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Manitoba carrot producer wins lifetime achievement award


September 25, 2009
By Myron Love

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Manitoba vegetable grower Dave Jeffries of Jeffries Brothers Vegetable Growers Ltd. is the first grower ever to receive the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Manitoba vegetable grower Dave Jeffries of Jeffries Brothers Vegetable Growers Ltd. is the first grower ever to receive the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jeffries was presented with the award at the CPMA’ Annual Convention in Toronto at the Awards Luncheon held earlier this year.

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Dave Jeffries of Jeffries Brothers Vegetable Growers Ltd. in Portage la Prairie, Man., is the first grower ever to receive the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. (Photos by Myron Love)
 
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Roland Jefferies (left) bought into the family farming operation a few years ago and now works with his father, Dave (right). “I have told him that when I start getting in his way, he should let me know,” Dave says.


 

Jeffries was recognized for his commitment to the fresh produce industry at both the local and national levels. He has served on the Canadian Horticultural Council’s board of directors since the 1990s, including serving a term as president in 1998. He is also the elected chair of Peak of the Market’s board of directors and has served in that role for nearly 20 years.

“This award is really about the amazing contribution Dave Jeffries has made on behalf of the Canadian agricultural sector and the development of the Canadian produce marketplace,” stated Danny Dempster, CMPA’s president, in presenting the award.

“I am very honoured to receive this award,” Jeffries said. “My participation in the industry has always been rewarding and has given me the opportunity to work with so many friends and colleagues.”

Jeffries has been an active member of the CMPA for close to 35 years.

“Manitoba growers such as Ed Connery and Walter Kroeker put in a lot of time and effort with the association before me,” Jeffries says. “When they stepped down, we felt that it was up to my brother, Albert, and I to step up. It became our turn to step to the plate and do what we could for the betterment of the industry.”

One of the highlights of his involvement in the CMPA, Jeffries says, was his input in establishing the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) in the early 1990s.

“We set it up under NAFTA,” he recalls. “It’s almost like being a member of a club. In order to be part of the DRC, fruit and vegetable growers have to agree to operate in a fair and ethical manner and abide by DRC rulings where the DRC mediates disputes between growers and customers.”

Most of all, Jeffries is grateful for all the friends he has made in the industry and in government through his CMPA activities. He also appreciates all the help he has received over the years from fellow growers, such as Ed Connery and Willard Thiessen.

“In Manitoba, people in the industry always work together,” Jeffries says. “I remember years ago, Ed Connery pointing out that the produce we send to market reflects on all of us. A consumer who may buy our carrots in Vancouver may not remember our name and very well might remember that the carrots are from Manitoba. If the quality is poor, that will reflect badly on all Manitoba growers. Therefore, it is important to help each other to grow the best carrots.”

Although a life long farmer, Jeffries was not to the farm born. He is actually originally from Toronto.

“My father worked for the Campbell Soup Co.,” Jeffries says. “He was transferred to Portage La Prairie in 1959, when I was 10, to get the new Campbell Soup plant in Portage started.”

Jeffries recalls that he always loved being outdoors. Farming seemed the ideal occupation to him.

“My brother and I couldn’t afford to go out and buy a large piece of land to become grain farmers,” he says. “We could afford a few acres for growing vegetables.”

They started out growing carrots, potatoes, red beets, onions – and anything else they thought would work – on a parcel of land just west of Portage (which is about 100 kilometres west of Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway). At the time, Dave was still in his teens and going to school. Albert was just slightly older and working at the Campbell Soup plant.

“It was a steep learning curve,” Jeffries says. “We got a lot of help from friend and neighbours who were farmers.”

The brothers moved to their present property just east of Portage 40 years ago after the government expropriated their original land for a river diversion project.

Today, Jeffries Brothers plants about 1,000 acres of carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, cucumbers, zucchini and winter squash and daikon. Carrots are the largest crop.

“We normally sell around 5,000 tonnes of carrots a year,” Jeffries says.

Jeffries Brothers is one of Manitoba’s three largest carrot producers along with Connery Riverdale Farms and Jaymore Farms. The operation employs between 30 and 35 people year round for crating sorting and packing. For the peak summer production season, Jeffries Brothers brings in Mexican workers – 19 of them this year. One of those Mexican workers has been coming back every summer for 20 years and a couple more have been coming for close to 20 years.

A few years ago, Albert decided to retire. “I was considering retiring myself,” says Dave.  “We had a prospective buyer. So I sat down with my kids and presented the options to them.”

Dave’s younger son, Roland, choose to come into the business. He had been a commercial pilot but wanted to be closer to home. So Roland and Dave bought out Albert’s share of the business.

“I’m staying around for a few more years to help Roland get his feet on the ground,” Dave says. “It has been really exciting working with him. It has given me new steam.”

Dave notes that Roland has introduced quite a bit of new technology (such as tractors with GPS and new packaging equipment) to the farming operation over the past year. “Roland has a much better grasp of the technology than I do,” Dave says.  “I am finding it really exciting.

 “I consider it very important that I support Roland in realizing his dream and his agenda. I have told him that when I start getting in his way, he should let me know.”