Ontario farm innovation awards hit the mark
Organic value-added meat and farmer training, manure to electricity, mortality composting and biosecure hog loading systems honored.

By John Clement

editor's NOTE

John Clement

The Christian Farming Federation of Ontario (CFFO), Guelph, Ontario, produces a weekly radio commentary which we occasionally carry under the column title “Letters from Ontario.” John Clement, the group’s general manager, writes most often, with others from the group taking their turns. With the group’s permission, we continue use of the CFFO columns as they seem useful for our international readership.

Posted May 10, 2007: Government involvement in agriculture is always a contentious issue. It sometimes seems that governments are either not doing enough for farmers, or trying to do too much and creating regulatory burdens and obstacles. But one thing I think the provincial government is getting right is declaring farm innovation to be important and drawing attention to it through public awards.

As part of the 2006 provincial budget, $2.5 million is to be used over five years to recognize farmers who have been innovative in running their businesses. More than 230 applications were made by Ontario farmers to a special panel, with 55 awards given. They were based on uniqueness and originality, stage of development, the impact or benefits of the innovation, and adoption and/or commercialization. Here are a few samples of the innovations CFFO members made that received awards:

Fritz and Paul Klaesi, of Renfrew County, were awarded one of the two top awards for their adoption of an anaerobic digester that turns manure into energy. The Klaesis system is one of Ontario’s first operational systems generating electricity to the grid, after powering two homesteads and farm buildings. The manure-based anaerobic digester generates 750 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, or enough to power 30 homes.

Ike and Beatrix Enter of Hungry Hollow Organics Inc., in Middlesex County, received a regional award for expanding their production to include value-added prepared products, allowing them to use more of every carcass. Their organic ground meat products, such as chili, shepherd’s pie and lasagna, require more ingredients than Hungry Hollow can supply, providing other primary producers with a ready market. The Enters have developed a brand with professional packaging and marketing materials to support the products at retail.

Frank Minten, of Minten Family Farms Ltd., in Lambton County, received a regional award for adopting an effective and environmentally sound way to handle deadstock. Utilizing a composting system he discovered in Manitoba, the system was made even more efficient by obtaining provincial approval to transport the operation’s deadstock to a single location.

Gavin Dandy, of Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre, in Wellington County, received a regional award for teaching young people about how to farm organically. The 150-acre farm offers Future Farming Internships and Collaborate Regional Alliance for Farmer Training programs to train young people in production and marketing methods for organic farming.

Jake Kraayenbrink, of Kraayenbrink Farms, of Wellington County, received a regional award for developing a way to transports pigs without risking biosecurity. Kraayenbrink outfitted a truck with a fold-up catwalk operated by an air cylinder and a loading chute that is raised and lowered by an electric winch. The winch can be operated from the catwalk or the interior of the truck. The innovation ensures that no part of the truck, other than the tires, touches any foreign objects or the ground, better protecting his herd.

Innovation is a key factor in creating new opportunities for Ontario farmers and for adding value and income. As I mentioned earlier, the provincial government got it right when they decided to award and promote the spirit of innovation that has long characterized Ontario’s farmers. For more information on the awards, log onto the internet at www.omafra.gov.on.ca.