BRANTFORD — Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers rose to the top at the national event, winning the competition alongside another farming couple from BC.
Jenny Butcher and Wes Kuntz, owners of Little Brown Cow Dairy Farm & Store in Brantford, were one of seven provincial winners from across Canada, becoming Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers back in September. They moved on to the national competition held in Saskatoon in early December.
Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers program is an annual competition that recognizes farmers between the ages of 18 and 39 who exemplify excellence in the profession and make a tremendous contribution to agriculture while fostering better urban-rural relations. The participants must make at least two thirds of their income from farming operations.
“It makes us proud to share this with our community. It underlines and puts in bold writing that our business is unique Canada-wide,” Butcher said.
The four-day event includes multiple interviews and presentations from each of the seven regional finalists. The judges follow a rigid evaluation system to determine who they feel excels the most in their field. Their comments are confidential and not released.
“In the competition, all we had to do was talk about our business. We are the experts at our business, so that’s as easy as it gets. It’s a real honour and a privilege to share what we’ve been doing,” Butcher said.
Butcher and Kuntz both grew up on dairy farms and yearned for the day they’d start their own. In 2008, they rented a barn in Paris, Ont. where they milked 20 cows and lived out of a house trailer.
At the same time, they worked full-time jobs in Guelph to save money for purchasing a farm. Butcher was a manager at an organic agricultural cooperative and Kuntz worked in dairy management software sales and support. The cows were milked before and after their day jobs.
After three years, the couple bought a 40-acre farm with a barn and an inoperative abattoir. They began acquiring a milk processing license while Kuntz renovated the freestall barn into a dairy barn and parlour, and converted the old abattoir into a cheese plant.
The on-farm store came into existence in 2017, after Butcher and Kuntz bought an out-of-use auto body shop. The building soon became Little Brown Cow Store, where the couple sells all of their products.
Today, Little Brown Cow has eight full-time staff, including chefs preparing ready-made meals daily, and a herd of 200 cattle, 70 of which are dairy cows. All their milk is pasteurized and processed on the farm, then sold in a variety of products in the farm store.
“We have a lot of customers that are really proud. We started so small and in such a humble way that it’s especially neat for customers who saw where we started and who’ve grown with us. A lot of them find it pretty neat to be a part of our journey,” Butcher said.