Clayton Conboy grew up helping his Mom and Dad, Joyce and Mel, make maple syrup each spring. It was a labour-intensive effort, tromping out to the bush, gathering sap from holding tanks around their farm property on Bell Line road, which is off the 509 north of Sharbot Lake, and hauling it to the evaporator to be boiled down into syrup.
Clayton is now 31, and works in Ottawa, but he looks forward to coming home during syrup season. The family syrup operation, which is called Oso Sweet, a play on the former name of the township where their farm is located, has developed significantly over the years.
All of the sap now flows from the bush into a central shed, thanks to a vacuum system. It goes through preliminary filtering, and is then pumped into a 2,800 gallon stainless steel tank that is housed in a new building. The sap then passes into a reverse osmosis machine, where, through the use of air pressure and microfiltration, the sugar content of the sap is tripled. The Conboys bring their sap to 7.5% sugar before sending off it to the wood fired evaporator where it is transformed to maple syrup, precisely 67% sugar. Even elements such as the barometric reading are taken into account. The finished syrup is filtered, graded as golden, amber, or dark and then bottled for sale.
“The best syrup is made from the freshest sap, and with all that we’ve done over the years, when the sap is running well, we can process it into syrup pretty quickly,” said Mel Conboy, in an interview at the farm last Friday, a cool early spring day when the trees “weren’t really hurting themselves to run that much” as Clayton Conboy put it.
The other advantage of the technology that the Conboys have put in place over the last ten years or so, is that instead of boiling well into the night when the sap is running hard, they can be finished and becleaned up by supper time.
“I’m 68,” said Mel, “I don’t need to work until midnight anymore.”
Putting in the reverse osmosis machine cut the boiling time for syrup significantly, saving on wood and lessening the environmental impact of syrup production. But it was not just a matter of buying a machine. It required the construction of a new heated building, which took time and money. When the Conboy’s were ready to make the purchase, they applied for, and received, an Eastern Ontario Development Program grant.
With the cost of the reverse osmosis machine, the building and hydro upgrades, we were very appreciative of the grant that we received from the Frontenac CFDC. It helped fund a project that we had long dreamed of, covering about 10% of the cost. That was a big help,” said Joyce Conboy.
The Conboys are planning still more upgrades, in a constant effort to create an efficient operation that produces consistent, high quality maple syrup.
They purchased a new finish filter machine this year, and in the long term would like to build on to the new building to house their evaporator and bring their entire production into one space. As well, as they increase their capacity to process sap into syrup, they are looking at expanding by tapping some more of their maple. They are already producing as much syrup out of 1,600 taps as they used to produce from 3,000, and by expanding they can start to make more syrup than ever before. But nothing is simple. Even with automation, syrup season is a busy time of year at the Conboy farm. Lined need to be checked, the sugar bush monitored, and the technology has to work in harmony, one malfunction and the entire system is challenged. And the wood for the evaporator doesn’t cut, split, and dry itself.
“We love this time of year. It’s like a breath of fresh air and the end result is uniquely Canadian,” said Joyce.
Oso sweet syrup is available at the farm gate at 2379 Bell Line Road, and in Ottawa through Clayton’s home store. Check their website Ososweetmaple.ca. They are participating in Maple Weekend on April 6 and 7 as well, one of two Frontenac County locations, which are both located on the Bell Line Road.
There are a range of syrup makers in our part of the world. Syrup is, at its core, a very simple process, a lot of home syrup makers are able to make enough for family and friends with a one time investment of anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on how they want to go about it.
It is also a bigger business. Commercial syrup makers can invest in the hundreds of thousands and bring in extended family or paid labourers for several weeks for 10,000 + tap operations, reverse osmosis machines and high end tanks and evaporators. We have the whole range in our area, and from the most basic to the most sophisticated, they are all equally dependent on the weather.
