The couple will compete for the national prize later this year
By Diego Flammini
Farmers from Delhi, Ont. are Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2022.
Dave and Jenn VanDeVelde, owners and operators of Wholesome Pickins Market and Bakery, received the award during Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock.
“The two days we got to spend with the other nominees, and everyone involved Outstanding Young Farmers was already such a wonderful experience,” Jenn told Farms.com. “Winning was the icing on the cake.”
Jenn and Dave facilitated changes on the farm, which has been in Dave’s family since 1930.
The farm mainly produced tobacco. But upon returning to the farm from University of Guelph in 2006, the young couple started to take the farm in a different direction.
Using their education in horticulture and science, respectively, the pair grew their first ever-bearing strawberry crop in 2007.
“The tobacco industry was in a bit of a decline at that time,” Jenn said. “It was clear that if we wanted to keep farming, we needed to come up with another avenue.”
Jenn and Dave VanDeVelde.
Adding strawberries to the fold has led to the VanDeVeldes introducing more crops like asparagus, raspberries, pumpkins, rhubarb, field and cover crops. They still grow tobacco too.
The horticulture crops, which account for about 200 acres of the farm’s land, are used for the goods sold at the on-farm bakery.
The journey from a tobacco farm to a diversified operation with a retail store shows how supportive people in the Ontario ag industry are.
“Dave and I were 24, 25, when we started this and very green,” she said. “We grew our business through the support of others. The people in Ontario agriculture are our greatest resource.”
More farm diversification could be on the way for the family.
Apples, peaches, blueberries and agritourism opportunities are possible additions, VanDeVelde said.
“Those are decisions we’ll make in the next 12 to 24 months,” she said. “Right now it’s about looking at where we can dedicate those resources.”
With their provincial victory, Jenn and Dave will represent Ontario at the national competition in Saskatoon, Sask. in November.
The VanDeVeldes will be looking to make it back-to-back titles for Ontario.
In 2021, Jenny Butcher and Wes Kuntz, owners and operators of Little Brown Cow Dairy in Brantford, shared the award with Raymond and Tracey Bredenhof, a farming couple from Abbotsford, B.C.
“There are certainly some big shoes to fill,” VanDeVelde said. “We’re excited and proud to represent Ontario and share the story of our little farm from Delhi.”
The other 2022 regional winners are: