Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

November 05, 2007 14:07 ET

2007 Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence Winners Announced

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 5, 2007) - Outstanding achievement and leadership in the agriculture and agri-food industry were honoured today with the presentation of the 2007 Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence.

The special awards luncheon was co-hosted by the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, and by Dr. Rob McLaughlin, President of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

This is the seventh annual Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence, co-sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. The awards recognize achievements in six categories: voluntarism, youth leadership, innovation, agri-food export, environmental stewardship and agricultural awareness and education.

"These awards recognize outstanding successes in the sector and I congratulate the winners for their notable achievements," said Minister Ritz. "Farmers' contributions to the industry keep Canada strong."

"We are pleased to celebrate the accomplishments of these winners at our 85th anniversary of the Royal," said Dr. Rob McLaughlin. "This is an excellent opportunity to showcase Canadian talent and innovation."

The 2007 award recipients are:

- Voluntarism - Dr. Vernon Burrows, Ontario

- Youth Leadership - Christopher Herrmann, Alberta

- Innovation - Omega-3 Pork, Prairie Orchard Farms, Manitoba

- Agri-Food Export - Equavena Hulless Oats, Semican International Inc., Quebec

- Environmental Stewardship - Des Aulnages Stream Watershed Committee, Quebec

- Agricultural Awareness and Education - BC Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, British Columbia

Further information on the winners is provided in the backgrounder.


Award of Excellence for Voluntarism - Dr. Vernon Burrows, Ontario

Finding the common thread between winning racehorses, breakfast cereal, skin moisturizer and a celiac patient is easy for Dr. Vernon Burrows. He is an internationally respected authority on all those topics due to 50 years of oat research.

Dr. Burrows had a successful career working as a government scientist. But had no intention of slowing down when he retired in 1997 and became a Research Scientist Emeritus. Even in retirement, he voluntarily continued to raise the status and usefulness of oats.

While most plant breeders would consider 10 new varieties a great accomplishment in their career, Dr. Burrows has bred and registered an incredible 27 new varieties of oats, and there are more to come as a result of his volunteer projects.

One of his current passions is his volunteer work with the Canadian Celiac Association to give celiac patients wider food choices. People with celiac disease are unable to eat gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Dr. Burrows helped develop a system of producing pure oats from the seed producer to the processor for celiac patients.

His other passion is helping develop livestock feed for high-performance racehorses. These hulless oats provide the horse with natural antioxidants as well as a power-packed combination of oil, starch and protein for muscle development.

Dr. Burrows received the Order of Canada (2001) and is the recipient of other awards, such as the Gold Medal of Friendship from China (2003), for his volunteer work. He continues to share his knowledge and expertise with anyone interested in improving hulless oats for their nutritional and medicinal value.

Award of Excellence for Youth Leadership - Christopher Herrmann, Alberta

Small, rural communities across Canada rely on volunteers to run organized activities for our children. Sometimes children from remote communities miss opportunities that children have when living in large centres.

Eighteen-year-old Chris Herrmann lives in a sparsely populated farming community in Schuler, Alberta, near Medicine Hat. He exemplifies youth leadership.

In junior high, he was president of the students' union, captain of the volleyball team and a two-time winner of the "Leaders of Tomorrow" award for Medicine Hat and surrounding area. He's been an active member of the local 4-H club, taking on leadership roles such as treasurer, vice president and president. He also won a district award that recognizes outstanding 4-H members for their contributions to the club and community.

For the last two summers, Chris took it upon himself to offer week-long volleyball camps for local students. After much planning, he successfully ran the camps and received positive feedback. This was the first time any kind of sports camp was held in the surrounding communities.

Chris is currently attending Medicine Hat College and is beginning his journey to achieve his career goal of becoming a rural teacher.

Award of Excellence for Innovation in Agriculture and Agri-Food - Omega-3 Pork, Prairie Orchard Farms, Manitoba

All the major meat companies tried - but couldn't accomplish it. Getting meat to absorb Omega-3 naturally seemed to baffle everyone until Willy Hoffmann came along.

Willy Hoffmann, president of Prairie Orchard Farms, and his staff figured out an innovative way to produce Omega-3 pork for human consumption. They created a feed formula that allowed Omega-3 to be absorbed through the pigs' diet. Omega-3 is vital to heart health, improves the immune system and reduces the risk of contracting some cancers. The juicy, flavourful and nutritious pork is sought after by discerning chefs and health-conscious consumers.

Prairie Orchard Farms was the first meat company to receive approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture for their Omega-3 pork, and they are now exploring markets for Omega-3 chicken. Mr. Hoffmann has also shared his success with other small companies who are moving into new Omega-3 meat products, such as bacon and sausage.

Mr. Hoffmann has plans to export to lucrative markets such as the U.S., U.K. and China.

Award of Excellence for Agri-Food Export - Equavena Hulless Oats, Semican International Inc., Quebec

World-class athletes know diet can influence performance, and now trainers of the world's finest thoroughbreds have found a Canadian connection to help their horses win the big races.

In 2006, horses fed a diet of Equavena hulless oats won three of the biggest horse races in North America -- the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness and the richest race of all, the Breeders' Cup Classic. As well, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has fed Equavena oats to its "musical ride" horses and its breeding stock for several years.

Recognizing that horses do well on hulless oats, Jacques Beauchesne, president of Semican International Inc., developed this niche market for horses working in a high-performance market such as racing or jumping. He has championed the use of the hulless oats as a value-added crop for Canada, and his business has grown steadily since 1997.

In the past 10 years, Mr. Beauchesne has diversified and progressively increased the size of his company, exporting vast quantities of products to the U.S., Dubai, Puerto Rico, Ireland and the U.K. Canada is now known internationally as the primary source of hulless oats.

Award of Excellence for Environmental Stewardship - Des Aulnages Stream Watershed Committee, Quebec

Climate change, water quality and the overall state of the environment is the hot topic in 2007. And across Canada and around the world, communities are busily working to improve their own area. One of these organizations, Des Aulnages Stream Watershed Committee, is implementing measures that will prevent soil erosion and preserve the quality of their waterways.

Created by producers who were concerned about the environment, Des Aulnages Stream Watershed Committee has been involved in conservation and awareness since 2000. Working with local producers and landowners, the project has snowballed with different partners, including the Quebec Government and the Union des producteurs agricoles.

Some of the actions taken by the committee include planting of shelterbelts along the shoreline, promoting sustainable farming practices, preserving wildlife habitats and sharing knowledge on water and soil management. The committee has also published handbooks for landowners and several newsletters and organized awareness days.

Award of Excellence for Agricultural Awareness and Education - BC Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, British Columbia

In today's age, fast food is readily accessible in our society - and much of it is being marketed to children. Yet, despite the marketing pressures of convenient foods, an innovative program is running in British Columbia, and youth are catching on to healthy eating habits.

The BC Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program was initiated in 2005 to teach children about the food they eat. Administered by the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, the program introduced locally grown produce to children, raised awareness about the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables and taught them safe handling practices.

The program took off and many partners jumped on board. It now serves 164 schools across British Columbia and is available to children from kindergarten to grade 12.

The program receives rave reviews from parents, teachers and students because it makes healthy snacks accessible to children. Most participants are eating more local produce and even willing to broaden their taste horizons in a classroom setting. As well, it educates students about local agriculture and provides fun facts about food.

Their goal is to expand this successful initiative to all BC public schools by 2010. This program is one of many under a provincial initiative called ACTNOW BC.

Contact Information

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Media Relations
    The Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz
    Patrick J. McCloskey
    Press Secretary
    Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto
    Emily Miller