McGuinty Gov’t. Rewards 11 Local Farms for their innovations



Innovative ideas grown by Ontario farmers are contributing to the local economy, boosting the agri-food industry and offering more choices for the consumer. Those ideas were celebrated today at a ceremony honouring local winners of the province’s regional awards for innovation excellence.

The Premier’s Agri-Food Innovation Excellence awards are part of a $2.5-million, five-year program (now in its second year) established to recognize innovators who contribute to the success of Ontario’s agri-food sector. Winners of the $100,000 Premier’s Award and the $50,000 Minister’s Award were announced earlier this month at the Premier’s Summit on Agri-Food.

Local events across the province are being held to recognize 55 regional award winners, who will receive $5,000 each for their innovations. Area winners presented with their awards today were:

Lambton County
Brier Run Alpacas/Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres (Oil Springs)
Char-Creek Farms (Wyoming) Cornelissen Farms (Watford) Fairwind Farms (Sarnia)
Fields Farm (Petrolia)
Twin Pines Orchards (Thedford) VanEngelen Dairy Farms and Hog Tied Farms (Thedford)

Elgin County
Brooymans Farms (Port Stanley)
Clovermead Bees & Honey (Aylmer)
Weninger Farms Ltd. (Aylmer)

Middlesex County
Sunnivue Organic Farm (Ailsa Craig)


“I am pleased to recognize our local farmers with these awards. Their hard work and innovative ideas are helping to make our rural communities stronger,” said Maria Van Bommel, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.


  • Since its launch, the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence has attracted 358 applications highlighting on-farm innovations.
  • Ontario’s agri-food sector is the second-largest goods manufacturing industry in the province (after the auto industry) and contributes $30 billion to the economy every year.


Local Farmers Recognized for their Innovations

May 16, 2008

The following are recipients of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence – regional awards:

Lambton County:

Brier Run Alpacas/Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres – Oil Springs

Brier Run Alpacas and Edy’s Mills Fine Fibres have created a new measure of productivity on the farm – the number of socks per acre. This value-added partnership raises alpacas, harvests their fibre and turns it into a wide range of consumer products – from cones and skeins of fibre to batting and felt, to finished consumer goods. Teamwork means that Norris McAuslan earns a living from his alpaca operation and Heather Blanchard maximizes her investment in mill equipment by using it every day.

Char-Creek Farms – Wyoming

John Noorloos of Char-Creek Farms is always busy creating or modifying farm equipment to improve his farm practice. One of his innovations is a tracked manure spreader that has twice the capacity of a conventional solid manure spreader. It includes a hydraulic system with a short (four foot) section of a conventional chain-driven system. His invention is environmentally friendly, reduces soil compaction and has worked well for
the operation for many years.

Cornelissen Farms Inc. – Watford

George Cornelissen knows how to keep his chickens cozy. He developed a geothermal broiler barn, where the water used for heating the building is preheated in piping located underground in an adjacent field. This innovation is environmentally friendly and has reduced the farm’s energy costs by 30 per cent. It has also improved production since the farm is able to monitor and fine-tune heat flow, with temperatures controlled at bird level. The farm is one of the first in Ontario to apply an innovative heating system on a large agricultural scale.

Fairwind Farms – Sarnia

Mark and Anne-Marie Lumley, of Fairwind Farms came up with one sweet idea when they developed a way to field pile sugar beets on the headlands, which can then be transferred at a later date. This North American first allows the Lumleys to clean enough soil off the sugar beets to transport them for processing directly from the field. Their method of readying sugar beets for export involves less labour, contributes to the sustainability of the farm, and boosts the bottom line. It allows harvesting to be uninterrupted and provides greater flexibility for trucking logistics. This innovative approach to harvesting sugar beets has been adopted by four other sugar beet harvesting groups in the county and has attracted groups from the United States to Fairwind Farms.

Fields Farm Ltd. – Petrolia

Fields Farm Ltd. is the first large hog operation in Ontario to earn its certification from the Humane Farm Animal Care organization. Anton Felder made changes to his production practices by adopting new technology, introducing a new feeding approach and enhancing housing facilities for his animals. Looking out for his livestock has consumers looking out for his pork products.

Twin Pines Orchards – Thedford

How do you take one of nature’s oldest gifts and make it a modern experience? Twin Pines Orchards found a way to grow their apples and profits by creating value-added products and expanding their farm to include a variety of event-themed experiences. Mark and Mike Vansteenkiste’s innovative products include different packed apples,
preserves, organic products, wines and ciders, which they sell on site and at local restaurants and shops. The farm also conducts art and science camps, an apple festival,and school tours. Twin Pines Orchards’ innovative efforts has created a positive destination for consumers who value the ‘total experience’ as well as the product.

VanEngelen Dairy Farms and Hog Tied Farms – Thedford

The VanEngelens, of Lambton County, have become partners in power. Ed, John and Mike VanEngelen installed Ontario’s first on-farm 250 KW windmill to supply power for a dairy and a hog farm. The close proximity of the farms and the strong working relationship among the three men helped move this innovation forward. The large tower and wind generator provide a highly visible example for other farm operators interested in installing an alternative energy source.

Elgin County:

Brooymans Farms – Port Stanley

Brooymans Farms knows good things come in small packages. Rene Brooyman was one of the first farmers to plant #9 dwarf rootstock apple trees in Ontario. He began sharing his knowledge with other apple growers by hosting tours and educating them on how to manage and achieve high yields in this type of orchard. Today, his is one of the most visited farming operations in the province for this crop speciality. Most commercial apple orchards in Ontario are now on the #9 rootstock. Growing shorter apple trees has reduced labour and spraying costs by 50 per cent, and resulted in higher yields and better returns. The equipment innovations and practices the farm uses have been proven over the years and continue to attract significant attention.

Clovermead Bees & Honey – Aylmer

Creating a buzz. That’s what Clovermead Bees & Honey know how to do very well. Christy Hiemstra used an innovative marketing strategy to create additional value from the honey they produce. It has raised public awareness of the importance of honeybees in Ontario food production by educating and entertaining farm guests about the fascinating world of honeybees. The operation produces value-added honey spreads and offers a variety of interactive farm displays and tours for school groups and visitors.

Weninger Farms Ltd. – Aylmer

John Weninger, an Elgin County sweet potato producer, has introduced an infrared dehydrator to his operation – allowing him to become the first producer of sweet potato flour, which has significant nutraceutical benefits. John dries a variety of products, opening the door to new markets for the family farm as it phases out of tobacco production. In addition to filling all the flour orders he receives, Weninger Farms can
custom dry most raw food products thus giving farmers the ability to create their own value added products.

Middlesex County:

Sunnivue Organic Farm – Ailsa Craig

A group of urbanites in Middlesex County developed a unique, not-for-profit agricultural land trust to link the principles of local food systems, community and sustainability that reflected their values. By pooling their financial resources, they were able to buy a farm located in Ailsa Craig, which is close to a large urban centre. Today, Sunnivue Organic Farm produces and sells milk, beef, veal, chicken, pork and a large variety of
fruits and vegetables. Volunteers routinely gather to work on the farm. The model is the first of its kind in Canada.

For more information contact:

Kelly Synnott, Minister’s Office, 416-326-6439
Brent Ross, Communications Branch, 416-326-9342

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