ST-ISIDORE — A farmer from the region has been honoured as this year’s recipient of the $10,000 Dave Reid Award by ALUS Canada.
Marc Bercier operates a family farm — La Ferme Agriber Inc. — with his kin, Chantal and Guillaume Bercier, in St. St. Isidore. He’s also known for his seed-cleaning business Centre de Criblage Marc Bercier.
Formerly known as the ALUS Canada Producer Innovation Award, the Dave Reid Award recognizes participating ALUS farmers/ranchers who are “excellent stewards of the land and who have done outstanding and innovative work in producing ecological services on their farms through the organization,” according to the non-profit entity. Promoting and funding agricultural conservation practices in six provinces, ALUS — short for Alternate Land Use Services — was launched with a multi-million-dollar grant from the Weston Family Foundation in 2016.
“Over the years, Marc has had an immense impact on the development of the ALUS program in Eastern Ontario,” said Bryan Gilvesy, ALUS Canada CEO, of the local recipient. “He excels in showing other farmers how and why to restore parcels of land for the benefit of both wildlife and the community.”
Bercier is an active member of ALUS’s Ontario East chapter and member of the group’s so-called Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC).
“Farmers are a small part of the population, but an organization like ALUS helps us feel supported. In receiving this award, I feel even more encouraged to continue the good work and transmit that to the next generation,” he said.
Fellow PAC member Bill Smirle of Morewood told NVN that Bercier has set an example for his community, with other farmers in his area now replicating his example of encouraging grass and tree buffer strips alongside municipal drains. He’s also created an innovative pond on his property.
Bercier’s Nov. 2 recognition was one of two main honours handed out by ALUS yesterday, with Dr. Amy Newman, Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, collecting the 2020 Weston Family Ecosystem Innovation Award.
Dr. Newman has spent the last decade investigating how environmental stressors affect brain development, reproduction and general fitness in a wide range of butterfly, bird and small mammal species, with a particular focus on how agricultural practices affect these biodiverse populations and the intricate web of life in the natural world.
“It is an honour to be recognized with the Weston Family Ecosystem Innovation Award,” she said. “It is fundamentally important to increase and protect biodiversity as an ecosystem service.”
“Our Foundation is delighted to recognize Dr. Newman for her outstanding research on the potential of ecosystem services on Canadian farmland,” said Eliza Mitchell, Director, the Weston Family Foundation. “This independent research on ALUS projects continues to highlight the important role farmers and ranchers play to restore biodiversity and habitat capacity on agricultural lands.”
The biennial award recognizes researchers or ALUS Canada partners for excellence and innovation in scientific research, monitoring or verification of ecosystem services produced on farmland for the broader public good. The Weston Family Ecosystem Innovation Award has previously been presented to Dr. Wanhong Yang in 2018, and Dr. Andrew MacDougall in 2016.
The Dave Reid Award has previously been presented to Tom Towers (ALUS Red Deer County) in 2019, Joe Csoff (ALUS Norfolk) in 2018 and Gerry Taillieu (ALUS Parkland) in 2016.
A runner-up prize, in the amount of $1,500, has been awarded to ALUS Lambton participant and PAC member Mary Ellen King in Ontario, while ALUS Parkland PAC Chair and participant Eldon Greanya, in Alberta, received an honourable mention prize, worth $500.