Not that long ago, winter weather patterns were a lot more predictable in this part of the world. The beginnings of spring, when the temperature rose above zero in the daytime for more than a day or two, tended to be sometime in early to mid March. Those who put up lines in the bush would work away in the second half of February to catch the earliest run and maximize the coveted early sweet sap, from which they produced the coveted, subtle extra light and light syrup that consumers loved so much.
There are now a lot of small scale, hobby operations around, and this is reflected in the local hardware stores carrying more and more syrup supplies each year, and even a dedicated store that has been set up by Northway Home Hardware, which sells evaporators and boiling pans, etc.
But for hobbyists, and professionals alike, the last couple of years have been a challenge because the season has been so early, and so extended. It’s all about hurry up and wait. Before the February long weekend is over it’s time to get the buckets out, find the drill bit and get ready to get started.
One local producer, who keeps records, said the last two years were the first time they started boiling sap in February (the 22nd in 2017, and the 21st this year) in at least 40 years with one exception, a first boil on February 28th in 2000.
You see where I am going here. Are these record early starts to the syrup season indications of the impacts of climate change?
The answer seems to be that on their own, two years of an early syrup season do not indicate climate change. But when we look back at the past 10 – 15 years and see that the start date, the length of the season, the stop and start nature of it as we go through warmer and colder spells each December, is different than it was before. This has an impact on the way syrup is produced, but fortunately it has not had a severe impact on production. For us hobbyists, it is not a big deal, there is not that much at stake, but for commercial producers who are constantly investing in their business and spend time in the off-season managing their sugar bush for the long run, the un-knowable impacts of climate change on syrup production over the next 25 to 50 years are something to think about.
We do know that sugar maples are resilient, the sap may run better and sweeter some years, based on a number of factors such as water in the ground, heat units in the previous summer etc., but even when stressed for a year or two the trees tend to recover and the sap has kept flowing for millenia.
Syrup producers have noticed that, with longer summers and shorter winters, trees are growing faster than they were, and the medium term impact of this change is not known.
We do know that sugar maples have a limited range. Is the limit of that range going to move north, as long term weather conditions change?
There is something special about syrup season. The milky colour of the early sap, the smells as the weather warms up, etc., the fleeting beginnings of spring.
I must say it was odd to be tapping this year in February as the ground was already softening up from heaving frost, snow was retreating everywhere and streams that normally break through in mid-season were already bubbling.
We don’t know if there is any reason to speculate that our maple based syrup culture may become a victim of climate change, but even those of us who have only dabbled in syruping for 15 or 20 years are becoming aware of changes in the seasons, and it is impossible not to wonder whether the tradition that predates us by a long, long time will continue into the near future or not.
The Save our Prison Farms activists, a collection of farmers, prison rights activists, and community activists of various sorts from Kingston and the surrounding region, began fighting what looked like a doomed battle when the Federal Conservative government, under Stephen Harper, indicated they were bound and determined to close the prison farms in Kingston and other locations across the country.
It was 2009, and the Conservatives were entrenched in power and unafraid of a bunch of rag tag protesters parading around Kingston with placards, blocking the entrance-way to prisons, and packing meeting halls.
The protesters were doubly angry. They were angry that the farms were being shut down, and they were angry that the government was saying agriculture was a dead industry that had become irrelevant in terms of employment.
A year later the farms were gone, but the protests never stopped. The purchase of 23 cows from the Colllins bay herd seemed at the time like a pipe dream, but the people who donated $300 each to buy the animals were happy to invest, and the farmers who took the animals on were bound and determined to maintain the unique genetics of the Collins Bay animals.
Now, in the words of Jeff Peters, the most stubborn of the Save Our Prison Farm activists (he went to jail 3 times) “the cows are ready to go back to prison”.
Except, instead of 23, there are now 33 animals, ready to be reunited at Collins Bay.
