Manitoba Bulletin

Manitoba Bulletin

Celebrating excellence: Farm family recognized with 2024 Canola
Award of Excellence

There is something magical about the connections formed at summer camp. Combined with the magic of a prairie harvest, the idea behind Harvest Camp grew. What began as a modest initiative quickly became an annual event that bridged the gap between urban Canadians and farmers, fostering understanding and building lasting relationships.

The idea traces back to conversations between Pat Orsak, professional home economist and partner at Orsak Farms Ltd., Ellen Pruden, former Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) staff and Jennifer Dyck, market development director at MCGA, around bringing urban Canadians to the farm.

Each September from 2012 to 2019, a group of campers, including influential food writers, digital content creators, scientists, dietitians and chefs, were invited to hop on a bus for three days and visit a variety of farms, including a mixed grain and cattle farm (Jacksons), a bison operation (Millers), a family-owned grain storage facility (Derkachs), a honey operation (Wendell Estate Honey) as well as two grain and oilseed farms (Orsaks and Dalgarnos). As Camp evolved, more stops were added, focusing on additional topics like soil health and science.

“It was about people wanting to learn,” Pat emphasizes, reflecting on the camp’s nature. The event wasn’t just about showcasing modern, sustainable agricultural practices; it was a platform for mutual understanding, where chefs, dietitians, food writers and farmers could find common ground and relate to each other as individuals with similar concerns.

A highlight for Pat was lunch in the field where campers got to make the connection between farm and food. “We ate bison burgers and locally
raised (garden) vegetables, and the campers got to ride in the combine
and grain cart.”

In February, Manitoba Canola Growers honoured Pat and Paul Orsak with the 2024 Canola Award of Excellence at the CropConnect Conference banquet in Winnipeg.

“The Orsaks played an integral role in the success of Harvest Camp,” says Dyck. “It’s the trust and respect the Orsaks have in their local community that allowed our group to learn and visit local farms in the Russell, Inglis and Binscarth area. Asking a farmer to take time out at harvest to allow urban Canadians to experience the beauty and wonder of farming firsthand, is a big request. The Orsaks’ care and commitment were instrumental to the success of Harvest Camp.”

Appreciative and overwhelmed, the Orsaks were genuinely touched to be recognized for their contributions to the organization, something they refer to as ‘just what we do’.

“We certainly weren’t expecting this recognition,” says Paul. “Harvest Camp was a great experience for us. It was a time to pause and share our farm with people who hadn’t had the opportunity to see what we do. Overall, we found everyone was respectful and eager to learn.”

Expressing gratitude for the recognition, Pat emphasizes that it was a group effort. “It wouldn’t have flown without the families in the area that were so generous and willing to participate, the help and support of our family, and the trust that the Canola Growers put in us as the event evolved.”

“I attended Harvest Camp in 2013 where Paul and Pat opened their home and farm to a group of farm newbies,” says Erin MacGregor, dietitian.

“I thought I would be learning about canola production, but what I learned was so much more. I learned about the passion Canadian farmers have for their products, their land, the environment and the legacy they’re building for future farming generations. During my visit to the farm and ever since, my questions around farming and our food system have been welcomed without judgement by the Orsak family. They have become part of my ‘food community’ and have helped me become an advocate for truth and transparency in food communication.”

The relationships formed and the lessons learned through this program created the necessary building blocks to embark on the new campaign brand, Hello Canola, launched in the fall of last year.

Paul and Pat Orsak are the second generation on Orsak Farms Ltd. and are parents to five adults; Laura, Owen (who is part of the farming operation), Lynn, Leah and Alanna. Pat loves to garden, cook and ski, and some of Paul’s passions include farming, flying and skiing.

Manitoba Canola Growers are proud to celebrate the Orsak family with the Canola Award of Excellence and extend a heartfelt thank you to Paul and Pat for their unwavering contributions, leaving a lasting mark on the canola industry.

MCGA welcomes new directors

Darren Nykoliation | Carman, Manitoba

Growing up on the farm near Crandall was the catalyst that nurtured my deep-rooted connection to farming on the Prairies. Agriculture has always been my inherent passion and that lead me to study at the University of Manitoba. Following that, my wife and I bought our land in the Red River Valley near Domain to begin the farm portion of my career. Off the farm, I’ve spent my time working in roles that have allowed me to meet farmers from all over Manitoba and beyond. While farmers have common goals, each farmer differs in their approach in their own unique ways. I’m continually driven by my passion for agriculture and a desire to contribute to its advancement. I am excited to connect with like-minded professionals, collaborate on industry initiatives and make a lasting impact in the field.


Evan Gillis | Morden, Manitoba

I grew up on a small mixed farm south of Morden, which I currently operate with my dad. We are excited to celebrate heritage status in 2024. I have also spent 12 years in canola research and development as a Canadian Seed Growers Association plant breeder. Through this time, I have been involved in committees such as Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, Canola Performance Trials and the implementation of the Canola Council of Canada pod shatter rating scale. I have worked through many challenges around disease resistance, improved yield and seed quality on my own farm as well as in variety development and field testing. The canola industry has huge potential, and I believe I can bring a unique perspective as both a grower and canola developer. I look forward to the opportunity to expand my work in the ag industry and ensure canola remains
a profitable crop for farmers.


Jason Kehler | Carman, Manitoba

I’m a fourth generation farmer. Together with my wife Laura, we operate Kehler Farms Ltd, a potato and grain operation based in Carman. The farm produces potatoes, canola, corn, wheat, oats, ryegrass and peas. Additionally, we own a small commercial herd of purebred Hereford cows. We have two children, Paisley and Wyatt. Paisley is 12 and in grade seven. She is an avid gymnast and gifted equestrian. Wyatt is nine and in grade four.  He loves his dirt bike and hockey. Our kids are both active members of 4-H and we enjoy supporting our community through ag-related farm tours, potato donations and serving our local agricultural society. Farm work and family activities keep us busy, but we enjoy traveling with our kids or taking the Harley out for a drive when time allows. I’m honoured to serve Manitoba Canola Growers and look forward to #Plant2024.


Jay Derkach | Russell, Manitoba

I am a grain farmer from Russell. I farm with my wife, Jade, and our four children, Tucker, Tyne, Tave and Tori, who are 13, 12, 11 and nine years old respectively. I am interested in learning about the many areas that exist in the canola business. I bring a pleasant and logical approach to decision making and I am a committed individual who will take the role seriously. I look forward to representing my farm, my town and my fellow canola growers with the utmost respect and professionalism.