Farmers Forum features six top Western Ontario graduates of 2021
Ahmed Atteya, 40, Thamesville, Ont.
Background: From Egypt, moved to Canada from Saudi Arabia in 2019 to study and work in agriculture. Earned an economics degree in Egypt. “I told myself it’s never too late, I want to do something I love and I should keep chasing my dream.”
Achievements: Graduated with distinction; prize for the top two students; prize for recognition of academic excellence; award for highest cumulative average in the agriculture program; academic leadership award; agricultural economics award; and proficiency in human resource management prize.
College highlight: “Studying in an inclusive and diverse environment where my age and background weren’t a barrier. It was like a big family for me, now I have so many friends of all different ages. The whole experience was very helpful.”
Future: “I will keep studying and learning about new agricultural technologies and what’s new in the market because I see myself as a leader in this industry within 5 to 10 years, helping and supporting farmers to achieve their goals.”
Summer plans: Customer service manager at AGRIS Co-operative Ltd. in Begden, a farmer-owned grain marketing and farm-input supply company that serves more than 1,000 farms.
Emma Francis, 20, Monkton, Ont.
Background: Perth County grain farm.
Achievements: Graduated with distinction; academic proficiency runner-up in agriculture for the top two students in the program; Francis and Ouellette agri-food industry award for minimum cumulative average of 80 per cent with a career plan in the agri-food industry; Ontario processing vegetable growers Rudy H. Brown memorial award for highest final grade in the vegetable production course; corn and oilseed management course award.
College highlight: “Learning from the instructors because a lot of them are just so passionate about agriculture, it just made it so much easier to learn. Even instructors over Zoom calls were excited. You could just see and hear how passionate they are about what they’re talking about.”
Future: “I’m interested in the crop sector because I lean towards what I grew up with. I’m just taking it day by day, seeing what the future holds. I’m open to anything because I love the industry as a whole.”
Summer plans: Crop scout for Hoegy’s Farm Supply Ltd. in Brodhagen, Ont.
Alexander von Westerholt, 23, Harriston, Ont.
Background: Cash crop farm. Completed a Bachelor’s degree in cognitive science at Carleton University.
Achievements: Graduated with distinction; J. Harold Wilson memorial award for excellence in conduct and character; involved in the curriculum council for the agriculture program;
College highlight: “When things weren’t all online! The Ontario Agricultural Colleges Winter Games in February of last year, where I won in men’s doubles badminton and soccer. Also, the small program size: You knew everyone. It’s a bit different from when I went to university. There were thousands of people there. Here it was more homey.”
Future: “I started a chicken barn on the family farm with my brother and cousin at the start of the pandemic and I want to expand the business, as well as the cash cropping. I’m sticking with agriculture.”
Summer plans: “Running the chicken barn and working on the farm year-round.”
Jacob Orth, 20, Burgessville, Ont.
Background: Dairy, beef, crop farm
Achievements: Graduated with distinction.
College highlight: “Doing a short two-year program which gave me time to gain actual farm experience, as opposed to doing the four-year University of Guelph program all in-class. The guys who go to Ridgetown are, I feel, a bit ahead because they’ve actually been in the field for two more years than the ones coming out of the University of Guelph. The biggest part about it is actually the people you meet. I learned about how people do things differently from area to area.”
Future: “Hopefully work my way up through the farm and take it over some day.”
Summer plans: Full-time on family farm
Derek Greydanus, 20, Gowanstown, Ont.
Background: Family dairy farm. Also worked on his uncle’s 500 sow pig farm and fell in love with it. Also worked for a family friend’s 2,000 sow farrow-to-finish operation.
Achievements: Graduated with distinction.
College highlight: “All the hands-on learning and farm-applicable knowledge, skills that can be used in the real world. I came to college, met my wife, and her family was looking for a hired hand on their pig farm, so I took the job.”
Future: “For the next few years I’ll be working on my in-laws’ pig farm. They’re in the process of putting up some new barns. They’re going to build a new sow barn and I’m going to manage that. Long-term, I’d like to start a family and go out on our own to start a farm by ourselves.”
Summer plans: Sow herd manager at in-laws’ pig farm.
Lauren Miller, 23, St. George, Ont.
Background: Family cash crop and former dairy operation at Glenside Farms.
Achievements: Graduated with distinction; William Park Carr scholarship for demonstrated willingness to assume responsibility and leadership.
College highlight: “I loved learning about the financial process behind owning a farm. The one thing I really appreciated learning was succession planning and how that works for farms. It was interesting because my family and I have already been discussing how we’d be able to pass the farm down to myself or my brother.”
Future: “I’m returning to the University of Guelph in the fall to complete a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. It’s been a dream of mine to get back into the dairy industry. My future plans to take over the farm include eventually bringing back dairy cattle (to the family farm).”
Summer plans: Customer service representative at Grand Valley Fortifiers in Cambridge, Ont.