Stewart Skinner and Jessica Kelly of Imani Farms in Listowel are Ontario’s 2023 Outstanding Young Farmers.
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The two faced off against friends and mentors Jennifer and Derek VanDieten, of Van Dieten Dairy Farms in Seaforth in the tightest judging result of the competition. A single point separated the winners.
The two farming couples shared their presentation with a packed house at Thatcher Farm’s Barn Swallow Fields events space on August 17.
Why it Matters: Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmer award recognizes farmers who exemplify a passion for the industry, innovation, and community while deriving a minimum of two-thirds of their income from the operation.
Skinner and Kelly run 132 acres of certified organic crops and a pork operation producing approximately 25,000 hogs a year, servicing three customers, one in Quebec and two in the United States.
“It was really neat to go through our business from beginning to end as part of preparing for this,” said Skinner. “When you’re in the grind day-to-day, you lose perspective of what we’ve built. It was a unique opportunity for us to step back and say, ‘Hey, we’ve done some pretty cool stuff together.’”
Skinner said competing with the Van Dietens meant that regardless of the outcome, industry representation would be of the highest calibre and by someone he respected deeply as a producer and friend.
Kelly said while they continue to drive forward in their operation, reflection on the challenges they’ve overcome, particularly in the last few years, revealed the strength of their resilience.
“Our hope is that we can continue to learn, grow, change, and continue to find ways to contribute to the industry and the communities we’re a part of,” she said. “All the while remembering to always have faith, including in ourselves.”