Three local agri-food producers have received a Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence, which gives recognition for work done by those in the agri-food industry in helping create jobs, boost the economy, strengthen communities and support a sustainable environment through innovative ideas.
Funny Duck Farms in Jasper was one of the names on the Eastern Ontario award list for its innovation with its community shared agriculture (CSA) program. Many CSAs experience a high turnover rate in clients because members want a more diverse selection, better control over volume or they simply forget to sign up for a new season.
Funny Duck Farms has solved this issue by developing an online system that allows members to order exactly what they want 50 weeks of the year. By broadening the selection and teaming up with five other local producers including a baker, an artisanal cheese maker and a food co-op, Funny Duck Farms is able to support twice as many members and produce less waste.
“We are feeding 100 people, which is 35 families. We have a waiting list and are hoping to expand in the new year” said Samantha Klinck, owner of Funny Duck Farms. “It was pretty exciting [to get the award]. It’s nice to see recognition from the government for things that people in the agri sector are doing.”
Oat & Mill Ltd. from Smiths Falls was another of those recognized in Eastern Ontario. Each week, Oat & Mill Ltd. produces up to 300 litres of its treat — an oat-based ice cream alternative. The frozen dessert company has a variety of flavours, including peanut butter jelly chocolate chunk, butter pecan cheesecake and creamy pumpkin spice. While many other alternatives to dairy-based ice cream rely on tropical ingredients like coconut, Oat & Mill uses Canadian-milled oats. In doing so, the company creates a market for local growers and a healthier alternative for lactose-intolerant consumers.
Westport-based Scheuermann Vineyard & Winery was another winner. Allison and Francois Scheuermann successfully harvested their first wine in 2014 from their vineyard and have a selection of wines that include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Vidal. The winery added a open-grill restaurant recently, which has made it an agri-tourism destination where visitors can sip wine and sample local foods from a patio overlooking Sand Lake.
This is the 10th year of the Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. Since its creation in 2007, a total of 475 producers, processors and agri-food organizations have received an award. Each regional award winner receives a plaque and a $5,000 cheque.
“For us, the money goes back into the farm,” said Klinck. “There are always new projects we have in mind.”
The 2016 Eastern Ontario winners were handed their awards at a ceremony in Morrisburg on Nov. 24.