When the Harper government was replaced 2 1/2 years ago, the hope was that the effort would soon be over, but even though the new government made sympathetic noises from the start, and local MP Mark Gerretson had supported the prison farms while he was Mayor of Kingston and made them part of his election campaign, But it wasn’t until this week’s budget that it was confirmed. The money is finally in the budget, the farms will be re-opened, the activists have waited and waited and it is time for the cows to come home.
Mark Gerretson said on Tuesday that the credit for all of this must go to the activists, and for once a politician has done a good job of deflecting credit instead of deflecting blame.
The community effort to bring back the farms was uniformly solid, well planned and unyielding. And it will remain that way. The funding is in place, but the details need to be worked out. And the Save Our Prison Farm folks are determined to make sure the new program is a good one.
Frontenac County representatives and farmers came together Thursday February 15 at the Verona Lions' Hall for a potluck and brainstorming session.
The brainstorm centred around developing the local food economy with the perennial questions coming to the fore: How do we address the lack of connectedness between producers and consumers? How can we develop better road signage and online directories to get the message out? How do the idea of buying local food and an awareness of opportunities to do so become ingrained in consumers' minds so that local food can grow?
Fifteen years ago, egg signs at the ends of laneways were virtually the only evidence that farm goods were available direct to consumers.
Around this time, a campaign was created under the logo, “Eat from Kingston's Countryside.” “Feast of Fields,” a series of events where guests were treated to fine dining with food from local farms, prepared by local chefs, were organized and well received; people were meeting farmers and having experiences on farms. They began signing up for beef and chicken orders, and visiting farm gates as a means of connecting further with these newly discovered farms and their quality goods.
Among the vanguards of this push for local food awareness and increased economic viability were Andrea Cumpson of Sonset Farms, Kim Perry of Perry Farm and Food Less Traveled, and Sharon Freeman of Freeman Farms, who attended Thursday's meeting. Thanks to their efforts, local food made great leaps in the last decade. The downside has been that such initiatives take time and energy, and risk wearing out already-overworked farmers.
The county is looking at ways to bolster the work of the farming community so that the local food economy can gain momentum and farmers can focus more on production. As Richard Allen, Manager of Economic Development, explained, a committee is set to be struck, that would see people involved in the local food economy first identify what the main issues are around supply, ease of access and branding. The next step would be to decide how the committee's findings could fit into the county's workplan.
From there it is a question of how much the producer does to further its market access and how much a larger body such as a county government is needed to ensure businesses can thrive.
The meeting, with an attendance nearing 20, came on the heels of Smith's Falls' Three Rivers' Food Hub announcing that it is discontinuing the distribution component of its operations. This had been a much-celebrated step forward in local food infrastructure in the region, and its loss is a reminder that local food distribution is still in its infancy.
A few possibilities for the coming year were floated late in the meeting: a re-emergence of Feast of Fields and Open Farm Days (a series of organized farm visits) which the County could help promote.
Attendees also pondered looking into web-based programs along the lines of Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based site that acts as a grocery service for local producers and eaters.
Dianne Dowling has spent the past 9 years as the President of Local 316 of the National Farmers Union, but her involvement in organic growing and local food promotion goes back further than that. She has been farming with her husband at Double J Farms on Howe Island, a 200 acre organic beef and dairy farm, for many years (the farm is named for her husbands parents John and Joyce)
The farm was transitioned to organic in the late 1990’s, and in addition to working with the NFU, Dowling has been involved with the Food Policy Council for Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington, the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI), Save our Prison Farms and a number of other groups as well. In fact, leaving the NFU Presidency will free up more time for some of the other projects she is committed to pursuing.
As she looks back, and forward, at this time of transition, Dowling sees that progress has been made in Kingston and Frontenac County in terms of awareness of the value of local, organic food over the past 20 years, but at the same time she recognises that for many, preparing food, any food, is a lost art.
“Food is very complicated,” she said. “The major food system is still dominated by large chains and grocery stores. Food is treated a commodity for profit, not a necessity that people should have a right to. There are transportation issues, nutrition issues, it goes on and on,” she said, in a telephone interview last week.
