant material. Its equipment is the first of its kind in Ontario.

The facility meets standards for processing pharmaceuticals for humans, which opens the door to exciting new opportunities for the future. The ability to produce freeze-dried fruits and vegetables of this standard can potentially enable other Ontario farmers to partner with feed and pharmaceutical companies to produce nutraceutical supplements and whole foods.

By taking the initiative to develop freeze-dry technology and build a new facility, Freeman Farms is creating some very "cool"innovative opportunities for Ontario's agri-food industry.|

Regional Award Winners

6093400 Canada Ltd. Norfolk Apiaries - Norfolk County

Andreas Sperlich's engineering background helped him look at the apiary world with a creative and functional perspective. He came up with a sweet invention. The "Bee O Pac" is unique in that bees pack their own product directly into thermo-moulded consumer-ready packages. This innovation has resulted into a field-to-fork experience, with product uptake in Canada, as well as the US, Mexico and Europe. Harvesting with Bee O Pac is efficient because it involves 75 per cent less human handling and labour than other systems. The Bee O Pac has added new value to a very old product.

753289 Ontario Ltd. O/A Burt's Greenhouses - Lennox and Addington County

What's old is new again with this greenhouse grower's innovation. Brian Burt has come up with a modern equivalent of the old-fashioned hot bed for growing plants in a greenhouse. The innovation makes use of lightweight steel support pieces and a nylon line which supports a common plastic cover. The heat source comes from regular polyethylene pipes which have been buried in gravel to circulate hot water underneath the plants as the heat source. This innovation evolved from the recognition that growing plants outdoors results in more robust plants, compared to the greenhouse environment. The hot bed protects tender seedlings from frost and, at the same time, offers the benefits of sun and wind for plants growing in an outdoor area. This innovation allows plants to be transplanted outside, and opens up greenhouse space for additional plantings.

B & C Nightingale Farms Ltd. - Norfolk County

When Bill and Caroline Nightingale saw 20,000 acres of fresh vegetables flourishing under a canopy of high tunnels in Europe, they were convinced the idea would help grow a better product and greater yields back home in Ontario. They were right. High tunnels have extended their growing season by six to eight weeks, doubled cropping opportunities, decreased insect and disease pressures, and resulted in a quality, consistent product. The Nightingales have implemented a change in Ontario fresh vegetable farming - helping growers move from conventional field production to covered production, and towards organic production. Their company, Tunnel Tech Farming, makes and markets high tunnels to other growers. When it comes to enhancing Ontario's fresh vegetable growing opportunities - this farm has things covered.

Blueberry Hill Estate - Norfolk County

Blueberry Hill Estate's tourism project introduced by Dale Vranckx in Norfolk County will turn its existing farmers' market into a major tourist destination, by adding an agri- and eco-safari, an education centre, a winery and distillery offering tastings and tours, and an outdoor expo. All this will be topped off with tunnel technology in the blueberry patch. Covering the blueberry patch with tunnels will make a completely sealed enclosure, eliminating pest problems, improving berry quality and increasing yields of organically-grown fruit.

Blue Water Black Calf Producers Association - Bruce County

A group of Bruce Peninsula area calf producers took the initiative to create a strategic alliance, the Blue Water Black Calf Producers Association. They came up with a concept that improves animal health and welfare and creates a fresh marketing angle for their product. The Association developed a vaccination protocol for use by a group of smaller producers to enable the production of a uniform herd. As a result, the calves are sought by buyers looking for large uniform lots of healthy animals. This innovation benefits all in the chain - from producer, to sale barn, feedlot and the consumer.

Brier Run Alpacas/Edy's Mills Fine Fibres - Lambton County

In Lambton County, Brier Run Alpacas and Edy's Mills Fine Fibres have created a new measure of productivity on the farm - the number of socks per acre. This value-added partnership raises alpacas, harvests their fibre and turns it into a wide range of consumer products - from cones and skeins of fibre to batting and felt to finished consumer goods. Teamwork means that Norris McAuslan earns a living from his alpaca operation and Heather Blanchard maximizes her investment in mill equipment by using it every day.

