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Regional Innovations Awarded In Wingham - 2011

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Regional Innovations Awarded In Wingham - 2011

The following are Regional Award winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:

BRUCE COUNTY

Carrick Wines Inc. -- Mildmay

Bruce County can raise a glass of its own homegrown wine thanks to the innovative efforts of a local grower. The region's first winery/cidery, Carrick Wines, is breaking new ground with 12 acres of vines, grown from special hybrid grape varieties that can withstand colder climates. Carrick is focused on quality over volume, and offers an agri-tourism experience for wine lovers. Visitors to the winery's first "Harvest Party" worked a few hours in the growers' boots helping to pick the grapes and learn how the fruit is processed, before enjoying a farm-style lunch held in the winery. This winery/cidery is eco-friendly, using natural disease and pest control methods and "recycling" an existing farm building to house the processing area. The winemaker even transformed the basement of the property's 125 year old farm house into the retail sales centre. It's a new take on a vintage craft.

GREY COUNTY

Love's Sweetness -- Holstein

Life is sweet in the tiny hamlet of Holstein.  For 17 years people have been flocking to Love's Sweetness sugar bush to celebrate "Maplefest." The farm created this annual event to build new markets for its maple syrup and offer fun and educational experiences for schoolchildren and their families. Today, kids still visit for free and about 250 volunteers from the local Optimist Club help manage the tremendous turnout each year. The sugar bush has 1,200 trees on tap and the liquid gold flowing from them is processed through state-of-the-art, stainless steel equipment. Visitors learn how the maple syrup industry has evolved; see livestock, and experience woodworking, taffy-making, and biscuit/jam making as part of the celebrations. Love's Sweetness welcomes up to 10,000 people during the two-day event. 

HURON COUNTY

FieldGate Organics Inc. -- Zurich

From its beginnings in 2003 as a company founded by 12 Ontario beef producers, this operation is now owned by 37 producers and four investors, employs 18 people, and is the only certified organic meat processing facility of its kind in Canada. With its own retail outlet, as well as supplying independent retail and specialist butcher shops, FieldGate Organics responds quickly to consumer market signals. With a federally inspected, multi-species facility that has a full identification and traceability system, the owners are looking to reach into new markets within and outside Ontario. The company is providing benefits not only to producers and investors, but its customers, the Ingersoll area and the province. 

Gordon's Goat Dairy -- Wroxeter

Through hard work, research and ingenuity, the Edgars have been able to cash in on hard cheese. Their combination goat farm, cheese making, and distribution business has tripled the family's profit margin. The goat dairy has been up and running since 1999.  When things went sour for goat milk in 2003, the Edgars got creative, did their homework, and built an on-farm cheese processing facility. But it's not your ordinary cheese - it's gouda, havarti, and even a new creation called C Line Road, a pro-biotic product invented at the farm, and named after the road on which it's located. Today, the cheese that's produced is sold to high-end restaurants, fresh markets and specialty food stores throughout southwestern Ontario.

The Whole Pig -- Dashwood

The Van Raay's of Dashwood really know how to please their customers. Their business brings flash-frozen pork cuts right to customers' doors (and sometimes into the freezer) along with recipes, nutritional information and facts about their farm and how they raise pigs. They use the latest technology to reach new markets, including an attractive, informative web site and social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Since launching their company in October 2009, the family has provided a lot of business to local suppliers and is truly showing the world what "value-added" means.

Whispering Brook Yorkshires -- Clifford

Even the Queen was impressed when she saw this innovation in 2003. Since 1990, the Douglas' mini-barn on wheels has provided a real farm education for literally hundreds of thousands of Ontarians while protecting the health of the breeding pigs and piglets on display. A converted livestock trailer with the side cut out for windows lets people see the pigs as they live on the farm. Over the years, there have been new versions with refinements for pig comfort and people friendly access, making the trailer even more popular. The pig mobile attracts about 700,000 people annually, and has been copied by livestock groups in other provinces.

PERTH COUNTY

Stonaleen Farms Ltd. -- Listowel

It can be a challenge to come up with a unique fundraising idea but Stonaleen Farms has created a winner with customized packages of their locally produced healthy pork products. Since 2008, they have been providing four packaging options to local fundraisers, ranging from $20 to $50 - with cooking tips provided! It's proved to be a popular option for local fundraisers and has increased awareness for Stonaleen Farms. They have experienced a 100 per cent increase in fundraising sales over the last year, as well as an increased demand for their product at the local farmers' market and their on-farm store.

Willowgrove Hill -- Mitchell

Paul and Rosie Hill are ahead of the curve when it comes to growing functional food on the farm. They're the first pork producers in Canada to offer consumers pork products enhanced with DHA Omega-3 fatty acids. These are considered essential nutrients for the maintenance of general human health, normal growth and development. The pork is also enhanced with organic selenium, an antioxidant considered an essential trace element in the human diet. Together, they support the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves. The Hills were already raising their hogs without antibiotics, but they wanted to take things a step further by enriching their herd's feed to make an even healthier product for consumers. In just two years, Willowgrove Hill has seen their nutritionally enhanced pork products jump from two to 90 per cent of their total sales. Bacon with a nutritional boost never tasted so good!  Willowgrove Hill also received the Premier's top award for this innovation.  

WATERLOO REGION

Garden Party -- St. Agatha

The Garden Party is a community shared agriculture (CSA) operation that grows a lot of organic vegetables, herbs and flowers on four acres in Waterloo Region. The operation was looking for ways to use its extra product and provide more of what its 50 members wanted, when it hit upon the perfect answer: a fully equipped, inspected kitchen that keeps CSA members coming back for more all year long. Because the farm operates on a small scale and can respond to members' needs, it offers salt-free, low-fat and low-sugar preserves and frozen foods. Garden Party is training other farmers on this new CSA model and has published a report on its best practices, which is available on the Canadian Organic Growers' website.

WELLINGTON COUNTY

Ellcrest Farms -- Moorefield

Paul Ellis got tired of composting manure in the winter months using a strip/row method, which he found messy, time-consuming and difficult. He began exploring other methods, building prototypes using augers. After some trial and error, he landed an effective design that's currently being patented. With it, Ellis can compost 200 cubic yards at a time, year-round. The composting process takes about three or four weeks, and his test plots showed higher crop yields where compost was used. Using composted manure reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and contributes to the farm's efficiency. It reduces the volume of manure by 25 per cent, and saves the farmer fuel costs and time when spreading it on fields. It's an environmentally friendly innovation that "augurs" well for Ellcrest Farms.

Kraayenbrink Farms Limited -- Moorefield         

Jake Kraayenbrink seeks out innovative solutions to technical challenges. His winning idea involves a system that can quickly inflate and deflate tires on agricultural equipment. Kraayenbrink worked with a Canada-based company to modify a truck tire system so that it could inflate/deflate tires faster since an agricultural operation may need to do this as often as three or four times per hour. There is no other system like this in use in North America. Benefits include reduced compaction, improved crop production and yields, and reduced horsepower and fuel needs. The innovation also helps extend tire life and increases safety when traveling on roadways. Farmers like Kraayenbrink are driving innovation in Ontario. 

Mushrooms Canada (Ontario) -- Guelph

An unusual partnership has improved the bottom line for mushroom growers while supporting the battle against breast cancer. Mushrooms Canada (Ontario) joined the Breast Cancer Society's Pink Ribbon campaign in the fall of 2010.  Mushrooms, which have proven anti-tumour properties, were packaged using pink trays and adorned with pink ribbons. Not only did the promotion increase mushroom sales by 15 per cent, mushroom growers more than doubled their $25,000 goal by raising $61,000 for breast cancer research. This is an especially good result given that it was done on a completely voluntary basis. The United States and Australia have shown interest in the Canadian approach.

Ontario Farm Animal Council -- Guelph

Farmz on Wheelz is driving country to the city and showing urban dwellers that modern agriculture is about so much more than just Old Macdonald's farm. This travelling exhibit consists of a 20-foot cargo trailer which can be rolled out to create a 400-square-foot interactive exhibit. It was designed to teach teenagers and their families about a variety of farm issues from animal welfare and food safety, to good nutrition and renewable energy. The Ontario Farm Animal Council created the exhibit in collaboration with Ontario Science Centre's exhibit and science gurus. The first of its kind, Farmz on Wheelz is showing the broader public how innovative, modern and adaptive Ontario farmers are. The exhibit has educated 2.5 million visitors and has its own Facebook page and YouTube video.

ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program recognizes and rewards outstanding innovations developed by farmers, agri-food businesses and organizations. 

There have been 55 winners each year, including a Premier's Award recipient and a Minister's Award recipient

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation program was initially funded for a period of five years starting in 2007. In November 2010, the McGuinty government announced that it will continue to recognize agri-food innovation excellence through a permanent program.                           

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