Westham Island organic grower Lydia Ryall has been named the 2014 B.C. and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer.
One of several finalists for the annual award, the 29-yearold owner of Cropthorne Farms
received the honour at ceremony in Abbotsford last Thursday.
Ryall, a director with the Delta Farmers' Institute and member of Delta's Agricultural Advisory Committee, chose not to follow dad David Ryall's footsteps in the greenhouse industry, instead starting a four-hectare (10-acre) certified organic mixed vegetable and pasture-based poultry operation.
She sells the majority of her crops through five weekly summer farm markets, an onisland farm stand and a 90-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box program. During the winter the produce is sold through two weekly farm markets and a 50-member CSA as well as via some wholesale accounts.
Her farm grows a wide variety of crops, from arugulas to zucchinis, while hens in the pasture provide eggs.
Cropthorne is certified organic by the Fraser Valley Organic Producers Association. Although Ryall believes in organic principles, she notes the decision to become certified was a "business" rather than a philosophical decision.
"It's what my customers want," she said in a press release.
Lydia and her sister Rachel have two full-time year-round employees and three full-time seasonal employees. Full-time staff are augmented by up to eight part-time employees and "apprentices."
Encouraging the apprentices is very important to Ryall, who notes two of her apprentices are now farming on their own while a third has become a full-time Cropthorne employee.
Cropthorne uses the tag line of "Real. Good. Honest. Food." Ryall says it summarizes the farm's mission.
"I want my farm to be a positive example of sustainable agriculture." The B.C. Outstanding Young Farmer program has a long list of sponsors,
including Bank of Montreal, B.C. Egg Producers Association, B.C. Chicken Marketing Board, B.C. Milk Marketing Board and others. The winner, named at the B.C. Agriculture Council's annual gala, represents this province in a national competition.