KEMPTVILLE — Agriculture, as an industry, is well-suited to Type A personalities. For those driven to always do more and better, there’s always something new to try, work to be done, something to be learned. It cultivates self-reliant people. But it also cultivates the communities that all of us, no matter how independent, need to fall back on sometimes.
It was something Kelsey Banks, a crop farmer, agronomist and daughter of retired OMAFRA specialist Scott Banks, was reminded of this past year. “I was a woman on a mission to do anything and everything.” Then she was diagnosed with brain cancer last year at age 26, just three months before COVID-19 hit in force.
She was one of two recipients of the Andrew Schouten Memorial Bursary, $500 cash awarded in honour of the promising young dairy farmer who died in a car accident in 2018, to “remember his love of agriculture, his community service and his resiliency.” The award is presented to support farmers in time of trial. The other recipients are the Reid family of Renfrew, after Robert Reid died in an on-farm accident last year (see story on page 14). Created by OFA rep and GFO member Jennifer Doelman, the award is in its second year and is given out to farmers in GFO’s District 13 (Prince Edward, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac, Lanark, Leeds-Grenville, Renfrew, Ottawa).
Raised on a farm at Kemptville, Banks made her way west to her family’s other farm at Orangeville after graduating university and a multi-phase career in agriculture, working alternately for a seed company, an animal feed and crop nutrition company in communications and agronomy, and as an agronomist for ag retailers in Ontario and in Saskatchewan.
She’s been sharecropping the 112-acre farm for the last five years with neighbours. Growing corn, soybeans and a variety of cereals, sharecropping lets her keep active and participating in the relatively small farm, which isn’t large enough to justify buying machinery or equipment.
The diagnosis hit hard. She had a seizure that alerted that something was wrong and it also cost her driver’s licence. “That’s a lot of freedom gone, especially since at the time I was 26.” She was diagnosed with Grade 2 Astrocytoma, a slow-growing form of brain cancer.
Her support network has been a great help. So has been coming back to Kemptville while in treatment. She’s staying with her dad and the forced break has been an opportunity to spend time with him. “Before this I wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time as I have with my dad.”
And when Doelman called to say she’d been awarded the bursary, it was a lot to take. “I almost started crying when they gave it to me. I’ve been gone for six years. To have my Eastern Ontario community home come around me (was a welcome shock). I couldn’t believe that they did that for me.” The money quickly went to work: she spent it on medication.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Banks said her treatments are supposed to wrap up by mid-March, and “they think I should be in remission after that. I’m really excited, really, really excited.”