Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
WINCHESTER — Backed by their home Dundas County Cattlemen’s Association, a local farming couple has won the prestigious Beef Farmers of Ontario Environmental Stewardship Award.
The award granted during the BFO annual meeting held virtually this week automatically puts Jackie and Steven Pemberton in the running for national recognition from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, with the winner to be announced during the CCA’s semi-annual summer meeting.
“It’s an honour,” Jackie said, “especially in that it has the national component to it.”
On behalf of their Pemdale Farm, a 200-acre cash crop 25-head cow-calf operation, the Pemberton’s prepared a personal application for the award a few years ago. They were unsuccessful. The push from DCCA put them over the top, said association secretary Ron Wilson who did much of the legwork.
“The entire rural and agricultural community, not just beef farmers, should be proud the Pembertons efforts have been recognized,” Wilson said. Other than a Dundas Soil & Crop Improvement Association Award of Merit, Jackie said it was the first prize of major significance claimed by the farm or its owners.
Wilson believes a new emphasis in the second application on Jackie’s off-farm environmental activism over the past 25 years helped sway the BFO judges. Jackie has become widely know both regionally and provincially through her leadership in the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and on agricultural environmental issues.
After serving as president of the Dundas Federation of Agriculture for 13 years, she has been elected to a second three-year term as an OFA regional director, with part of her duties to liaise with beef producers on a province-wide basis.
In filing the nomination on behalf of the Pembertons last October, Wilson emphasized that Pemdale’s role through Jackie in providing environmental leadership beyond normal on-farm projects — largely on a volunteer basis – should on its own be worthy of the Stewardship Award.
When you add to that portfolio on-farm projects in controlling stored manure runoff, cover crops and rotations, tree planting, windbreaks, creating buffer strips and wildlife habitat, bird boxes, and pollinator hedgerows, the contribution becomes exceptional, Wilson stated.
The BFO panel saw it the same way. They decided that, in 2021, the Pembertons best exemplified producers who go above and beyond standard industry conservation practices in setting a positive example for their peers and the general public.
Of special interest was a Pemdale project with the Ontario Rural Waste Water Centre and several partners examining a three-phase constructed pond, wetland and vegetated filter system to treat manure pile and cattle exercise yard runoff.
Steven said he enjoyed the experience of working with researchers who came to the far. The fact the project occupied limited space on a small farm was a bonus, as was high-tensile electric fencing installed around it which does a great job of keeping livestock in and predators out.
While Steven and Jackie joked about his willingness to try out the latest stewardship innovation she brings home, he’s clearly pleased with the BFO recognition and with the farm’s steady stream of environmental improvements.
Several glowing letters of reference were included with Wilson’s thorough application package, including from Ronda Boutz, Special Projects Leader with South Nation Conservation, where Jackie has devoted countless hours over many years in raising awareness of the contribution of farmers in maintaining the environment and to seeking advances in that effort, especially relating to water quality.
She has been chair of SNC’s Clean Water Committee since 2013; in 2017, she chaired the sensitive Agricultural Forest Cover Committee which, after intensive consultation, made several recommendations to the board of directors concerning improving dwindling forested lands in SNC’s jurisdiction.
Like many other supporters, Boutz referred to Jackie as an “environmental leader”, inviting her continued participation in regional agri-environmental initiatives. Jackie is an alumnus of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program.
Another letter of support came from Brendan Jacobs, Program Director for Ontario East Alternative Land Use Services Inc, who credited Jacquie’s leadership for increasing the adoption rate of on-farm stewardship activities.
Jacobs called Jackie and Steven “exemplary members of the community” whose dedication to environmental stewardship is having an impact throughout Eastern Ontario and beyond.