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Canada: Roelands Farms named Ontario's 2016 Outstanding Young Farmers

Adrian and Jodi Roelands of Roelands Plant Farms Inc. have been selected as Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016. This is how they presented their company, netting them the award:

"We are the founders and owners of Roelands Plant Farms Inc., a greenhouse in Southwestern Ontario where we custom grow premium cucumber, tomato, and pepper seedlings for sale to vegetable production greenhouses. This type of operation is referred to as a propagation greenhouse, and is one of only seven operations of its kind in North America.

"Both of us have been involved in agriculture our whole lives. Adrian grew up on a farrow to finish hog operation, and Jodi grew up working alongside her family on their broiler breeder operation. Even before we got married, it was evident that farming together was in our future. It was just a matter of how and when. We were able to join Jodi's family in their newly established bell pepper greenhouse in 2006 and spent 6 years working there and learning the ins and outs of greenhouse vegetable production.

"In 2012, we made the decision to venture out on our own, and by early 2013 we had started construction of 4 acres of greenhouse propagation space on a newly purchased farm. We have since expanded twice, with our most recent phase slated for completion in October of 2016, bringing our total growing space to 12 acres. This rapid pace of growth was necessary to reach a sustainable size, but has made the past three years a whirlwind adventure of almost constant construction on our farm, where we live with our five young children.

"The greenhouse industry uses computer technology to automatically control almost every aspect of climate. There is also an increasing amount of automation available to growers, enabling them to produce extremely high quality vegetables while keeping costs competitive. The greenhouse vegetable industry has exploded in the last decade doubling its acreage in Ontario and steadily increasing in the United States. By building a propagation greenhouse, we are servicing a need for a growing agricultural sector.

"Managing a farm like this has meant learning a lot of new skills quickly, and adapting our management styles accordingly. We started with just the two of us and quickly grew to 60 full-time people and another 100 staff seasonally. We have a team of highly skilled managers, a multi-level management structure, administrative staff and an external accounting firm that works on-site weekly. It has also meant shifting our own job descriptions regularly with the changing needs of the company.

"One of the guiding principles of our farm is to 'remain committed to our agricultural roots, and endeavor to be a leader into the changing future of farming'. We see the future of the family farm being much different than the past. It will be large, more productive and technology based, and will employ more highly-skilled staff. We believe the farm of the future will be a cross between existing agriculture, and a Silicon Valley style tech company. We see our farm as a leader in this new and exciting time in agriculture."

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