At the same time, through the efforts of organisations like the NFU and others, food awareness and the local farm and food industry have developed and grown.
“It is a worldwide phenomenon, the growth of local awareness and support. We’ve been doing things here at the same time as people have elsewhere.”
The NFU organised the Feast of Fields events, Food Down the Road - a local farm directory, a four year new farm project, and more, over the last dozen years or so. There has been a resurgence of interest in farming locally and the NFU has been a major part of that change.
“A couple of years ago Frontenac County had a student doing research into employment. The largest increase in employment in the county was in farming, so we know something has been happening.”
One of the ongoing projects in Kingston and Frontenac has been the CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmers Training) project, which is a North America wide concept devoted to increasing the skill level among farmers.
“It started here as a program based on farmers and interns at a bunch of farms. Once a month there would be a field day and work bee at someone’s farm. It was about community building and peer support. Eventually a lot of the vegetable farmers were transitioning more to employees than interns, but it has continued even as people have had fewer interns.”
The new President of the NFU Local 316 is Ian Stutt, a co-owner of Patchwork Gardens in Battersea, who has worked with the NFU for years, and was a staff member for the CRAFT project. Dianne Dowling is remaining as a Director, so there will be continuity in the local.
As Dowling pointed out, the NFU is anything but a lone wolf promoting sustainable agriculture and local food these days.
It was likely a coincidence that the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation (FCFDC) chose to hold an event about the future of local food production on Groundhog Day. But with Maple Syrup producers laying low, farmers sorting their seeds, and restaurants in winter survival mode, it was a good time to get everyone together.
Katherine Howes is doing her thesis on Frontenac County as part of her work towards a post-graduate degree in Rural planning and development at Guelph University. She also has a farming background in Parham, and set the stage for the event with a short power point on her findings thus far.
One of the aspects of the local food industry that Howes has looked at is access to production facilities for small scale and startup food producers. She did so on the basis of the results of Business Retention and Expansion study that was conducted by the Frontenac County Economic Development department in 2012. The study identified commercial kitchens as a “key piece of infrastructure that was needed to grow local food processing in Frontenac County” she said in her presentation.
She contacted all the church and community halls in the county that have kitchens that are, or could be, used for commercial production.
“It was determined that a large number of community kitchens in the county are underutilised and that they have the potential to be upgraded to commercial kitchen facilities, given enough financial support”.
While her research found the owners of the halls are receptive to making more use of their kitchens, the demand among producers is mixed.
For her research, Howes has also interviewed producers.
Of the eighteen producers she has conducted extensive interviews with, seven use commercial kitchen space, but of those producers who are thinking of getting into a new, value added product, only 22% are considering looking for commercial kitchen space.
There was little or no interest in taking advantage of either of the two regional food hubs which offer kitchen and storage space, at least partly because they are located too far away, in Smiths Falls and Hastings County. While there is a need for more commercial kitchen capacity, producers in Frontenac are more inclined to look either at some local rental spaces that are available or can be developed, or at renovating existing kitchens or building new ones to commercial standards so they can work at home.
After the presentation, the main business of Friday’s event centred around conversations at three tables on specific topics: creating consumer awareness, coordination for growth, and infrastructure. Among the diverse participants at the event were farmers, farm group representatives, value added food producers, and representatives from local municipalities and provincial ministries. Participants found their own tables based on their interests and the conversations were broad, but the intention of the event was to focus on finding a way to move forward on the issues that were brought up at the tables.
At the Infrastructure table, issues were raised both about dealing with municipal regulations around zoning and building permits, and about provincial regulations as they apply to food businesses.
“It would be ideal if there were a simple list of requirements, so I know what I have to do to get up and running as a legal producer, no matter how long the list was. But I can’t get that, I don’t know where I would go to get that, and it makes it hard for my timelines and my finances” said Alan Zahara, who is developing a new food business in the Hartington area.
