Shirley and Harry Buurma are this year’s recipients of the Lambton County Outstanding Farmer of the Year Award. The annual award, which is hosted jointly by the Lambton County Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Parkland Farms and the St. Clair Region Consveration Authority, is presented each year to a farmer who has demonstrated conservation farming practices. From left is Shirley and Harry Buurma receiving the award from LSCIA director Fraser Hodgson.
The recipients of this year’s Lambton County Outstanding Farmer Award are no strangers to Lambton County’s agricultural community.
The award, hosted jointly by the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association (LSCIA), Parkland Farms, and The St. Clair Conservation Authority, was presented to Harry and Shirley Buurma who farm in the Watford area.
Making the presentation recently at the annual meeting of the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association, was LSCIA director Fraser Hodgson, who noted that this year’s recipients were well-known to everyone in the room.
Hodgson noted that Harry Buurma was a relative latecomer to farming. Having grown up on a dairy farm in Bosanquet Township, Harry started a dairy equipment business in 1975 and continued in that enterprise until it was taken over by his son, Glenn, in 1996.
He noted that Harry didn’t begin farming until 1988, when he purchased the first of many farms he would own over his 25 years of farming.
“Land was reasonably priced in those early years because it was a period of very high interest rates,” saidHodgson, adding that many farms became available at relatively low prices for a short period of time.
He pointed out that Harry grew mainly soybeans and wheat in the beginning and later introduced corn into the rotation.
“He felt that corn would be profitable only if harvested dry in the spring,” he said. “This is how Harry became well known as the ‘the farmer with corn outstanding in his field.'”
He said ploughing land didn’t appeal to Harry so he practiced no-till right fromthe beginning. However, he soon found working in wheat stubble was a huge challenge and realized that he had to do some fall tillage.
Hodgson said he tried many types of low-tillage and conservation tillage systems over the 25 years he farmed. “If something failed to work to his expectations, he didn’t hesitate to try something else,” he said.
He noted that Buurma credits much of his success to OMAFRA extension people such as Peter Johnson whose guidance was invaluable to him during his farming career.
Family is also highly important to the couple. Being happily married for 41 years Harry and Shirley have 12 children, six of their own and six adopted. In addition, they served as foster parents to numerous children over the years. At last count the couple had 26 grandchildren.
Recently, Harry sold some of his farms to sons Glen, Roger and David and now sharecrops the remainder with Roger and David. They also have a son Bruce, who farms in Michigan.
Hodgson noted that the farm organizations that Harry has served on forms an impressive list, having been a member or director of organizations such as the Lambton Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Lambton Wheat, Soy and Corn Committees, Lambton Federation of Agriculture, Southwest Ag Conference, Lambton Woodlot Committee, to name a few.
On the personal front, he is involved with volunteer organizations such as Victim Services, Rebound, Canadian Cancer Society and the Children’s Aid Society.