Brooymans Farms - Elgin County

Brooymans Farms knows good things come in small packages. Rene Brooyman was one of the first farmers to plant #9 dwarf rootstock apple trees in Ontario. He began sharing his knowledge with other apple growers by hosting tours and educating them on how to manage and achieve high yields in this type of orchard. Today, his is one of the most visited farming operations in the province for this crop specialty. Most commercial apple orchards in Ontario are now on the #9 rootstock. Growing shorter apple trees has reduced labour and spraying costs by 50 per cent, and resulted in higher yields and better returns. The equipment innovations and practices the farm uses have been proven over the years and continue to attract significant attention.

Burt Farm - District of Manitoulin

The operator of a mixed livestock farm with an on-site abattoir on Manitoulin Island introduced a small-scale biodiesel facility to his operation, with the potential to meet his energy requirements. It took some ingenuity to effectively process the fat by-products from the abattoir, but Max Burt has integrated his equipment and labour schedules and now recycles an undesirable product that does not compost well. A few more tweaks to the abattoir furnace and the tractor, and Burt should be able to use the biodiesel year-round.

Carleton Growers Limited - City of Ottawa

Carleton Growers Limited know how to create the sweet smell of success. They developed a new hybrid red rose that has all the good characteristics of a premium rose variety. Partners Fred and Darlene Hogg and Ronald Bazinet conducted the initial propagation of the rose and then sent it for grafting to experts in California, reducing development time from three years to six months. The new 'Kajusaro' rose offers a steady supply of premium hearty plants to wholesale and florist customers. Bushes, patio planters and cut roses are available in this new variety. Consumer response has been overwhelming - and with 30,000 bushes currently in production, everything's coming up roses for these innovative growers.

Char-Creek Farms - Lambton County

John Noorloos of Char-Creek Farms is always busy creating or modifying farm equipment to improve his farm practice. One of his innovations is a tracked manure spreader that has twice the capacity of a conventional solid manure spreader. It includes a hydraulic system with a short (four foot) section of a conventional chain-driven system. His invention is environmentally friendly, reduces soil compaction and has worked well for the operation for many years.

Clovermead Bees & Honey - Elgin County

Creating a buzz. That's what Clovermead Bees & Honey know how to do very well. Christy Hiemstra used an innovative marketing strategy to create additional value from the honey they produce. It has raised public awareness of the importance of honeybees in Ontario food production by educating and entertaining farm guests about the fascinating world of honeybees. The operation produces value-added honey spreads and offers a variety of interactive farm displays and tours for school groups and visitors.

Cornelissen Farms Inc. - Lambton County

George Cornelissen knows how to keep his chickens cozy. He developed a geothermal broiler barn, where the water used for heating the building is preheated in piping located underground in an adjacent field. This innovation is environmentally friendly and has reduced the farm's energy costs by 30 per cent. It has also improved production since the farm is able to monitor and fine-tune heat flow, with temperatures controlled at bird level. The farm is one of the first in Ontario to apply an innovative heating system on a large agricultural scale.

Cornell Farms - Rainy River District

Cornell Farms in the Rainy River District has shifted to direct marketing to better respond to consumer demand. Kim Cornell developed a marketing approach that included branding, the use of a wireless Visa/Debit machine and a range of new beef products that incorporate other local products such as wild rice. As well, consumers have responded in kind, increasing their purchases of beef products at the local farmers' market.

Country Meadow Meats - Grey County

Owen Sound area lamb producer Allan Taylor and his family recognized the potential to market local products and fill a need in the community for custom processing. They bought a local abattoir that enables them to process and market their lambs closer to home. The family-owned business, Country Meadow Meats, includes a retail shop that also sells a variety of other products such as cheeses, preserves, candles, and cereal grains made by other producers. Tourists visiting the region now have another venue to purchase locally grown and crafted products.