South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal participated in the infrastructure table. He acknowledged that the township has not been able to streamline its own processes and provide all commercial developers, not just those in the food industry, with the kind of list Zahara was referring to, but said it goes both ways.
“We sometimes have people coming to us who think they can go ahead and construct new buildings or do renovations without engineer’s drawings, without professional support for their applications,” he said.
At the table that was looking at consumer awareness, Alison Shannon from Sun Harvest Greenhouses of Glenburnie (just outside Frontenac County) said that the Infrontenac branding initiative has “has led to a lot of awareness and cooperation among producers. Maybe the consumers, the eaters, are the next focus,” she said.
Others mentioned that creating awareness about the availability of local food is an issue that producers face everywhere, and in a county where people are scattered throughout and travel to other centres on a regular basis for food, it can be hard to build a local presence.
The two farmers markets (in Sharbot Lake and Verona) and some of the food stores, such as Local Family Farms in Verona and Lavallee’s Inverary Store are options for consumers to access local products, but there was a feeling that more can be done in the future as far as marketing ‘local’ is concerned.
The networking event was part of an initiative that the FCFDC has taken on for the township of South Frontenac, which has funded a study to identify the gaps in infrastructure and services for food producers and processors.
A final report will be coming to South Frontenac Council later this year.
In addition to a chilli lunch prepared by Local Family Farms, samples of a new Frontenac County product that will soon be available, goat yogurt from a Harrowmsith area farm, was available for sampling. The thick, Greek version, and lighter Balkan version were popular among the crowd. Samples of the tasty, still warm, fresh goat milk was a little less popular, with some participants saying they preferred their milk cold.
At home and on their royal yacht, the Royal Family eat simply cooked but elegant food from the Prince’s Highgrove/Duchy Home Farm. When she travels, the Queen has her own water brought with her because she can’t afford to get sick. Looks like the good food and water work for her!
Peter and I often say we eat like royalty, thanks to the wonderful food our local farmers and our garden provide. (Buying only local meat isn’t hard at all, and isn’t more expensive.)
Burger night at our house means about 4 oz. per person of local grassfed ground beef, costing $2, with oven fries (potatoes from our garden or organic ones from Memorial Farmers Market at $.50 per person). Our veggie could be green beans or peas frozen from our garden or organically home-grown sprouts in a salad with grated carrot and celery. Sprouts and winter veggies like carrots are also available at Memorial Farmers Market in Kingston, open Sundays all year round. The cost per person for the salad with homemade dressing is estimated at $1.50. Add a glass of organic wine from Sharbot Lake LCBO for $1.50 and a glass of sweet, pure well water, bringing your grand total for this princely meal to $5.50 per person. Compare this unbeatable grassfed burger dinner (including salad and wine) with McSomething’s quarter-pound burger with cheese, medium fries and drink at $5.79.
Added benefits of cooking your own locally grown meal are the delicious smells that waft through the house from the oven fries baked in organic olive oil and the grassfed burgers cooked in a cast iron frying pan with real, organic butter – not to mention the health benefits of more vitamins and minerals in the meat and a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, with no hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Most truly local organically grown vegetables (according to solid independent studies and contrary to some industry-driven reports) have higher nutritional value, taste better, and haven’t been grown with pesticides.
Neonics are pesticides that are coated onto many seeds sown on Ontario farms. During sowing, a lot of the neonics gets into the atmosphere as dust and a lot more gets into the soil. Some that gets into the soil is carried down into the groundwater and out into streams by rainwater.
Neonicotinoids (neonics) have been shown by UK and US research to affect much more than just honey bees. In addition, the "facts" in commonly circulated 'fact sheets', such as for imidacloprid, stretch some points to make the neonics seem harmless. One fact sheet states that imidacloprid quickly breaks down in soil and water but the actual number of days for its breakdown in soils varies from 28¬–1250 days. In November 2016, Health Canada proposed a ban on imidacloprid.
