The nation’s Outstanding Young Farmers will go head to head in Winnipeg next month.
Seven stand-out farm families between the ages of 18 and 39 will make an appearance at Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer’s National Event at the end of November, hosted this year by the Manitoba region.
Representatives from each western province, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada will vie for the title of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer during the event. Each has already won their own regional title to earn their spot.
“It’s fairly lengthy,” national OYF program manager Carla Kaeding said of the regional awards. “It’s about a 15-page application process that looks at where they came from, where they are and where they’re going, so what their plans are for the future.
“(The judges are) looking for their innovations, their leadership, all of those kinds of things,” she added. “And they’ll be judged on the same things at the national level as well.”
This year’s nominees run from grain farmers to dairy, feedlot/grain mixed operations, potato producers and pasture-fed lamb, pork and beef.
Brooks and Jen White of Pipestone, earned Manitoba’s slot earlier this year.
The pair doesn’t want their farm, Borderland Agriculture, to be sustainable, they told attendees of a field tour this summer. “Sustainable,” as far as they’re concerned, is too low a bar.
Instead, Brooks White said, they want Borderland Agriculture to be regenerative.
For the last seven years, since their farm flooded in 2011, the Whites have refocused on soil, looking for management that increases infiltration, improves soil structure, reduces inputs and boosts soil carbon. Long-term bison ranchers, White’s livestock is now incorporated in his grain production as much as possible, he said, including grazing the cover crops that have become common practice on his farm. More recently, White began to ramp up livestock stocking, looking for some of the environmental benefits and forage yield that advocates of the practice swear on.
White will take the judges through that journey next month.
“Basically, it’s just our story,” he said. “That’s what it is. It’s how we started, what got us to where we are today and kind of what we’re working on. I think a lot of what we’re doing tells a really good story with the environmental aspect of our system and how we’re trying to really be stewards of our farm.”
Bison will take a highlighting role in his presentation, at least partly for their novelty, he added.
White, however, says he’s most looking forward to networking with his competitors.
He likened the event to his earlier experience with the CTEAM (Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management). The two-year farm management program grouped the Whites with a small cohort of other farmers from around Canada.
“There was like 25 farmers in the program that I did and they were all from different blocks of agriculture that I hadn’t experienced before, like greenhouses and vegetable production and hog barns and just different things I hadn’t really been around. I got to know all of those people over that two-year course that I took and just got to learn a lot about how different agriculture is outside of Manitoba and I got a lot out of that course just from meeting those people and then learning about their operations,” he said.
“When I got thinking about it, that’s probably what I’m looking forward to the most at this national event — meeting all of those different couples from across Canada and learning about their farms, because we’re going to be with them for the whole week.”
The event will hit Winnipeg Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.