Ontario Sheep Farmers announced Art Alblas as chair Oct. 27 during the organization’s first in-person annual general meeting since the pandemic.
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“I am very pleased to be elected as chair of such a great organization with such a bright and prosperous future,” said Alblas, in a news release. “I look forward to the industry coming together and working hard to advance our strategic plan and the Ontario sheep sector.”
Alblas replaces John Hemsted, who stepped down from the board after serving the organization over several decades.
Shepherd to a commercial crossbred and registered purebred Dorper and Southdown flock, Alblas joined the OSF board in October 2021 as a director.
As a graduate of Centralia College of Agricultural Technology — Agri-Business Management, he’s brought decades of agribusiness experience to the board. Alblas is active in committees dealing with animal husbandry, GenOvis technical, governance, Maedi Visna, convention, and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission Sheep Industry Advisory.
He gave a nod to Hemsted’s leadership and the decades he committed to improving the industry while serving in local, provincial and federal roles of the organization.
Ken Lamb, District 7, was re-elected as first vice-chair, and District 8’s Karen Davis rose to second vice-chair.
Jay Lennox, District 2; Keith Todd, District 3; Marusha Kostuk, District 4; Ryan Schill, District 5; and Jenna Wight, District 11, maintain their current director positions.
Devon Wensink replaces Lee Brien as District 10 director.
Grant Cowan, of Cowan Acres near Innisfil, is District 6’s new director. Cowan runs a flock of Southdown and commercial crossbred ewes enrolled in the GenOvis program.
Fairside Farm’s Wesley Godden, who raises registered Katahdin hair sheep, replaces Reggie Campbell as District 9 director. Other new board members include Devon Wensink (District 10) and Grant Cowan (District 6).
Recipients of OSF awards and scholarship are as follows:
- Long Service Award(s) – John Hemsted and DVM John Hancock
- Outstanding Shepherd – Ted and Joanne Skinner
- OSF Undergraduate Scholarship – Rachel Gras
- Emerging Leader Award – Courtney Vriens
Winners of the Genovis-Ontario Genetic Improvement Awards:
- Prolific Breed Category – Ted and Joanne Skinner, Cedar Creek Charollais – Rideau Arcot
- Maternal Breed Category – Frank and Ned Cursio – Cursio Farms – Arkell Valley Dorset
- Terminal Breed Category – Ted and Joanne Skinner, Cedar Creek Charollais – Rideau Arcot
- Commercial Category – Earl Brubacher – Brubacher Ovine – Maternal composite
- Hybridizer – Wayne Kreklewich – Australian White/Romanov, Australian White/Rideau Arcott, Dorset/Romanov, Rideau Arcott/Romanov
Sheep Pasture Award
Mike Swidersky and family of Riverview Ranch Meat Co. in Melancthon, Dufferin County are the recipients of the 2023 Ontario Sheep Pasture Award.
Sponsored by Mapleseed, the Ontario Forage Council and the Ontario Sheep Farmers, the award was presented during the OSF annual convention on Oct. 26. Swidersky was awarded $250 and a bag of forage seed for his exceptional pasture management.
Swidersky and his wife, Amber, own the farm and operate it with their two children, Warren and Grace. They established the farm in 2003 after completing agricultural programs at the University of Guelph.
Swidersky has spent the past 17 years honing the farm’s production practices and stewarding the land, raising and growing a flock of sheep and supported by Amber, who has experience in the animal nutrition industry.
Warren and Grace are interested in taking over the farm and making it a second-generation operation. This means adapting the farm to make it sustainable for multiple families. The two youths are each developing their own flocks within the Riverview Ranch flock, having each invested in a ewe with their own money more than 10 years ago.
The Swiderskys are passionate about holistic and pasture management.
“The core focus of the farm is sustainability, soil health and integrity. All decisions made on the farm are made with the health of the pasture, soil, and the animals in mind,” Swidersky said.