Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers Program held their annual convention this week in Saskatoon.

Each year two operations from across Canada are chosen for the national title.

This year's national event winners are from Saskatchewan and Quebec.

Cody Straza and Allison Squires own and operate Upland Organics at Wood Mountain (Saskatchewan).

The couple met at university and started their organic farm in 2010.

He notes that they farmed for a few years with his parents.

"We built a green cleaning plant with them. We started doing regenerative agriculture practices in 2016 or so, and then in 2018, we expanded into beef cattle."

Squires, who grew up in the city, says the focus on their farm is on improving the soil and practicing organic regenerative agriculture. 

"Primarily the use of the cattle is to graze our cover crops during the growing season and is a way that we reduce the tillage on our farm.  Soil, as everyone knows, is the very foundation of growing plants. The better condition your soil is in or the healthier it is, the better plants you grow. The better nutrition you will receive as a person, and then that will translate into better communities, is what we believe."

She says improving soil health on the farm has played a huge impact on their operation. 

"Over the years, we've seen that we're better able to withstand things like climatic events. For example, like this drought that we've just gone through and actually in our region, we're still going through. The drought and having improved our soil health over the years has increased our organic matter. More importantly, increased our water holding capacity which has allowed us to still grow decent crops during these really trying times. So that's a big part of of the economic side of improving your soil health as well."

The other Outstanding Young Farmers title went to two brothers Guillaime and Etienne Lessard of Quebec 

Guillame says their operation includes a dairy, organic pigs and maple syrup.     

They have 200 cows milking, with the heifers and dry cows around 500 head, and produce almost 300 kilos of quota. In Quebec, the average farm is around 80 cows. 

The Lessard maple syrup operation involves tapping 32,000 trees in January, and the season starts in the middle of March til the end of April.

Guillame says they sell the syrup to a broker who negotiates the market price with the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, adding that this year they are negotiating new pricing for the next three years.

He notes the market price at the last convention was around $3 for four pounds, but in the last two years, they have had more inputs to pay, so the market is not as good as it should be. 

That's why this year, they have to renegotiate the price for the next few years.
The visit to Saskatoon for the COYF was not Guillame's first trip out west, he spent 14 months after completing school on a farm at Sandy Lake, Manitoba.

All finalists have made significant contributions to the agriculture sector with their own operations.

The other prairie finalists included Richard and Kristy-Layne Carr of Marchand, Manitoba; and Ben and Stephanie Campbell own and operate Tullichewan Ranch near Black Diamond, Alberta.