A crowd of more than 400 guests gathered at the Clarion Hotel in Abbotsford on January 24 for fellowship, fundraising and celebrating some of BC’s agricultural leaders.
The annual BC Agriculture Council gala welcomed dignitaries including Premier David Eby and his BC United counterpart Kevin Falcon, as well as provincial agriculture minister Pam Alexis and Opposition agriculture critic Ian Paton.
But the spotlight was saved for recipients of the various industry awards, which focused on farm leaders from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.
Kelowna school teacher Aaron Veenstra was honoured with the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation’s Teacher of the Year Award, who has made a practice of integrating agriculture in lessons with Grade 6 students at A.S. Matheson Elementary.
Originally connecting agriculture and food in lessons on multiculturalism, sustainability and social justice, his work has expanded to teach students about what grows in BC, eating local foods and the positive economic and community impact of buying and eating local.
“My work is to uplift your work and your livelihood,” Veenstra told farmers at the gala.
“Food education is a relatable and easy topic to bring into the classroom,” he adds. “As students become more familiar with what the land gives us, and we give them more chances to connect with the land, they will start to care for it more.”
Students also receive hands-on experience on caring for the land through school gardening and composting programs.
Vancouver Island dairy farmer Dave Taylor was honoured as Scotiabank Champion of Agriculture for his countless hours of service on provincial and national boards over the past decade, and in particular his diplomacy.
“He’s a leader known to encourage and contribute to collaborative efforts in support of producers,” BCAC director and dairy farmer Rebecca Senicar said in presenting the award.
One of just five farmer representatives on the board that revised the National Code of Care for Dairy Cattle for Canada’s 10,000 dairy farmers, a project that will impact the industry for years to come.
BC Fruit Growers Association general manager Glen Lucas, who retires in March, was honoured for 35 years of service to the sector with the BCAC Excellence in Agriculture Leadership award.
BC Agriculture Council president Jen Woike presented the award, noting Lucas is “willing, capable and available” on behalf of growers, and exemplifies everything the award is meant to honour.
“This recipient is always willing to speak openly and honestly in support of growers,” she said. “The recipient encourages others to succeed and reach their fullest potential.”
Lucas was “the stability of the industry,” industry members said in a video tribute, noting his steady work to take the industry forward through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and other initiatives.
Responding to the award, Lucas said it would not have been possible without the support of his staff and family.
One familiar face missing from the proceedings was former Country Life in BC editor David Schmidt, who passed away suddenly in November.
BCAC director Niklaus Forstbauer led a toast to Schmidt’s memory, thanking him for everything he did for the sector as an editor, reporter and friend.
A silent auction at the event raised nearly $10,000 in support of BC Young Farmers.