Desert Lake Gardens - Frontenac County

Desert Lake Gardens is an oasis of abundance. Owners Pat and Rick Dawson have pioneered an innovative, vertically integrated operation that direct markets and delivers its own, farm-grown organic produce directly to customers via a website, through delivery and a retail shop. The farm offers a wide variety of organically grown vegetables, many of which are specialty items that appeal to a certain clientele and are difficult to find in mass markets. The Dawsons were early innovators in the local foods movement and have created an opportunity for consumers to enjoy a field-to-fork experience.

Durham Region Agricultural Education Committee - Durham Region

Sometimes, it really does take a village. That's the thinking behind a local committee that was formed to lead and develop agricultural awareness initiatives. The Durham Region Agricultural Education Committee uses a range of activities, displays and resource materials to inform the local urban community about the importance of farming, its products, jobs, and the production of safe food. Volunteers involve farmers interacting with youth, students, families, teachers, and the media at different events. One of the group's projects reached over 1,200 students in three days. This work contributes to consumer education, encourages local consumption and contributes to the success of local producers.

East-Central Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers - Northumberland County

The East-Central Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers formed a strategic alliance to develop innovative technology that will help them compete in the wholesale market. Their fruit-tracker software will help growers meet domestic and international buyers' requirements for food safety and good agricultural practices. The system keeps grower records up-to-date, generates reports, analyzes pest management strategies and improves integrated pest management practices. It will provide Ontario's apple and berry growers with the necessary documentation on production practices to access North American and European markets. This innovation is helping Ontario to compete and stand out as a leader in providing the marketplace with safe, traceable apples and berries.

Energrow/Hofarm Ltd. - Perth County

Jasmin Hofer of Energrow/Hofarm Ltd. is squeezing the most out of her opportunities. She designs and manufactures small scale oilseed and vegetable oil presses. The idea is to enable Ontario farmers to process their own oilseeds, producing feed and fuel to minimize costs and generate additional on-farm income. The systems encourage environmental stewardship, due to their energy efficiency, CO2 offset potential and zero net waste.

Fairwind Farms - Lambton County

Mark and Anne-Marie Lumley, of Fairwind Farms in Lambton County, came up with one sweet idea when they developed a way to field pile sugar beets. This North American first allows the Lumleys to clean enough soil off the sugar beets to transport them for processing directly from the field. This method of readying sugar beets for export involves less labour, contributes to the sustainability of the farm, and boosts the bottom line. This innovative approach to harvesting sugar beets has been adopted by four other sugar beet harvesting groups in the county and has attracted groups from the United States to Fairwind Farms.

Featherstone Vineyard and Winery - Niagara Region

You could say he "herd" it through the grapevine. David Johnson of Featherstone Vineyard and Winery takes a novel, environmentally gentle approach to an old routine. He "employs" a small flock of lambs to eat the leaves around the fruiting zone of his grape vines. Growers with standards of excellence remove leaves to produce premium grapes for winemaking. The exposed grape clusters dry faster in the morning, reducing their susceptibility to mildew and the need for spraying with chemicals. Traditionally, growers would remove leaves by hand or by using expensive, specialized machinery imported from Europe. Using the lambs provides an alternative, green approach to vineyard management.

Ferme Blanche Rive - Temiskaming District

The Ferme Blanche Rive farm in Temiskaming has what you could call a 'baby monitor' for cows. The device, based on anti-theft technology, enables the farmer to know when an animal is ready to give birth without having to constantly check on the animal. That gives the farmer an extra forty winks, knowing that there are no false alarms with this innovation. The device is non-invasive and can be adapted for use in other animals.

