Agri-Food Innovations Recognized at Award Ceremony in Haliburton, Hastings and Northumberland Counties
The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes and celebrates agri-food producers, processors and organizations who are helping create jobs, boost our economy, strengthen our communities and support a sustainable environment through their innovative ideas and projects.
The following are regional award recipients from Haliburton, Hastings and Northumberland Counties:
Abbey Gardens - Haliburton County
In a former gravel pit in Haliburton County, veggies are flourishing, honeybees are buzzing and heritage chickens scratch and peck. Opened in 2009, Abbey Gardens features community gardens, a farmer's market, an on-site brewery and cooking and gardening classes. The gardens have become an innovative space that house two alternative energy buildings, research facilities for Trent University and Fleming College and business space for start-ups. This not-for-profit organization has developed the site to create economic and recreational opportunities for the community. It's a formula that has proved highly successful, boosting tourism, stimulating local business and creating more demand for local food.
Barn Owl Malt - Hastings County
Great craft beer requires great malt and that's where Barn Owl Malt comes in. Owners Devin and Leslie Huffman start with local barley and produce their aromatic malts in small batches. The key to their innovation is "floor malting" - a traditional process dating back to the 1800s that involves spreading steeped grain over a germination floor to give the final product a distinct, rich flavour. Floor malting uses one-third the water of standard, large-scale malting plants, and a specially designed septic system with bio-digester treats all the wastewater on site. This process has allowed for a new premium valued market for Ontario agricultural products, while offering local brewers a unique opportunity to produce four distinctive malts, each one traceable back to the grower.
Potter Settlement Artisan Winery - Hastings County
At the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, an eco-conscious vineyard is challenging the traditional image of "wine country." Since 1997, Potter Settlement Artisan Winery has experimented with numerous growing techniques, trellising approaches and grape varieties in an area long considered too cold for wine production. Today, the pioneering vintners near Tweed, grow Frontenac, Marquette and Petite Pearl -- cold-hardy, healthy grapes that are expanding the northern boundaries of Ontario's wine sector. The operation is also raising the bar on sustainability. Solar and geothermal systems heat and cool their buildings. Cover crops help fertilize the vineyard, and a mechanical weeding tool eliminates the need for herbicides. It all adds up to a pioneering approach that's paving the way for great Ontario wine from unexpected places.
Quinte Immigration Services - Hastings County
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! In April, the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre in Belleville was abuzz as skilled refugees connected with prospective agricultural employers. The event was part of Quinte Immigration Services' Farmers Feed the World program: a one-of-a-kind initiative aimed at supporting Syrian refugees with specific skills and interests in the agri-food sector. The mutually beneficial approach provides job opportunities for Syrian refugees and helps fill agricultural labour shortages. It also serves as an effective way to encourage newcomers to settle in rural Ontario, and help boost populations in local communities beyond urban centres. So far, 90 of the 150 participating refugees have found employment through the program, and its success has motivated five other regions across Ontario to replicate the model.
Kaley's Acres Farm - Northumberland County
Typically, harvesting kale is a lengthy process done by hand or heavy machinery. To improve efficiency in harvesting the leafy green, Kaley's Acres Farm looked to the past, retrofitting an obsolete tobacco leaf harvester from 1982. Their one-of-a-kind harvester has allowed them to triple their number of productive acres, while only doubling the amount of labour. A worker who could harvest 110 pounds of kale per hour by hand can now harvest up to 440 pounds per hour. With plenty of retired equipment available for purchase in Ontario, this upcycled solution promises to create a real upswing in kale production, while lowering the cost of locally grown greens for consumers.