Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

November 06, 2006 15:08 ET

2006 Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence Winners Announced

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 6, 2006) - A visitors' gallery in a piggery. A new beer for Japan. An innovative organic produce greenhouse. A chicken farmer who juggles eggs while teaching about life on the farm. And a way to provide incentives to farmers to take care of their lands.

All of these projects were honoured today at the sixth annual Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence, presented by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The awards were launched in 2001 and recognize achievements in five categories: environmental stewardship, agricultural awareness and education, innovation, voluntarism and agri-food export.

"I'm proud to see the scope of the creativity, innovation and inventiveness represented by these worthy award winners," said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. "It just goes to prove, once again, that the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry is one of the best."

"It's truly a pleasure to celebrate these stars of Canadian agri-food excellence at The Royal. It's fitting that we're able not only to celebrate, but also to profile these winners and their achievements to attendees of The Royal," said Royal president Rob McLaughlin.

The awards were presented at a special luncheon in Toronto before an audience of members of producer organizations and food associations, business and community leaders, as well as representatives of provincial and federal governments. Following the luncheon, an exhibit honouring the winners was unveiled at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada display at The Royal.

The 2006 award recipients are:

- Voluntarism - John Opsteen, Campbellville, Ontario

- Agri-Food Export - The Sapporo Value Chain Partners, Alix, Alberta

- Environmental Stewardship - Ian Wishart, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba

- Innovation - Origin Organic Farms Inc., Delta, British Columbia

- Agricultural Awareness and Education - Lee Whittington, The Pork Interpretive Gallery, Elstow, Saskatchewan



Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Voluntarism - John Opsteen, Campbellville, Ontario

When John Opsteen of Campbellville, Ontario, isn't running his family's broiler chicken operation, he's usually out giving the public a first-hand look at how a working farm operates. In only a few years, Mr. Opsteen has participated in a number of agricultural awareness days in southern Ontario. He explains biosecurity, demonstrating with a bio-suit and signs. He helps demystify avian flu concerns and addresses various myths about poultry, all in a way that both entertains and informs young people. He's quick to educate the non-farm folks about where their food comes from. And he even dazzles them with his egg-juggling expertise. Mr. Opsteen has been called an agri-food diplomat and an ambassador of agriculture in the Halton Region.

Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Export - The Sapporo Value Chain Partners, Alix, Alberta

Japanese beer drinkers are reaping the benefits of a value chain initiative that successfully blends the crops of 59 prairie farmers with exacting malting methods. In only three years, the Sapporo Value Chain Partners - Rahr Malting Canada, the growers, Sapporo Breweries Ltd., and Kataoka and Company Ltd. - have secured a new export market that has earned more than $2 million and increased malt barley volume 10-fold. Starting with high quality Canadian malt barley, the group is able to deliver premium branded beer to Japanese consumers. By developing what's known as a collaborative contract farming system, these leaders demonstrated innovation and a responsibility towards the environment and for each partner in the value chain. From the grower to the maltster, importer/broker, and brewer and on to the consumer, all have benefited from the value chain process. It's been a win-win situation all around.

Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Environmental Stewardship - Ian Wishart, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba

When Ian Wishart puts his mind to something, things get done. A grain, cattle and potato farmer from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Mr. Wishart is best known as the driving force behind an environmental land stewardship program called Alternative Land Use Services, or ALUS. ALUS is an ambitious project that provides incentives for farmers to maintain wetlands, prevent soil erosion, protect waterways and perform other environmentally beneficial land practices. The initiative is designed to be farmer-led, farm-focused and involves partnerships between farmers, conservation groups and governments. It took seven years and Mr. Wishart's "never-say-die" attitude, but his dream became reality earlier this year when the $1.9 million three-year pilot project now called ALUS: An Ecological Goods and Services Research Project was launched.

Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Innovation - Origin Organic Farms Inc., Delta, British Columbia

Dr. William Cheuk is the founder and president of Origin Organic Farms Inc. in Delta, B.C. He saw the market for tasty, healthy and environmentally sustainable organic produce was largely untapped. Six years ago, he set out to change that situation. And change it, he did. Today, Origin Organic Farms is a $30 million enterprise and the first large-scale commercial operation in Canada to grow organic vegetables using greenhouse technology. It's also the largest organic greenhouse vegetable operator in North America, producing more than 15 million pounds of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes a year. While most of the crops are shipped to the US, about 20 per cent are sent to area supermarkets to satisfy local demand for organic vegetables. In its short history, Origin Organic has identified the ideal nutrients, fertilizer, growing media and environment most suitable for consistent organic production. Focusing on technology, it has merged elements of traditional farming methods with those of hydroponics production.

Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Agricultural Awareness and Education - Lee Whittington, Elstow, Saskatchewan

Lee Whittington, of Elstow, Saskatchewan, has been called a man of dedication, enthusiasm and vision for his work in establishing the Pork Interpretive Gallery, known as PIG. PIG is an interpretive centre that allows students and the general public to see, up close, a working commercial pork operation. Located at the Prairie Swine Centre's Elstow Research Farm, the 600-sow farrow-to-finish barn includes a uniquely designed viewing gallery with interactive displays housed in the attic space of the barn. More than 4,000 have visited the 'living classroom' that helps dispel myths and misconceptions about the pork industry. Mr. Whittington not only had the vision to create PIG, but he also managed to raise more than $1 million through partnerships with producers, suppliers and governments. The image of the pork industry has been enhanced by this unique facility. Visitors see for themselves what a modern piggery looks like, leaving a lasting favourable and realistic impression of today's Canadian pork industry.

Contact Information

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa
    Media Relations
    613-759-7972 or 1-866-345-7972
    Minister Strahl's office
    Jeff Howard
    Press Secretary
    Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto
    Eilis Karry