Fields Farm Ltd. - Lambton County

Fields Farm Ltd. in Lambton County is the first large hog operation in Ontario to earn its certification from the Humane Farm Animal Care organization. Anton Felder made changes to his production practices by adopting new technology, introducing a new feeding approach and enhancing housing facilities for his animals. Looking out for his livestock has consumers looking out for his pork products.

Florence Estate Winery Inc. - Norfolk County

Terry and Margaret Marshall are toasting to their future. They have embraced the idea of alternative crops by growing grapes and establishing a winery in Southwestern Ontario's tobacco belt. The Marshalls showed innovation by modifying tobacco equipment to accommodate grape growing, irrigation, vine staking and harvesting. Their winery is in its second year of full grape production, with 3,000 cases of wine ready for sale this year. With their Florence Estate Winery, the couple plans to attract tourism to the region by conducting tours and demonstrations highlighting the history of tobacco in the area and the unique eco-systems that exist in the property's Carolinian forest.

Freeman Farms - Grey County

David and Lynn Freeman have it over Jack Frost. They know how to capture value by freezing Mother Nature's gifts. The Freemans have built a state-of-the-art, large-scale, good management practice (GMP) certified processing plant to freeze dry botanicals such as garlic, blueberries, herbs and other plant material. The ability to produce GMP-grade freeze-dried fruits and vegetables can potentially enable other Ontario farmers to partner with feed and pharmaceutical companies to produce nutraceutical supplements and whole foods. Freeman Farms' first project is to manufacture garlic powder with allicin.

Gammondale Farm - Thunder Bay District

If you build it, they will come. Susan and Gerald Gammond are constantly adding agri-tourism activities to attract families, students and tourists to their traditional produce farm. On top of growing strawberries, pumpkins, squash and gourds, they
offer a variety of fun and educational experiences that promote the environment, healthy lifestyles and nutrition, and agricultural awareness. Activities that celebrate different seasons and holidays continue to bring people to the Gammondale Farm, rain or shine.

Gilbrea Farm & AgriServices - Wellington County

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in horses can be caused by dust, pollen and fungal spores in hay, but thanks to Bob Wilson's innovative thinking, horses can now breathe easier. He designed and constructed an automated hay bale soaking machine that helps to reduce these air-borne irritants. Bob's time-controlled "Hay-draytor" pneumatically soaks and drains two square hay bales at a time. That means less water consumption, less manual work and better hay for the horse.

Grape Growers of Ontario - Niagara Region

Technology is helping grow better vineyards in Ontario's Niagara region. The VITIS Vine Management System is a grower-driven, farm management resource that intertwines several tools, including geographical information and global positioning systems. VITIS helps producers match the correct viticulture practices in a given location to maximize quality and determine where varieties perform the best. What started as a web-based farming tool has evolved into a robust crop traceability system. Ontario's grape industry moved into a leadership role in Canada as the first commodity organization to offer growers a web-based vine management system tool that can also address information needs of other value chain participants.

Hugli's Blueberry Ranch - Renfrew County

Brian Hugli's Blueberry Ranch works to ensure everyone can enjoy the farm when they visit. This agri-tainment operation offers a designated disability accessible high-bush blueberry picking area and giant pumpkin boat races among its activities. The ranch is fully accessible for people with mobility issues from the parking lot to blueberry picking areas, washroom facilities, space on wagons, gift store, ice cream parlour and covered deck.

J.B. Puddicombe & Sons Ltd. - City of Hamilton

All aboard! Visitors to the Puddicombe farm get a special treat now that the owners have added an 'agricultural' train to enhance their tours. The fruit farm uses the train to entertain and educate students and the public about agriculture and the importance of buying local produce. Adding this new feature has increased interest in the farm, attracting school and wine tours. Young and old, who come to check out the ride, leave with a smile on their face and a greater appreciation for Ontario agriculture.

