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Local Farmers Recognized for their Innovations

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Local Farmers Recognized for their Innovations

The following are recipients of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence - regional awards:

HALDIMAND COUNTY:

Creekside Poultry Farm - Jarvis
Creekside Poultry Farm knows how to get things squeaky clean. Cleaning out a chicken barn is not an easy job, but Hans Veurink found a way to dramatically reduce his labour and time with a simple tool. He developed a blade-mounted squeegee that cleans off wet floors after a high-pressure wash. The system is easy to use and affordable. It has been sold to more than 80 other farmers and the market continues to grow. By wiping out the extra work, this innovation makes it easier to increase the frequency of barn cleanings, improving the impact on food safety and animal welfare.

NORFOLK COUNTY:

Norfolk Apiaries - Brantford
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.

B & C Nightingale Farms - LaSalette
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 - St. Williams
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.

Florence Estate Winery - Langton
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.

Kernal Peanuts - Vittoria
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.

The Cider Keg - Vittoria
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.

Y U Ranch - Tillsonburg
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.

OXFORD COUNTY:

Viewland Farms - Thamesford
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.

Velrob Farms - Embro
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.

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