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Regional innovations awarded in Strathroy

June 15, 2010  By Fruit & Vegetable

June 15, 2010, Strathroy, Ont – Ontario’s rural communities
are growing innovative ideas that drive the local economy and advance Ontario’s
agri-food industry.

June 15, 2010, Strathroy, Ont – Ontario’s rural communities
are growing innovative ideas that drive the local economy and advance Ontario’s
agri-food industry.

These ideas were celebrated recently at a ceremony in
Strathroy honouring regional winners of the Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food
Innovation Excellence


Recipients in the fruit and vegetable industries included:

Berry Hill Fruit Farm – Aylmer

Growing fruits and vegetables that are in demand, selling
locally and building brand recognition have meant increased profits for Dick
and Renee Saarloos of Elgin County. By selling directly to local retail outlets
and increasing the volume of sales, the farm saw a 30 per cent increase in
gross farm revenues in 2009. Since 2006, 19 acres of apples have been removed
and replaced with sweet corn and tender fruits, and the on-farm fruit stand
sells from mid-June strawberry season, to well into the fall. A caricature of
“Farmer Dick” is the recognizable brand that local shoppers look and ask for at
local retail food outlets.

Nature's Perfection Shiitake Mushrooms – Aylmer

The Lindsays are certainly not in the dark when it comes to
bright ideas for growing shiitake mushrooms. They started by cleverly
converting a tobacco kiln and customizing carts, shelving and tracks to make
cleaning easier, thereby reducing the threat of disease and increasing yields.
The growers manufacture their own sawdust blocks as media in which their own
mushrooms grow, and sell the blocks to other growers. The indoor nature of the
operation means continuous production, as opposed to the traditional two-month
production cycle. And they're generous with their innovation – hosting
educational farm tours and donating product for fundraising charities in the

Forest Glen Herb Farm – Forest

The extensive collection of heritage plants at Cynthia
Cook’s farm is helping new generations learn about centuries-old agricultural
techniques. Customers can find out about growing various herbs for culinary,
fragrant and medicinal purposes, making teas and other value-added processes.
More than 1,500 varieties of herbs grow on this historic property in a setting
that includes a house, barn, retail and education centre that are more than 140
years old. Cook is an environmentally conscious farmer and educator who also
brings her skill and knowledge to local colleges. The collection of herbs on
the farm is unique because many of the herbs were sourced from heritage sites.

Aarden Farms Ltd. – Lakeside

Tilling can be time-consuming, but a couple of innovative
farmers from Oxford County have modified their equipment so they can reduce the
number of passes they need to make on the land by as much as 50 percent. Their
modified tiller can perform several operations when they plant their sweet corn
under plastic mulch. The new system enables them to plant more corn in a
shorter period of time, and will help them reach their goal of moving from 35
to 50 acres within the next two years.

Budhaven Farms Limited/Leaping Deere Legends – Ingersoll

When the Budd family was looking at expanding their
agri-tourism business, they wanted to make sure it would be available to
everyone, including people with diverse mobility needs. Budhaven Farms now
features a corn maze, farm animals, nature trails and more all made accessible
in various ways, such as tie-downs on the wagons for wheelchairs or scooters,
and wide, well-groomed paths through the maze. The Budds host various charity
events at their facility, helping to raise significant funds for organizations,
such as 4-H and area hospitals. This all-accessible attraction now receives
visitors from around the world.

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