There are questions about the actual benefits of neonics. At least three studies cast doubt on the utility and monetary benefits of neonics. One experiment compared soybean yield from neonic-coated soybeans to yield without the neonics. They found no increase in yield due to the neonics over two years of study.
Imidacloprid dissolves in water and is toxic to aquatic invertebrates at 10–100 nanograms per litre (100 nanograms =0.0000001 grams). US EPA found that the concentration of this neonic in many streams regularly exceeds toxic levels for aquatic invertebrates including crustaceans. Mayflies are the most sensitive. The EPA stated that impacts have cascading effects on food webs and on ecosystem functions.
So the arguments about neonics are not just about honey bees. Aquatic systems also are affected. And apparently, the financial benefits to farmers that the big chemical corporations advertize may not be there. And the ecological impacts are much greater than they say.
Bob and Sue Clinton are well known in Sydenham for Bob’s biological dentistry practice and Sue’s efforts with the Loughborough Christmas Committee and other community efforts they both have taken on over the years.
While all of this has been going on, they have also been working on developing their small acreage near the village as an eco-friendly garden/orchard/permaculture space. They grow garlic in “beds” that are made of piles of bark and scrap fire wood, have altered the landscape to keep water on the property for their trees, grow different varieties of grapes, and are always reading up on new ways of growing organically. All of this searching has brought them to the Haskap berry, which has now has a prominent place on their property.
Haskap berries have gained popularity slowly across Canada. They are a blue, oblong berry. They are the colour of blueberries but larger, and their taste is unique, it is vaguely like a cross between a blueberry, a black currant and a raspberry. When they are ripe, they are soft and plump and not quite as sweet as a blueberry or a raspberry, but still full of flavour.
Blueberries are considered a super-food because they are rich in anti-oxidants, and Haskaps are even higher in ant-oxidants as well as being a good source of vitamin C and dietary fibre. They can be made into syrup, flavoured vinegars, jam, wine, liqueur, ice cream and any other use that spring and summer berries are used for. They freeze well, and can be tossed into smoothies just like frozen blueberries, strawberries or raspberries.
Over the last few years, the Clinton’s have taken to growing different varietals that come from the University of Saskatchewan, where work is being done to develop Haskap as a commercial berry in Canada.
It is the ease of growing Haskap’s, their flavour, and health benefits that originally attracted the Clinton’s. As became very clear when visiting in mid-June, they have become taken with everything about the berry.
They have several rows of plants, which bush out about three feet and grow about as tall as that as well.
“We have been at this for a few years and you can see by the plants that some are earlier than others, and the fruit varies as well,” said Bob
He pointed to a healthy row of smaller plants, new varieties developed in Saskatchewan. The plants take five years to mature, but even at a year or two old, they begin a limited yield of berries. These ones were bushing out well, had tons of new growth, and a pretty good haul of ripening berries.
“They are very easy to grow. We have had no winter kill with them, they seem to resist most insects. The only thing they really need is to be kept weed free. That’s why we use a lot of mulch with them,” he said.
Haskaps are like pear and plum trees in that there needs to be more than one variety planted in order for them to produce fruit, but they are essentially a very easy plant to grow in virtually all conditions in Southern Canada.
For home gardeners, like the Clinton’s, they are an ideal fruit.
“One of the other things I like about them is how early the fruit is,” said Sue. “They are earlier than strawberries, and it is easy to tell when they are ready because they literally fall off the stem.”
Commercial harvesters use equipment to shake the bushy plants, and the Clinton’s were planning to experiment with placing some form of tarp under the plants and then hand shaking them, to save on picking time.
In any case, when compared to hand picking other berries or currents, the uniformity of harvest and lack of barbs on the plants make Haskap a superior picking berry than just about all others that grow in this region, at least in the experience of this reporter.
