It was a chance for Manitoba’s agricultural industry to step back and appreciate how far farming has come, before jumping into spring seeding.
Producers, processors and politicians gathered at the Manitoba legislature last week to celebrate Agriculture Awareness Day — a non-partisan event launched in 2005.
“Manitoba’s agriculture sector is soaring to new heights, which is the theme of today’s celebration,” said Ron Kostyshyn, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD). “We are highlighting the creativity, innovation and adaptability of our province’s farmers, food processors and many others who are turning ideas into opportunities.”
One innovator honoured at the event was Kelly Beaulieu, CEO of the Canadian Prairie Garden Purées. That company based in Portage la Prairie uses a new steam injection method to cook and sterilize food in a matter of seconds, leaving taste and texture intact.
The purée also uses misshapen vegetables that would have otherwise ended up wasted.
Roughly 50 per cent of the vegetables grown for retail in Manitoba don’t have homes to go to, Beaulieu said, explaining that they’re often considered too ugly for grocery store shelves. Prairie Garden Purées gives those vegetables a good home, she added.
“There are such great opportunities here,” said the CEO, referencing both the province’s political and geographic climate.
“It’s such a challenge to get a business up and off the ground, but we’ve had a lot of support and I’m grateful for that, Manitoba is a great business incubator,” said Beaulieu, a recent winner of the Manitoba Food Processors Association’s Manitoba TASTE Award for best new product.
Three chefs, Justin Bohemier, Brad Gray and MJ Feeke, also used the purées to make new dessert creations for the celebration, which featured a generous helping of local foods.
“Farmers love to see companies like Canadian Prairie Garden Purées finding success through innovation,” said Keystone Agricultural Producers president, Dan Mazier.
Réjean Picard was on hand as well, speaking about another type of new technology — unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.
Speaking about the value of innovative technology, the MAFRD crop adviser took time to note that there are also some limitations, as well as regulatory restraints, on the much talked about tools. But he said that overall they present a great opportunity.
“UAVs are another tool in your tool box, but you can’t dismiss the boots on the ground either,” he told attendees.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari also spoke at the event, drawing on her experiences growing up on a poultry operation near Anola.
“The family farm is the root of everything we’re talking about today, it’s those families that grow and that thrive, and are so passionate about the job that they do every single day, and I’m very blessed to have come from that,” she said.
Progressive Conservative Agriculture Critic Blaine Pedersen pointed to the important role of government while addressing the crowd.
“The technology, the market opportunities, the environmental stewardship, it’s exciting, there is tremendous potential out there for Manitoba agriculture, and it’s up to us as politicians in this building to enhance that potential,” he said.