Out­stand­ing young farmer em­braces ‘crazy ideas’

Simcoe Reformer - - NEWS - JA­COB ROBIN­SON Sim­coe Re­former jrobin­son@postmedia.com

In re­turn­ing to his fam­ily farm near Lang­ton two years ago, Dusty Zamec­nik wasn’t con­tent with the sta­tus quo.

Now a co-owner of EZ Grow Farms on Nor­folk County Road 23, the 27-year-old fourth-gen­er­a­tion farmer be­gan ex­pand­ing on what his par­ents, Dar­ryl and He­len, had ac­com­plished in help­ing build a trusted blue­berry and straw­berry op­er­a­tion.

“I didn’t want to do what my dad was do­ing, I wanted to build on top of it,” said the Holy Trin­ity Catholic High School grad­u­ate. “Not that I’m say­ing what he’s do­ing was wrong ... but I wanted some­thing to bring to the ta­ble.”

Zamec­nik trav­elled to Europe to re­search its emerg­ing straw­berry mar­ket. He also con­nected with green­houses in the Leam­ing­ton area and be­gan work­ing on ways to bring new va­ri­eties to Nor­folk.

He re­cently pur­chased a plot of land near the farm, up­ping the op­er­a­tion’s own­er­ship to 200 acres. A 40,000-square-foot green­house is be­ing built on the new prop­erty.

Mean­time, Zamec­nik also is a key cog in Home­town Brew Co. - a lo­cal brew­ery that fea­tures a blue­berry sai­son with ingredients grown at the fam­ily farm, and a south­ern ale.

All this work and more caught the eye of lo­cal cash crop pro­ducer Murray Por­te­ous, who nom­i­nated Zamec­nik for the On­tario Out­stand­ing Young Farm­ers Award, an hon­our be­stowed upon the prov­ince’s bright­est and in­no­va­tive agri­cul­tural minds.

Zamec­nik was an­nounced the 2017 win­ner at Canada’s Out­door Farm Show in Wood­stock this week. Por­te­ous would know an out­stand­ing young farmer when he sees one - he cap­tured the award in 1998.

“Every­body is tired, every­body is work­ing hard and it was al­most like a range of emo­tions – kick­ing back and real­iz­ing all the lit­tle things that we’re all do­ing here is com­ing to­gether,” said Zamec­nik.

“It’s those early morn­ings, that (thought of ) ‘Holy crap, why am I do­ing this?’ It’s the bank loans, it’s the gut rot, it’s the night­mare, but also it’s the fun stuff about see­ing all the com­po­nents com­ing to­gether.”

Zamec­nik also sits on the Nor­folk County Ag. Ad­vi­sory Board, Na­tional Blue­berry Work­ing Group and works as trea­surer of the On­tario High­bush Blue­berry Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. He said those ef­forts, as well as the fam­ily’s loy­alty to both their cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees, likely caught the eye of the judges.

Hav­ing his mom and dad “believ­ing in all my crazy ideas” is im­por­tant for Zamec­nik.

“We’re re­ally putting it all on the line,” he ex­plained.

“There’s no two ways about it, we’re in debt up to our ears. Build­ing the green­house and re­ally believ­ing in our prod­uct and try­ing to in­no­vate and be­ing the first to do it is, of course, scary.”

He said he thinks the judges saw that “we’re re­ally try­ing to in­no­vate and that it’s, for the most part, start­ing to work, all th­ese com­po­nents came to­gether.”

Zamec­nik will rep­re­sent Nor­folk and On­tario as part of Canada’s Out­stand­ing Young Farm­ers na­tional event in Pen­tic­ton, B.C., be­gin­ning Nov. 29.

Re­gard­less of the re­sults, Zamec­nik will con­tinue to fo­cus on the ex­pan­sion of both EZ Grow and Home­town Brew Co. In fact, a new brew fea­tur­ing lo­cally grown prod­ucts will be an­nounced in the com­ing weeks.

“We want to start work­ing with lo­cal farm­ers, not only lo­cal hop farm­ers but also Nor­folk County farm­ers, with their fruit to in­te­grate in our beer,” he added.

“We want to spot­light what’s home for all of us, not just (our em­ploy­ees). We all live here, so let’s all prove to the world ... what we’re all about.”

JA­COB ROBIN­SON/ Sim­coe Re­former

Lang­ton's Dusty Zamec­nik of both EZ Grow Farms and Home­town Brew Co. took home the On­tario Young Farm­ers Award this week in Wood­stock. Zamec­nik stands in the new 40,000-square-foot green­house be­ing added to the EZ Grow op­er­a­tion on Nor­folk County Road 23.

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