NORTH DUNDAS — A young farmer lost his life in a tragic accident yesterday morning at his family’s North Dundas dairy operation.
Mike Von Gunten, 29, died May 7 at the Limerick Rd. address of Sybrenson Farms Inc., where he and his parents, Felix and Valerie Von Gunten, milk a large number of cattle.
“I knew him my whole life,” Dundas Federation of Agriculture President Marty Derks said of the deceased. “I have property that neighbours theirs, and they’ve been customers of ours. He’s my sister’s age,” the Derks Elevators co-owner said, adding they also attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Chesterville together and later, the Kemptville Campus of the University of Guelph.
“I know he loved farming, that’s for sure. He wouldn’t do it if he didn’t love it.”
Farm accidents “should never happen, but they keep happening,” the DFA president sadly observed, noting that farmers often work alone but must remain vigilant about their personal safety. “It’s a stark reminder to everyone to work safe.”
Derks offered that “someone would organize a tractor rally” in tribute to the deceased if desired by his family, though Derks hasn’t spoken to anyone about the idea.
SD&G OPP Const. Tylor Copeland confirmed that officers attended the farm shortly after 9:30 a.m. yesterday and determined the man’s death was not suspicious. He was found unresponsive and declared deceased at the scene. A post mortem is being conducted.
“Sadly, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development was notified May 7, 2020, of a workplace fatality in Chesterville,” said Janet Deline, spokesperson for the ministry.
“A worker sustained fatal injuries after being pinned under machinery. Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the workers at this project,” Deline wrote by email. “A ministry inspector attended the scene and our investigation is ongoing.”
Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, extended his condolences when asked for comment on the loss: “Any workplace death is tragic and heartbreaking. There are no words that can express how terrible this must be for the family, friends, loved ones and community for their tragic loss and I extend my sincere condolences during this difficult time.”
The Von Gunten family collected the Dundas County “Farmer of the Year” Award from the Dundas Soil and Crop Improvement Association in 2012, in recognition of their progressive, modern operation.
This article was updated to include additional information from the OPP, including the man’s name, and information from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.