Recognize oustanding young Cowichan farmers

Do you know an outstanding young farmer? Why not nominate them for a provincial and possibly even a national award?

Nominations forms are waiting, according to Jen Woike of North Cowichan, chair for the BC/Yukon region of Outstanding Young Farmers.

"We have some fantastic young farmers in the Cowichan Valley, some that I’ve been after for several years to be involved in this program," Woike said. "We need this because we work in a very thankless job as farmers. Nobody stops to say: thanks for producing those pumpkins, for producing those eggs. Of course their purchasing our produce is one way of saying thanks but it’s always good to be thanked for a job well done."

She and her husband, Ian Woike, were the recipients of the BC/Yukon Outstanding Young Farmers award for 2009.

The experience was an eye opener.

"From there I decided that, like anything else, it needed people to keep the program going ahead. I became the chair in 2012. I love this job because it’s not very often that we get to say: ‘Hey, good job, well done to you people who farm.’" To be considered for the title, a farmer has to be nominated but that nomination can come from anyone and it doesn’t have to be somebody connected with farming, either, Woike said.

So, what are the criteria for a nomination? "You have to be between the ages of 19-40. You have to derive two-thirds of your income from your farm. And you have to have some financial input in your farm; the easiest way to describe that is you have to own shares. We had to do that because we were getting farm employees nominated for the program. They didn’t have any financial attachment and part of the program is your financial success and how far you’ve come.

"You have to have skin in the game. That’s how we say it," she said.

She said the entire OYF program has proved really worthwhile.

"One of the great things about this program, and what my husband and I really benefitted from, is it really makes you stop and look at how far you’ve come, evaluate what you’ve done. I don’t think that a lot of business people, and especially farmers, actually take the opportunity to do that, to take that look. It’s really made us selfaware of our accomplishments," Woike said.

BC/Yukon winners have included quite a few from Vancouver Island and some have gone on to the national level for even more recognition.

"Our winner is going to go to Quebec City this time for nationals at the end of November," she said.

One of the other things you get out of OYF is meeting a truly diverse membership.

"We have organic, CFA [Canad- ian Federation of Agriculture] vegetable growers.

We have winners who have 8,000 hectares and grow canola. It’s all over the spectrum. They all come together.

"In farming we sometimes think that the organic people don’t talk to the industrialized. But this really brings everybody together and allows everybody to see all the points of view. It’s really an interesting program," Woike said.

Nominations for the awards must be in by Nov. 1. Find the nomination form at oyfbc.com