The first national championship of the Outstanding Young Farmer competition in two years has named Ray and Tracey Bredenhof of Abbotsford this year’s winners alongside Jenny Butcher and Wes Kuntz of Little Brown Cow Dairy in Brantford, Ontario.
The Bredenhofs operate R&T Farms in Abbotsford, which has grown to produce 225,000 broilers a year. It produces 21 acres of hops and handles and equal amount from contract growers. Its growth, and the Bredenhofs’ involvement in the industry won them top ranking in last year’s regional Outstanding Young Farmer competition.
But not all regional competitions had completed prior to the pandemic, and last year’s national event was deferred.
This year’s event, which took place online and in person in Saskatoon on December 1-3, saw six other finalists representing the dairy, produce, honey, beef and grain sectors.
Choosing two winners has been common for the competition in recent years. For the Bredenhofs, the win came on the heels of the dramatic November flooding that briefly forced them to evacuate their farm at the edge of Sumas Prairie.
“We did leave for a short period of time, but then I ended up just getting back into the farm,” says Ray Bredenhof. “We had animals in the barn and it was driving me crazy being off the farm.”
Fortunately, the broiler barn was protected by berms and sandbags. The water stopped 30 metres from the buildings before receding. Some of his hopyard was inundated, but it’s too early to tell if the vines will be impacted.
“We won’t know for sure until we start seeing plants pop up in the spring, if we end up having some plant mortality,” he says. “Hopefully the plants are more resilient than we give them credit for, and they pop right back.”
True to the community spirit that figured into his nomination for the award last year, Bredenhof and some of his children pitched in to help others in the community. This included assisting with sandbagging the Barrowtown pump station on November 16, when it was in danger of failure.
“We filled more sandbags than we ever want to see again in our life, that’s for sure,” he says. “The camaraderie of all working together to save the pump was a pretty neat experience.”