The Clinton’s eat fresh Haskaps when they are fully ripe, and they freeze them as well. They haven’t made wine out of them, but they have purchased the liqueur, which is reminiscent of creme de cassis.
As a culinary berry, Haskap has an advantage over blueberries because it has the slight bitterness and depth of black currants, making the jams, wine, and liqueur superior.
“We find that it is a crop that is easy to grow, lasts a long time, does not spread, and produces a delicious berry that is very, very healthy. They would be a great addition to any garden, and hopefully a commercial industry will spring up in Ontario as well, maybe even in Frontenac County,” said Sue Clinton.
And for those interested in ordering and planting, it is not too late to start in 2017. Fall is the best time to transplant Haskaps.
The Clinton’s have been doing their own field testing, but they refer to information from Haskap.ca, the website of the Not-for-Profit Haskap Canada Association.
Growing up on a dairy farm taught Ruth Shannon discipline and a commitment to purpose.
A half century later, she’s using those qualities to make the world a better place.
“Being a dairy farmer gave me the opportunity to fit the volunteering I wanted to do, into my schedule,” explains Ruth about the volunteer work that helped earn her Volunteer of the Year in Storrington District.
Married with three children and two grandchildren, Ruth has been a volunteer with 4-H Ontario for 45 years.
“I love it,” she says with enthusiasm about her work to teach children skills on, and off, the farm. “In every person, there’s a need to find satisfaction and creativity in their jobs. Looking at those cows 365 days a year, there can be some creativity and there cannot. That’s the void that volunteering has filled for me. Let’s face it, your own family cannot meet all of your needs.”
Known as a hardworking dairy farmer who is devoted to her family and community, the 66-year-old was nominated by the Frontenac 4-H Association.
“For more than 40 years, the one volunteer opportunity that has been a constant in Ruth’s life is her commitment to the 4-H program,” confirms Ann Babcock, Secretary.
“Many a child has spent Saturday morning in the Shannon kitchen, not only learning to cook and to sew, but to be responsible; help others; realize that few mistakes are made that cannot be corrected, if you only try.
“Ruth always has time to mentor new club leaders and to offer advice to more seasoned volunteers, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience,” continues Ann from her home in Harrowsmith.
“She possesses all the qualities an excellent volunteer should: dependability, organization, dedication, responsibility and genuine kindness. The members of the Frontenac 4-H Association are very grateful Ruth has chosen to share these attributes with them. The residents of this community are most fortunate to have Ruth Shannon call South Frontenac home.”
Sitting beside the plaque and nomination letter on a warm evening in late June, Ruth smiles when she talks about the award.
“I am very honored and humbled that they would do this for me,” she says earnestly, “I really appreciate it.”
Asked what motivates her to take such an active role in her community, Ruth pauses slightly before replying in her no-nonsense manner. “I enjoy the children,” she says quietly. “I feel all children have the ability, if they are willing to work, to accomplish anything they want to. It’s the kids who have the ability to make something of themselves, and don’t, that ticks me off.”
Presented the prestigious award on June 20 by Councillor Ron Sleeth, Ruth was also thanked for her work with the Frontenac Federation of Agriculture, Frontenac Plowmen’s Association, Sandhill Presbyterian Church, Agriculture in the Classroom Program and local fundraisers.
“In recent years, Ruth’s energy has been directed towards fundraisers for Cheryl Dickson, a fellow dairy farmer who was seriously injured in a tragic farm accident,” explains Ann. “Ruth has also helped with McKenna’s Dream, the project of a young cancer survivor aimed at helping families like her own through the difficulties of a life threatening disease.”
Looking back on her life, Ruth seems pleased with her accomplishments with her family, farm and community. Asked about her future plans, she replies with a laugh.
“Retirement,” she says with conviction. “I want to do what I want, when I want. I’m quite happy here in South Frontenac. When I came here after I was married, it felt like coming home.”