Brooke-Alvinston farmers Don and Irene VanGorkum were chosen as recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of the long commitment to implementing conservation practices on their farm.
Making the presentation at the annual meeting of the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association in Alvinston, director Fraser Hodgson noted that there were a number of criteria required to qualify for the award but the basic tenets are conservation practices, innovation, and community involvement.
Hodgson noted that they were really honouring one of their own because Don had been a highly active soil and crop director for about 20 years.
Don graduated from the University of Guelph in 1972 and shortly after married Irene. Together they raised three daughters and one son and now have seven grandchildren.
Before taking over the family farm in 1976, he spent two years with DeKalb Seeds and for another three years involved in house construction. He began full-time farming in 1981. The VanGorkums own 272 acres and sharecrop another 200 acres.
For a number of years they also ran a farrow-to- finish hog operation but that ended in 2008. However, they are currently feeding contract hogs. Don grows wheat, corn and IP soybeans. He began no-tilling wheat in 1992 and applies 75 lbs. of starter MAP with the seed.
For many years, he under-seeded red clover, not only because of its benefits to the soil, but also for the extra boost of N it gives to the fol- lowing corn crop.
Hodgson noted that a conservation technique that Don routinely practices is management of his ditch banks by cutting weeds and also maintains a buffer strip along each bank.
Over the years he has conducted many soil and crop trials on his farm and has made maximum use of OMAFRA extension people. Hodgson noted that Don views farming as his calling and has often said that he just loves it.
In terms of community involvement, VanGorkum has served as a trustee on the board of his local church, has been board member of Trillium Lodge, served on the board of the Strathroy and District Christian Funeral Association, is a past member of the East Lambton Secondary School Parent Teacher Council, and a 20-year member of the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
When visiting the VanGorkum farm, Hodgson noted that one quickly realizes there is a “place for everything and everything in its place.”
Accepting the award VanGorkum said he thanked God for giving him his passion for farming, calling it the “noblest calling” in the world.
“To be entrusted with the stewardly care of the soil, air and water in the production of safe, healthy food for mankind is a privileged and trustworthy vocation,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the many OMAF specialists who said “help us to be the best producers in the world.”
He extended special thanks to his wife, Irene, and family and added that without their help he wouldn’t have been there.
Don and Irene VanGorkum were presented with the Outstanding Farmer of the Year Award. From left is LSCIA director Fraser Hodgson, Don and Irene Van- Gorkum, Steve Arnold of the St. Clair Region Conservation Authorithy and Dave Currie of Parkland Farms. The presentation was made at the annual meeting of the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s annual meeting in Alvinston.