Rural urban dinner
by Kim Cooper
Any person or group celebrating 71 years straight of an annual event has to have some great roots planted in the community. Chatham-Kent is such a community which combines both the urban and rural components. Last week was the 71st annual Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce Rural Urban Awards Dinner.
The idea of this event is to unite both our rural and urban communities. As we all know, Chatham-Kent has a rich blend of both, which is to our advantage in many ways. We live together, work together, go to school together, and attend church together. We really are a close community.
In the 1970’s, it was decided to honour various individuals in a number of categories who have done a tremendous service in our agricultural sector.
This year’s recipient of the ‘Agriculturalist of the Year’ was Mark Richards, a third generation Dresden area farmer who farms over 2,000 acres of tomatoes, sugar beets, corn, soybeans and wheat. Mark has served the agriculture community very well for many years, including all executive positions with the Kent Federation of Agriculture and is presently a Director with the Ontario Sugarbeet Growers Association. Mark is also a Director with the Michigan Sugar Company and serves as the Treasurer of the Board. He is a Board member with the Chatham-Kent Agri Development committee and Vice-Chair of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. Mark is committed to bring changing technology to his farm operation for effectiveness and efficiencies with the goal to further improve the state of our agricultural sector in Chatham-Kent, Ontario and Canada.
The ‘Agriculture Innovator of the Year’ was Laurent (Woody) Van Arkel. Laurent’s efforts are focused on methods to maintain and improve soil health and soil quality, sustainable agriculture, effective nutrient management, maintaining and improving soil viability and protecting water quality. Laurent has spoken across North America in regards to his passion for the soil, and continues to work with the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus to develop policy and best practices guidelines for soil conservation and use of cover crops.
The ‘Friend of Agriculture’ award went to Dr. Peter Sikkema, who is a Professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. Dr. Sikkema conducts research on weed management in corn, soybeans, cereals and edible beans. He has published over 280 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has authored/co-authored more than 270 presentations at scientific conferences. Dr. Sikkema is always available to talk with farmers and companies about his work and is world renowned for his excellence in weed management research.
The top members from all the area 4-H clubs were Molly Sayers and Matthew Vermey, two young people who have a definite future ahead of them in any agricultural sector they want to pursue.
Molly is an enthusiastic 4-H member who is an amazing example of how the 4-H program helps to build young leaders. She has completed more than 24 projects and her interests range from veterinary to dairy to life skills to heritage clubs. She has taken on leadership roles such as President and Secretary and does many hours of community volunteering at her church, school and with the Ridge Players.
Matthew has been a passionate and committed 4-H member for 8 years and has completed 12 projects. He is now President and Youth Leader for the last two years with the Veterinary Club. He is a leader in team building activities and has become a role model for younger members. Matthew is also very active in his church, community and at the Chatham-Kent Veterinary Hospital.
Agriculture is alive and very strong here in Chatham-Kent. Agriculture is a $3 billion plus sector and is our leading economic driver. Congratulations to these award winners, and along with so many other agriculture producers and companies in our community, continue to move agriculture forward. Whether you are a producer, a service provider to our producers, or a consumer of our agricultural products, we are all working on the same team to bring awareness to others of what agriculture means here in Chatham-Kent.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at: www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’