I write this as the first heavy snowfall of the season falls outside my window. With the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair behind us, and with an unusually warm fall that had people out cutting their grass right up until last weekend, Mother Nature (and the Christmas decorations) are reminding us that we are in for a brutal winter if what the Canadian Farmer’s Almanac has predicted proves true.
But with winter coming, don’t expect to find our local farmers cozied up to a fire with their feet up. Farmers across Durham are likely now transitioning from harvest season to focusing on winter maintenance on the farm; cleaning up their grounds, buildings, tools and equipment so that they are in good working shape for next year.
October and November have been busy months, but with the dryer season, many of our local farmers were able to finish their harvest a bit early and were able to participate in a lot of exciting events that allowed them to engage and share ideas with their fellow farmers, to celebrate their accomplishments and to work on their continued education to further their agri-business.
As Durham’s 2nd largest employer, our agricultural sector understands that the operation of a farm cannot be taken for granted and requires a lot of innovative planning. Organizations like Durham Farm Fresh and Durham Farm Connections offer opportunities for networking and educating the general public about where our food comes from. Recently, a Local Food Entrepreneurship Workshop was held where farmers had the opportunity to learn how to grow your food business. UOIT offers an Agricultural Leadership Certificate Program that provides an opportunity for leadership development, HR & Management, Marketing and Advocacy for Agriculture. 4H Canada also provides our up and coming generations of farmers the opportunity to gain work experience through their ‘Careers on the Grow’ program, participate in ‘Club to Club Exchanges’, and travel to countries like Jamaica, Finland or Taiwan in their ‘Going Global Exchange’ program.
Networking, technology and following economic trends have been identified as three of the most important elements that ensure the longevity and success of today’s farmer. Technology can be overwhelming for anyone to learn and keep up with, but it is becoming the cornerstone of agriculture. Keeping up with the headlines and tracking what is going on in the global economy is also very important, as many events happening outside of Canada can have a significant impact on a farm’s bottom line.
In October, Durham Farm Connections hosted their 3rd annual Celebrate Agriculture Gala as an evening to celebrate Durham’s agricultural roots and honour three special recipients of some well-deserved awards that embody many of these keys to success. Brad Found aka “The Lamb Man” of The Found Family Farm in Courtice was awarded ‘The Leadership Award’. Brad’s exceptional service is known to the community as Past President of the Orono Fair. The McKay Family from Willowtree Farm in Port Perry was recognized with the “Farm Family of the Year Award” and shortly thereafter was also honoured with the Premier’s Agri-Food Innovators Regional Award. Their family owned and operated farm is open throughout the winter to families with their farm store, dinner club and family workshops. The Rickard Family of Ceresmore Farms of Clarington were also recognized for their passionate advocacy of agriculture and our community with the “Spirit of Agriculture Award”.
Durham also made its mark on the greater agricultural stage, with Loa-De-Mede Farms Ltd.’s John Werry acting as one of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s youngest judges. Congratulations must also be made to Mr. Werry, who as a 4th generation dairy farmer from north Oshawa, gained much of his judging experience at the Port Perry Fair.
As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to keep the spirit of buying local alive, by checking out our rural neighbours’ shops and farms to do your holiday shopping. You can visit http://durhamfarmfresh.ca/ to find information about what local farms are open across Durham Region that will be opening their farms and their doors to sell everything from local artisan crafts, produce, baked goods, Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations, wines and ciders. I would also suggest that you consider cheering on our farmers at T.H.E.E. (Tyrone, Hayden, Enniskillen, Enfield)’s 16th Farmers Parade of Lights on Wednesday Dec. 7th. This is an annual celebration of Christmas in the country with decorated farm equipment where farmers in the community say thank you to friends and neighbours for sharing the roads year round with slow moving vehicles and farm machinery.
We have some of the best agricultural producers in the world right here in Durham and our farms and the rural parts of the community give our area the character and quality of life that we all enjoy. I embrace every opportunity to do a little bragging about our agricultural sector when I am in Ottawa and traveling across Canada. I hope that you will join me in celebrating our farmers by supporting them this holiday season and throughout the year.