Agrology awards handed out at NBIA conference

by | May 16, 2024

Agrologists gather in Woodstock for one-day meeting and awards banquet

The New Brunswick Institute of Agrologists celebrated their industry at their annual conference, held in Woodstock on April 26. 

The institute has been regulating the profession in New Brunswick since 1960, when the institute was founded. 

Agrology is the soil science that deals with crop production. 

Cora Hornbrook is relatively new to the industry. She said becoming an agrologist was a natural progression for her. 

“I guess when I started at Cavendish (Farms), I kind of saw that all the other people were certified, and I knew that had some weight behind it and like they worked at Cavendish Agri Services for six years in Salisbury. They really encoraged professional development and I took what they would put me through for courses,” she said, noting she is now a professional agrologist and a certified crop advisor. 

Hornbrook, who grew up on a dairy farm in Sussex and now farms with her husband, says the networking with her job is one reward — the other is seeing the end product.  

“Because it’s an annual thing, it’s not like it takes a really long time to see the benefits of what you’re learning. You can kind of learn from year to year because it’s a kind of blank slate every spring.”

In January, she left Cavendish and began working as the Resilient Agriculture Landscape Program Officer for the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.

Hornbrook was this year’s recipient of the Gavin Graham Award. Previously known as the Agricultural Initiative Award, it was renamed for the well-respected and well-loved agrologist Gavin Graham, who died in September 2022. 

The award recognizes agrologists in the early to mid stages of their careers who actively demonstrate professional initiative in their field. 

The institute’s Agricultural Leadership Award was presented to Carleton County farmer Matthew Brennan of T.J. Brennan & Sons. 

The award officially recognizes “outstanding achievement by a New Brunswick farmer as a leader in the industry.”

Tommy Dixon, who introduced the award at their evening banquet at the Best Western, presented the award. 

Matthew Brennan (left) with Tommy Dixon, who nominated Brennan for the Agricultural Leadership Award. (Theresa Blackburn photo)

Brennan was raised on a Bath potato farm and studied at Nova Scotia Agriculture College and the University of Guelph. He returned to Carleton County in 1984 to farm seed potatoes beside his father, Eugene. 

“The name Brennan is synonomous with seed potatoes,” said Dixon. “Like french fries and ketchup, it’s difficult to think of one without the other.”

Brennan serves on multiple boards and represents the shippers’ association on the advisory board to the minister. 

“He has the uncanny ability to turn a difficult conversation into one that is fruitful, factual, despite the outcome of the decision,” added Dixon.

In accepting the award, Brennan expressed gratitude that his family took great care of the land before he became its steward.

“TJ was my grandfather. The sons were my father and his two of his brothers. They farmed through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The challenges that they had on the farm weren’t the same challenges that we have today. They didn’t talk about climate change or wonder if their tractors were going to pick up the GPS signal coming in that day,” he said. “But at the same time, there were other challenge: the agronomy, the plant health, soil health, marketing, and storage. So they had all kinds of challenges they managed well, which allowed me to continue on later, so I am very thankful.” 

Other awards presented on the evening included the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award given to McCrea Farms in Sussex. 

Bruce and Nancy Colpitts own the farm, which started in the 1820s. Their award recognizes their proactive approach to protecting the environment. 

Nancy and Bruce Colpitts of McCrea Farms receive the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award from NBIA President Susannah Banks. (Theresa Blackburn photo)

They have an environmental farm plan that guides all farm actions related to handling fuel, fertilizer, manure storage, water, wildlife, and fish. They installed solar panels to offset energy use and also produce high-quality forages that minimize tillage.

The Colpitts’ farm is also a tourism destination, and the couple believes this award will be a nice addition to their environmental tourism portfolio.

The Distinguished Service to New Brunswick Agriculture Award was presented to Dave Bell, P. Ag. 

He’s operated Bell Crop Services since 200 and provides professional support and technical services to western New Brunswick potato and cash crop producers. 

Bell said the job is evolving, and the need for agrologists is growing as farming becomes increasingly complicated.

“There’s an awful lot of everything coming at growers,” he said. “They need to be able to step back and say what is right for me and that’s the big part of what I try to do is say, let’s look at it. Let’s try a few new things; keep an open mind.”

Agrologist Dave Bell accepts the Distinguished Service to New Brunswick Agriculture Award from association member Peter Scott. (Theresa Blackburn photo)

Susannah Banks is a certified agrologist for the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners and the President of the New Brunswick Institute of Agroligists. She says the most significant issue facing her colleagues is keeping up with rapid technological changes.

“It’s really the same issues that farmers face,” said Banks.” We’re trying to give them the best scientific knowledge to help them do they best they can, but with the current pace of new technology and new information, the challenge is keeping up to date.” 

Banks says education is critical. 

“It’s a real challenge to to educate people. Anything to do with it with a biological system or a natural resource and growing things is extremely complicated. There’ no simple, easy answer. People will say, what about this? Well, it’s not that simple. There’s not a lot of black and white. We really need to start bridging those (education) gaps, because people should trust the science. “

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