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Canadian fruit and vegetable industry’s Top 4 Under 40 announced


March 18, 2021
By Fruit and Vegetable

In February, Fruit & Vegetable magazine set out to recognize the next generation of trailblazers driving the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry forward. Now, we are pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Top 4 Under 40 contest:

  • Hayden Dooney, general manager of the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association and co-owner of Suncrest Orchards;
  • Susan Judd, retail processes manager for Heeman’s and co-founder of Ride the Bine;
  • Philip Keddy, farm manager of Charles Keddy Farms Ltd.; and 
  • Nicholas Ploeg, co-owner of Sunrise Potato.

Hayden Dooney

Growing up on a family farm in New Zealand and working throughout Europe in the agriculture industry prepared Dooney well for his career at the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association in Simcoe, Ont. Dooney’s leadership skills, eye for innovation and passion for the apple industry combine with his farm experience to ensure customers and growers are satisfied. In addition to his work with the association and on the farm, Dooney is an active member of Norfolk County’s Agriculture Advisory Board, advocating for Norfolk farmers and farm workers in the municipality.

Susan Judd

Judd is no stranger to agriculture, growing up on her family’s strawberry and dairy farm in Simcoe, Ont. At Heeman’s, Judd manages the greenhouse and garden centre’s 40 customer service staff, the pick-your-own strawberry section, and worked with husband Tom Heeman to develop the business’s cidery. She was also responsible for co-development of Ride the Bine, an agri-tourism company that showcases local wineries and craft breweries. Judd has also worked as an instructor and co-ordinator for Fanshawe College’s Agri-Business Management program and volunteers with a number of community and agricultural organizations.

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Philip Keddy

Keddy always wanted to be a farmer. Upon graduation from Nova Scotia Agricultural College (now part of Dalhousie University), he started a research project with Perennia growing sweet potatoes on the family farm, which is now the largest commercial sweet potato grower east of Ontario. Keddy continues to innovate, currently working with Cornell University on a trial involving UV light to control strawberry pests and diseases. He has sat on several boards and committees over the years and is currently president of Horticulture Nova Scotia, while also making time for initiatives like Agriculture in the Classroom.

Nicholas Ploeg

Ploeg came to farming 13 years ago, helping his then-fiancee Ruth VanderZaag grow potatoes at Sunrise Potato after completing an apprenticeship as a machinist. He enjoyed the experience so much that he became a full-time farmer with VanderZaag, and has since worked to improve the farm’s sustainability, processing quality and yield. Ploeg is also a regular face at conferences, field days and webinars, and can often be found chatting with producers and potato industry experts on Twitter.

“The competition was fierce,” says Alex Barnard, associate editor for Fruit & Vegetable magazine. “It was great to see so much passion and ambition from the under-40 crowd in the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry. The future is in excellent hands.”

The winners were first announced on March 10 as part of the Canadian Fruit & Vegetable Summit. The four winners will be featured in the May issue of Fruit & Vegetable magazine, as well as a four-episode series on the AgAnnex Talks podcast.