Kevin and Annamarie Klippenstein of Cawston will share the honour of being Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers of the Year.
The organic farming couple recently returned from the Outstanding Young Farmers National event in Brandon, Manitoba, after sharing top honours in the five day event with Geoff and Jennifer Bishop, who run a 150 cow dairy operation in Nova Scotia.
The Klippensteins began a five acre organic orchard operation in Cawston in 2000, and since then have expanded their agricultural operation to 40 acres, growing organic fruits and market garden vegetables. As far as the outstanding farmers program goes, the Klippensteins have been in the running since being recognized as B.C. finalists in 2005.
The Klippensteins won the B.C. title earlier this year, which earned them the right to compete nationally in Brandon. Their shared first place finish is a first for the organic farming industry, something the Klippensteins actively promote. Seven different regions were represented by the regional finalists in the Brandon competition.
“It was an amazing experience, to have so many different aspects of agriculture come together like that, all doing different things in the industry,” commented Annamarie Klippenstein. After an initial get together, the seven finalists spent the week viewing each other’s powerpoint presentations on their respective operations, touring the Brandon area and presenting themselves to the judges.
“It wasn’t so much a competition as it was a meeting of agricutlural minds,” Annamarie said about the nature of the event. “By the end of the week, everyone knew everyone else – we’ve made friends for life.”
The Klippensteins’ operation was judged on a number of factors, including such things as environmentally sound practises, sustainability and innovativeness.
“I’d hate to have to judge something like this,”Annamarie said, observing that the uniqueness of each agricultural operation represented at the competition prevented direct comparisons – it was like comparing apples to oranges.
Klippensteins’ original marketing plan was to sell everything they grew on their Cawston farm to Vancouver area markets, but they have since diversified their operation and now include value added fruit products and summer and winter community supported agriculture box programs to the marketing plan,which enables them to generate an income year round. This past year they included a gift certificate program which allows consumers to purchase gift certificates at the beginning of the year and exchange them for produce throughout the season.
Kevin is also chair of the new Organic Farming Institute of B.C. The Klippensteins run an on farm apprenticeship program for up to 10 apprentices per year.
Environmentally, Klippers Organics is the first organic farm to acquire an Environmental Farm Plan, and the first to be “salmon safe.” In addition to a geothermal energy system used to heat their house, they have also installed solar panels to power their drying facility and apprentice accommodations.
Annamarie feels that one of the biggest rewards to come from being named one of Canada’s outstanding farmers will be the increased credibility the title will bring to their operation.
“It’s a recognition program,” she said of the award, “and it will give our industry increased exposure nationally.
One of the biggest things for us is the connections we have made across the country.”
That increased credibility should come in handy next week as the Klippensteins head for Ottawa to speak to the Standing Committee on Growing Food in the House of Commons.