By Miranda van den Berg
The BMO Ontario Farm Family Awards
recognizes outstanding families from across Ontario who best represent the values of the family farm within their rural communities. These awards show appreciation for the contributions each of these families is making to the further growth of the agricultural community. This past fall, Belluz Farms (located in Slate River, Oliver Paipoonge) was a proud recipient of this award at the Slate River Plowing Match Rural Heritage Days. Chosen as one of the Top 10 Farming Families in Ontario, they were recognized by the both the local and provincial branch of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) as well as at the 2016 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo.
Because of how the nomination process works, the Belluz family was nominated by another community member. This took them by surprise, however, they were honoured by the nomination. Kevin and Jodi Belluz (owners of Belluz Farms) chose to accept the nomination. “We admire what the award stands for – the recognition of what it means to be a family farm and the importance of investing in the well-being of the rural community.
Many who reside in and around the area of Thunder Bay know that Belluz Farms has established a long history of involvement and commitment within the community. Kevin’s father’s (Don) side of the family has lived and farmed in this community since the late 1800’s. But that’s not the only reason they believe they were nominated. “It’s taken a lot of ingenuity, perseverance and hard work to keep farming this particular piece of land for three generations – I think that’s what was recognized as well.” And this year, their perseverance and commitment paid off big.
Kevin and Jodi explain how wonderful it has been to be able to honour Kevin’s parents, Don and Claire, as well as his grandparents, Mary and Bernie before them. As Jodi puts it, “They laid the groundwork for the success of this family farm and we are deeply appreciative to them. It’s heart-warming to be able to publicly recognize all the hard work they’ve willingly given to not only their own family, but to this community as well. And, of course, we’re proud to carry on their legacy.”
Belluz Farms has been actively taking part in the recent push to prioritize the purchase of local food. In today’s world, family farms are fewer, while larger, mass operations tend to take over. It is more important than ever to encourage and support family farms. “Food is more than just a commodity. Food paints a picture of who we are as a community. It’s what MAKES us a community. When you keep the “family” in “family farm,” you keep a true connection to the land and to a sense of place.” explains Jodi. She firmly believes that we preserve a sense of stewardship in the land that not only provides an income to families, but provides sustenance to the community members that surround them. “There’s a responsibility that remains intact with the preservation of the family farm,” adds Jodi.
In the past two years, a family farm within the Thunder Bay/Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge region has landed a spot among the 10 winners including Breukelman’s Potato Farm (The Breukelman family) in 2015. Does the say something about how the Thunder Bay and area agricultural community has changed in the past decade or two? “I think it’s a testament to the hard work so many of us have put into our local agricultural sector,” Jodi commented. “And I think that we are definitely changing for the better. There is more of a public awareness now of the importance of safe, secure and sustainable food production than there has been for the last 40 years. I think this public awareness will continue to grow support for our local agricultural sector – and that’s really integral.” she adds. Jodi believes we as a community could improve on the way we value the money we spend on food as much as we do on say, technology. However, she also states that there has been a strong commitment here in our agricultural community to grow good food and to keep on growing it!
Interested in nominating a well-deserving family for this outstanding award? The nomination deadline for the 2017 BMO Ontario Farm Family Award is March 17, 2017. The nomination form can be found online at www.plowingmatch.org.
A total of 10 families will be chosen, and honoured families will be formally recognized for their dedication to Ontario’s agriculture sector and the rural way of life at the 2017 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Walton, Ontario, on Saturday, September 23, 2017.
BMO Ontario Farm Family Awards Nominations can be made by anyone for anyone. You do not have to be associated with the OPA or reside in the same county as the nominee to make a nomination. Just be sure that your nominated family is active in primary agriculture, has agriculture as the main source of income and has members residing on the farm. They do not have to be members of the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA).
If you know a farming family and believe that they positively showcase how the values and hard work of the farm family enhance our quality of life, nominate them today!
A special thank you to Jodi Belluz of Belluz Farms, for the time she took to comment with her thoughts on receiving this well-deserved award! Congratulations, Belluz family!