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Early canola seed grower recognized

The 85-year-old farmer was one of the earliest seed growers to try the new crop

Manitoba Canola Growers Association president Chuck Fossay (l) presented Teulon farmer and former seed grower Murray McConnell with the Canola Award of Excellence for 2018 in recognition of his contribution as an early canola seed grower.

Murray McConnell, a pioneer canola seed grower, received the Canola Award of Excellence for 2018 from the Manitoba Seed Growers Association (MCGA) at the CropConnect banquet in Winnipeg Feb. 14.

McConnell, 85, who farms near Teulon, Man., grew some canola plots for Baldur Stefansson, a University of Manitoba plant breeder and one of the developers of canola.

“We received canola breeder seed from Stefansson to grow in a seed plot,” McConnell said in an MCGA release. “I still have the letter he had sent with the seed and for that reason, I believe that we were one of the earliest seed producers to grow it.”

While McConnell doesn’t recall exactly how that first crop fared he does remember the amount of work that went into the project.

“We were doing a lot of field testing at that point and I can’t forget the amount of roguing that was required,” he said. “At one point, the Department of Agriculture sent out a dozen people who were learning to be inspectors. They rogued and rogued and I don’t think those boys ever worked harder.”

The McConnell family’s agricultural roots reach back more than a century.

“My father received some seed barley in 1938 through his sister Edna McConnell, who was attending the University of Saskatoon to obtain her agriculture degree,” McConnell said. (Edna eventually became the first female agricultural representative in Canada.) That barley propelled the family into the seed business, which McConnell ran into the early 2000s.

McConnell continues to farm around 500 acres.

The Canola Award of Excellence is presented annually to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals and organizations for contributions to the sustained growth and prosperity of Manitoba’s canola industry.

The award was first presented in 2008 to Baldur Stefansson for his work in creating canola, a new edible oilseed derived from rapeseed.

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