Manitoba Bulletin

Manitoba Bulletin

Canola Award of Excellence 2018

In 2017, for the first time in the history of Canada, the number of acres seeded in canola exceeded those planted in wheat. Canadian farmers sowed 22.8 million acres of the oilseed crop in 2017, effectively dethroning what had been the iconic crop of the country.

Murray McConnell

The meteoric rise of canola all started on a handful of plots and with growers like Murray McConnell, recipient of the 2018 Canola Award of Excellence from the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA).

McConnell farms near Teulon, Manitoba, only about 40 kilometres from where Baldur Stefansson, one of the fathers of modern canola, lived. The McConnell family had been in the seed business since 1938, so it was natural for Stefansson to reach out with his new project in the late 1970s.

“We received canola breeder seed from Stefansson to grow in a seed plot,” says McConnell, 85. “I still have the letter he had sent with the seed and, for that reason, I believe that we were one of the earliest seed producers to grow it.”

While McConnell doesn’t recall exactly how that first crop fared, he does remember the amount of work that went into the project.

“We were doing a lot of field testing at that point and I can’t forget the amount of roguing that was required,” he says. “At one point, the Department of Agriculture sent out a dozen people who were learning to be inspectors. They rogued and rogued and I don’t think those boys ever worked harder!”

McConnell continues to farm just under 800 acres in a rotation of canola and wheat. But the McConnell family’s agricultural roots reach back more than a century.

“My father received some seed barley in 1938 through his sister Edna McConnell, who was attending the University of Saskatoon to obtain her agriculture degree,” he said. (Edna eventually became the first female agricultural representative in Canada.) That barley propelled the family into the seed business, which McConnell ran into the early 2000s.

McConnell says it’s sometimes overwhelming to think about the changes in farming during his lifetime.

“I distinctly remember walking with my grandfather in the fields when he would be behind the horse and harrow,” he says. “The old dog Bob would be right there with us and it was an all-day affair.”

“Today’s farmers are so much more technologically savvy. Farms are so big and equipment is expensive. It’s certainly a different game from what it used to be.”

The Canola Award of Excellence is presented annually to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals and organizations who contribute to the sustained growth and prosperity of Manitoba’s canola industry. The award was first presented in 2008 to Dr. Baldur Stefansson for his work in creating a new edible oilseed which we know today as canola.

New and Returning Farmers for MCGA board

Results of the 2017 Manitoba Canola Growers (MCGA) election of directors were decided by acclamation. With four board positions up for election and only four nominations submitted, no voting was required for this year’s election.

Nominees named to the board of directors are:

The results of this year’s election will see two new faces sitting around the MCGA board table, each bringing a unique and valuable perspective to the board. John Sandborn is a welcome addition, representing the strong production area in the North West Parkland region of the province. John brings a wealth of board experience having been an elected director for Manitoba Pool Elevators/Agricore Cooperative and Federated Cooperatives, among several others. Pam Bailey’s addition to the board marks a milestone for MCGA as the first female board member, bringing a passion for farm safety, strong technical knowledge of plants and the environment, as well as experience in organizational effectiveness, strategic planning and policy development.

Returning directors Chuck Fossay and Curtis McRae both currently hold executive office and will continue to be strong and active representation for Manitoba farmers.

This year’s election sees long time directors Brian Chorney and Ed Rempel come to the end of their maximum term. We would like to thank both Brian and Ed for their dedicated service and invaluable contributions to the canola farmers in Manitoba.

MCGA Scholarship

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