Jonella Farms - Sudbury District

The virtual farmer has arrived. Sudbury-area farmer John Mooney did not let the remote location of his dairy farm impede him from acquiring the latest technology in robotic milking. He brought technical support from the manufacturer to the farm by installing telecommunications equipment that includes video monitoring equipment in the barn and fast internet linkage with the manufacturer's service centre. With the click of a 'mouse' Mooney can access the service and maintenance he needs for his robotic milking system. This innovation eliminates service obstacles for remote dairy farmers interested in these systems. It also opens the door to expand the technology for new uses.

Kernal Peanuts Ltd. - Norfolk County

Back in 1977, farmer Ernie Racz was looking to exit the tobacco business and planted a few rows of peanuts as an experiment. Today he is the largest peanut grower in Canada. In addition to harvesting peanuts, he hosts tours and has added a processing plant and retail store to the operation. Kernal Peanuts Ltd. continues to be innovative. Used peanut oil is stockpiled for use as bio-diesel fuel, peanut shells are recycled on-site for fuel, and the farm has developed a new strain of black peanut that will be marketed as a novelty item. While the imported peanut market is a tough nut to crack, this business is helping to move more Ontario product into consumers' hands.

Marcel Betty - Nipissing District

Farmers, particularly in the north, know that frost can lift cement catch basins, posing a dangerous obstruction for equipment in their fields and rendering the drain inoperable. Marcel Betty put a lid on the problem by developing a safer field catch basin that works in areas where frost heaving is a problem. Its design is low cost, low maintenance and prevents wildlife from entering the drain. As a result, a safer field with proper drainage enables farmers to crop land that would otherwise be left as "wet spots". This innovation has been shared amongst the community and adapted for the winter conditions of the area.

Martin Farms - District of Manitoulin

Jim and Birgit Martin of Martin Farms own a diversified beef operation that markets from gate-to-plate. The operation includes a Shorthorn and Angus beef herd. It also custom boards cows and sells purebred breeding stock and commercial cattle, which are finished and marketed in the farm's own small beef feedlot. This business has recognized that diversification and value adding help mitigate financial risks and serve the growing interest consumers have for locally-produced food.

McCully's Hill Farm - Perth County

McCully's Hill Farm puts out the welcome mat for more than 3,000 students a year, with group tours and weekend events adding to that number. It's all part of David Pullen's continuing efforts to educate and motivate people to make positive changes in agri-food systems, in environmental protection and in rural communities. In addition to experiencing the farm's educational programs, visitors can shop at the on-farm market, where local producers showcase and sell their products. The farm also has plans to establish a Centre for Rural Learning, which will be devoted to inspiring awareness and action on issues related to local food security, agriculture, and the environment.

McMaze - Cedar Fox Farm - United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry

Stephen and Valerie McDonald of McMaze - Cedar Fox Farm in St. Andrews are literally reaping the benefits of their innovation. Stephen McDonald modified his International 400 Cyclo series air corn planter so that he can also use it to plant sunflowers, gourds and pumpkins, among other crops. He spends less time and money planting, even though he now plants more acres to meet the growing local wholesale demand. And yield is up on those acres. All in all, an improved farm practice that boosts the bottom line.

Mill Creek Farm - Prince Edward County

Barb and Neil Vader of Mill Creek Farm are like two peas in a pod. Together, they've spent the last 20 years improving the process of growing, harvesting, packaging and distributing fresh peas to grocery stores across Ontario. Their expertise has enabled them to extend the shelf life for fresh bagged peas from four days to nine days. The Vaders also came up with a marketing strategy that has enabled their business to move into central distribution for four major grocery chains.

New Life Mills - Grey County

Three years ago, New Life Mills had a bright idea. They became early adopters of an automated system that dims and turns off artificial light in response to different levels of natural light coming into the barn. This technology has been good for their poultry, since proper light is essential for their growth and reproductive performance. The farm has also realized an energy savings of 60 per cent. New Life Mills is sharing their data and experience with the rest of the industry.

