Volunteers at the Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association have had a very busy year thus far, despite not being able to do what we do best, and that is carry out the annual Ottawa Valley Farm Show.
Last October, when the difficult deci- sion was made to cancel Farm Show 2021, we asked ourselves “now what?” How do we harness all the energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers, who were so disappointed to have no show in 2020 and again in 2021. At least this year we had some advance notice, unlike last year when the show was cancelled only 4 days before it was time for doors to open.
Of course, there was the annual Ottawa Valley Championship Seed, Feed and Forage Show, with only a few pandemic related glitches. Eight local county seed shows were held in February and March, with top entries moving on to the championship show. Our numbers were great and right in line with previous years and the quality of entries was outstanding.
And then there was the auction — what do we do with the annual Prestigious Pedi- greed Seed Auction? It did not happen in 2020 with the late show cancellation, and we did not want to miss the opportunity to make an annual CHEO donation. Under the leadership of OVSGA director Kathy Hardy, the auction went online in March with tremendous support from seed donors, contributors of auction items, and bidders. As a result, our 2021 donation of $7,500 will go to the mental health services unit of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. This makes our total donation to CHEO more than $186,000 since our first auction in 1992.
But we needed more — and it all started with a little dream. What can we do to celebrate local agriculture? Recognize small businesses? Create a buzz of excitement in our agricultural community? And engage not only our volunteers, but farm show exhibitors and farm show visitors?
And the dream grew. Let’s call it #AgInTheEast Celebration of Agriculture, and create boxes showcasing small busi- ness agriculture from across our catchment area of Western Quebec and the 11 counties of Eastern Ontario. So we did — there was honey from Renfrew County, maple products from Lanark and Prescott, apple butter from Leeds, cornbread muffin mix from Dundas, barley and tulip bulbs from Ottawa, and jam from Stormont. These were joined by tea, blueberry wine, cider, pepperettes, mustards, white beans, and beautiful Glengarry collector mugs. There were even tree seedlings, soy candles, sunflower seeds for the birds and a pollinator seed mix for the bees. All 250 boxes sold out within two weeks.
One Eastern Ontario dairy equipment business, when learning of the project, called to ask “where do I send the cheque in support?” And then turned around and ordered 26 boxes, one for each of the company staff people. More than a dozen other local businesses also partnered together in the project to help cover item and box costs.
We were fortunate that our volunteers were able to deliver well over 90% of the boxes. And the remainder were shipped to Western Ontario, almost all going to friends and relatives of local purchasers. #FarmShowSierra, our beautiful brand new 2021 truck courtesy of Bean Chevrolet in Carleton Place, had the honour of delivering many of the boxes. We received notes and social media tweets and postings from those excited to see her drive up the laneway with their box delivery. Seeing and hearing the enjoyment of people receiving their boxes of goodies that have been grown or made across our region was the real reward.
It was truly a project demonstrating #volunteersworkingtogether. Full credit goes to OVSGA Director Colleen Acres for planting seeds with this idea and leading the charge to make it grow. There was endless laughter and camaraderie as team members bubble wrapped, stuffed, taped and labelled together.
Much as we have enjoyed all of our projects so far this year, the OVSGA team can’t wait to return to normal, when we can again harness all that volunteer energy to do what we truly love — putting on the annual farm show with its Court of Honour displaying all the seed show award winners, the Thursday afternoon call of the auctioneer and the multitudes of exhibitors, visitors and friends. See you all next March!