Five leaders in BC’s agricultural community were honoured at the BC Agriculture Council’s annual gala on January 25.
Dairy farmers Jimi Meyer and Hallie Jacobs were honoured with the Scotiabank Champion of Agriculture award for their support of Fraser Valley dairy farmers following the flooding in November 2021.
“Our initial goal was just to bring a bit of cheer,” Meier says in this month’s issue of Country Life in BC.
It turned into a $160,000-plus fundraising initiative that continues through the Facebook page Helping Sumas Prairie Farmers–Flood Support.
Recovery from the flood would have been impossible without government support, and the BC Agriculture Council took the rare step of awarding a seasoned bureaucrat with its “Special Recognition” award.
Retiring director, policy and product review, with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s Business Risk Management Branch Lonny Steward received the honour for his knowledge of support programs and the respect in which he was held nationally.
”Whenever I attended meetings across the country, government staff, farmers, knew who I was talking about,” former BCAC executive director Reg Ens says. “Some spoke his name almost with reverence, because he knew what he was talking about.”
Honoured with the Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation’s Outstanding Teacher award was Michelle Jondra of Chilliwack, who has engaged children at several levels, not only about growing food, but serving it to others.
“They’re even more engaged in learning, she found out, when they plant, they maintain a garden, and then they gain the satisfaction of eating or sharing what they’ve grown,” says AITC BC executive director Pat Tonn.
The evening culminated with the presentation of the BCAC Excellence in Agricultural Leadership Award, which went to dairy farmer Ben Brandsema, honoured just two months earlier by dairy producers for his accomplishments.
“His leadership was fundamental with incorporating organic milk and other specialty milks within the supply-managed system,” BC Dairy Association vice-chair Sarah Sache said, noting that he continues to provide “pointed inspiration and motivation with grace.”
Brandsema says giving back is something he attempts to do, mindful of what others gave him.
“When I started farming, I really looked up to the leaders of the industry and spent a lot of time talking to them and learning from them, and so I’d like to try and pass along some of those experiences to the younger people coming in,” he says, advising others: “Find new ways to make your industry better than it was yesterday.”
The gala set the stage for the Pacific Agriculture Show and Regenerative Agriculture and Growers’ Short Course that followed over the next three days.
Show organizer Jim Shepard estimated attendance at between 5,000 and 6,000 people, on par with pre-pandemic numbers.
“Attendance was very good all three days, and conference registration was way up, too,” he said. “Big improvement from last year.”
More than 1,100 people registered to attend the short course in person and online, drawn in by a $15 registration fee subsidized by the province, which led the organizing of this year’s program.
“It was refreshing to see the ag community back together again preparing for a productive 2023 season,” Shepard said.