Northern Quality Meats Ltd. - Algoma District

Northern Quality Meats Ltd. knows how to recycle. It developed a licensed composting facility to compost abattoir wastes for a provincially licensed and inspected abattoir. The innovation has allowed continued operation of this producer-owned and operated business, offering an option for area farmers to process their livestock locally. Composting abattoir by-products is more environmentally sustainable, more energy efficient, eliminates odour and the need for storage, and contributes to the sustainability of the operation.

River Village Co-operative Market Inc. - Bruce County

There's a strong sense of community in Teeswater. When the town's only grocery store closed its doors, the locals got together and decided to form a co-operative that would continue to serve and revitalize the community, and give farmers a local outlet to sell their goods. As a result, farmers and town residents formed the River Village Co-operative Market Inc. In fact, some residents now live in other cities, but continue to support the store with their membership. They all share one thing in common - they want the community to survive. And they've combined their ideas and resources to contribute to its success.

Scotch Mountain Meats Inc. - Grey County

Scotch Mountain Meats Inc. has climbed over old challenges to create new success. In response to BSE market issues, this co-operative was started by three farm families who began producing all natural value-added products for the organic and natural food markets. A farm store was opened in the home of one of the co-operative members. Today, membership has expanded to keep up with the demand. And the co-operative also sells products at three farmers' markets - one local and two in downtown Toronto.

St. Anne's Catholic High School - Huron County

The Specialist High Skills Major at St. Anne's Catholic High School is a program that delivers knowledge and skills training that are valued by the agricultural industry. The program has motivated students to stay in school, graduate and then decide on their next step. Students' success rate in courses offered was excellent. The program was designed by the Ministry of Education and it was up to individual school boards to make it appropriate and beneficial for local situations.

Stoneyfield Elk Farm - Grey County

Providing a market for all seasons. David Harper, of Stoneyfield Elk Farm, took the initiative to design and implement this idea with a marketing/distribution business in response to consumer demand for locally-produced food products. The store has enabled local farmers to receive additional income with little or no investment. Vendors are responsible for keeping their shelf space stocked and receive 90 per cent of the retail sale price in return. At this store, fresh, locally-produced foods are available year-round. The business model for this innovation could be easily implemented in other towns across Ontario to boost the local economy, the community and the environment.

Sunnivue Organic Farm - Middlesex County

A group of urbanites in Middlesex County developed a unique, not-for-profit agricultural land trust to link the principles of local food systems, community and sustainability that reflected their values. By pooling their financial resources, they were able to buy a farm located in Ailsa Craig, which is close to a large urban centre. Today, Sunnivue Organic Farm produces and sells beef, veal, chicken, pork and a large variety of fruits and vegetables. The farm also produces and ships organic milk to a licensed organic dairy cooperative. Volunteers routinely gather to work on the farm. The model is the first of its kind in Canada.

Terza Farms - Temiskaming District

Matthew and Carol Duke saw the advantages of drawing on the unique qualities of North Eastern Ontario to promote their products outside the region. They established strategic alliances with other local producers, created new products and added value to their traditional products. They market their farm-based products as "northern", "natural", "humane and healthy" through a website and farm retail store. Locally produced flour and barley-fed pork have been used to produce sausage rolls, specialty sausages, hams and high-value specialty cuts of pork, all marketed under the "Northern Flavors Ontario" campaign.

The Cider Keg - Norfolk County

An apple a day keeps the doctor away - but branded, value-added apple products keep consumers asking for more. The T & J Haskett farm in Norfolk County has developed a brand for its line of apple products that includes cider, jellies and relishes that can be found on the shelves of a national grocery retail chain. A recently published cookbook featuring ideas for drinks, entrées and meal enhancements encourages consumers to up their apple intake and enjoy the health benefits. These value-added ideas have led to increased apple sales, and a diversified income source that generates income for three households plus staff.

Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm - Niagara Region

Linda Crago believes in good old-fashioned gardening with a modern twist. Her Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm markets heirloom vegetables produced organically for local markets, restaurants and community agricultural shareholders. This grower's passion for unique plants, horticulture and a 'chemical free' lifestyle resonates with today's consumer trends. Sometimes innovation is about breathing new life into old traditions.

Twin Pines Orchards - Lambton County

How do you take one of nature's oldest gifts and make it a modern experience? Twin Pines Orchards found a way to grow their apples and profits by creating value-added products and expanding their farm to include a variety of event-themed experiences. Mark and Mike Vansteenkiste's innovative products include different packed apples, preserves, organic products, wines and ciders, which they sell on site and at local restaurants and shops. The farm also conducts art and science camps, an apple festival, and school tours. Twin Pines Orchards' innovative efforts have created a positive destination for consumers who value the 'total experience' as well as the product.

Van Bakel Farms Ltd. - Perth County

Ron Van Bakel designed, built and marketed a successful heat exchanger for barns. His innovative design has overcome conventional challenges of heat-exchangers and is being successfully demonstrated on a number of barns in the province. The low maintenance system has definite benefits for use in the swine sector. It helps to lower supplemental heating costs and ensures that minimum ventilation rates in barns are maintained.

VanEngelen Dairy Farms and Hog Tied Farms - Lambton County

The VanEngelens, of Lambton County, have become partners in power. Ed, John and Mike VanEngelen installed Ontario's first on-farm 250 KW windmill to supply power for a dairy and a hog farm. The close proximity of the farms and the strong working relationship among the three men helped move this innovation forward. The large tower and wind generator provide a highly visible example for other farm operators interested in installing an alternative energy source.

Velrob Farms Ltd. - Oxford County

Cool milk. Velrob Farms Ltd. knows how to produce it. Oxford-area dairy farmer, Steven Veldman, has found an innovative way to improve the operation of his milk pre-cooler. He developed a system that helped to change the flow characteristics of cold water and milk to ensure optimum cooling before the milk enters the bulk tank. His innovation uses a pump and valve system that improves plate cooler efficiency by 50 per cent, without compromising the quality of the milk. Oxford County is known as the dairy capital of Canada - and with capital ideas like these, it's living up to its name.

Viewland Farms Ltd. - Oxford County

Dave Older of Viewland Farms Ltd. installed a dairy compost bedding pack system, adapting the design and implementation from an innovative system used in Minnesota. The barn is designed differently to allow a large pack area and tractor/aerator access. The cost savings from this barn design are substantial, as it uses clay versus concrete floors; requires no stalls to buy or install, and there is substantially less liquid manure to store and pump. The longer storage capacity results in long-term composting, reducing and concentrating nutrients into a more dense material. When the bedding is excavated from the barn, there is virtually no odour and it spreads like dust. This innovation represents a 'greener' bed that results in an excellent compost product, improved animal health and decreased labour costs.

Weninger Farms Ltd. - Elgin County

John Weninger, an Elgin County sweet potato producer, has introduced an infrared dehydrator to his operation - allowing him to become the first producer of sweet potato flour, which has significant nutraceutical benefits. John dries a variety of products, opening the door to new markets for the family farm as it phases out of tobacco production. In addition to filling all the flour orders he receives, Weninger Farms can custom dry most raw food products thus giving farmers the ability to create their own value added products.

Y U Ranch - Norfolk County

Home on the range in Ontario. Texas Longhorn Cattle now graze on former tobacco fields as part of Bryan Gilvesy's farm. He has diversified his business into a whole farm, eco-agricultural system by integrating to a value-added, direct to consumer farm enterprise. The operation conducts eco-agricultural tours and Gilvesy speaks to farm, environmental and consumer groups about the role of the farmer in environmental and community health. The farm also uses solar power for water pumping and has plans to contribute power to the grid through the Standard Offer Program.



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Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: May 14th, 2008
Last Reviewed: May 14th, 2008