Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario received the inaugural recognition
By Diego Flammini
An Ontario ag organization received an inaugural award from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Today, Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s ag minister, presented the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) with the first Excellence in Agriculture Award during a visit to the Ignatius Jesuit Centre and Farm in Guelph, Ont.
EFAO is one of three winners out of 108 applications. OMAFRA will announce the other two winners and some honourable mentions soon.
The award recognizes farmers and industry organizations “that have raised the bar for excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development that will benefit the sector or advanced technological innovation,” OMAFRA says.
With a growing population, changing consumer tastes and the public demand to know where and how food is produced, innovation in the ag sector is crucial, Hardeman said.
“There is nothing more important in agriculture than innovation,” he told Farms.com. “We already produce as much as we can and consume as much as we can. That part in between, to do it better, is what it’s all about.”
The Ignatius Jesuit Centre and Farm is home to one of EFAO’s projects.
Rebecca Ivanoff, the research and seed program coordinator with EFAO, is overseeing a plot of peppers as part of the Southern Ontario Pepper Breeding Project.
Along with three farmers in different parts of the province, Ivanoff hopes to produce early ripening, blocky, red bell peppers with good flavour for organic field production in southern Ontario.
The peppers are grown a cross between the Ace and Aristotle varieties of peppers. Dr. Michael Mazourek, a vegetable breeder from Cornell University, developed the variety.
The Ontario breeding project is now in its fourth year and is progressing well, Ivanoff said.
“We have a population that’s really broad and has a lot of the shapes and sizes we’re looking for,” she said at the event.
Some peppers from the project could come to market in the next few years, she said.
The Excellence in Ag Award is a testament to the work farmers put into finding ways of improving their operations.
Having farmers lead research helps ensure the most practical questions get answered, said Ali English, executive director of EFAO.
“Farmers are the ones who decide what challenges on their own farms are going to be worth the time during a busy season to do a trial,” she told Farms.com. “Because the (producers) are part of this network of farmers, they’re sharing the information with other producers. The whole process speeds up the cycle of research, knowledge generation and sharing.”
Minister Ernie Hardeman presents Ali English with the Excellence in Agriculture Award.