Jenn and Dave VanDeVelde of Delhi are contenders for the 2022 Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year (OYF) for Ontario.
Sponsored by several agricultural businesses and organizations, the award recognizes farmers who demonstrate excellence in farming. The Ontario competition forms part of a seven-region, national program that originated in 1980.
Qualifying farmers must be between ages 18 and 39 and derive at least two-thirds of their income from their farm operations. The nominees must complete a detailed application form, including a power point presentation. Then, a group of judges interviews the candidates based on several criteria: career progress, environmental stewardship, production history, financial management practices and progress, and contributions to the community.
It is not the first time that the VanDeVeldes have been nominated for OYC recognition. “We were previously nominated several years ago, but we did not act upon it,” said Dave.
This fourth-generation farming couple returned to David’s family tobacco farm in 2006, where they created Wholesome Pickins Market and Bakery. That year, they planted strawberries, which they sold from an old tobacco tying machine.
Since then, the bakery and store evolved and expanded with new baked goods and local products. Wholesome Pickins produces more than 200 acres of crops including strawberries, asparagus, raspberries, pumpkins, rhubarb, tobacco and various field and cover crops.
Jenn said that her community contributions included a term as president of the Ontario Berry Growers Association. Dave served as its treasurer, and helped that association transition into the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board.
The VanDeVeldes have two children, Ryan and Emily.
This year’s OYF interviews and judging will occur at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show near Woodstock in September.
There is one other provincial nominee, said Cathy Bartolic, YOF Ontario regional administrator.
Regional winners go on to compete at the national event, in Saskatoon, November 24-27. There, two candidates will be named Canada’s Outstanding Farmers for the Year.
In 2021, Jenny Butcher and Wes Kuntz of Little Brown Cow Dairy Farm & Store from Brant County were one of the national winners.