Thursday October 23, 2014

Farmer Recognition Awards

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Marcel Porte with Bayer Crop Science, left, presents a Farmer Recognition Award to the family of the late Craig Grunert.

… Craig Grunert

The late Craig Grunert was one of two recipients of a Farmer Recognition Award at this years Grain Millers Harvest Showdown.

Grunert's wife Sherry said accepting the award was an emotional moment for her.

"I thought I was going to be OK," she said, adding but "then the emotions came flowing out … I was wishing Craig was really there."

"I'm proud of my dad," added daughter Caleigh. "It was good to see him recognized for all his hard work."

"It was kind of overwhelming, but in a good way," continued son Justin.

Sherry said her husband was always well-liked, largely because Craig was a "glass is half full kind of guy."

In reading the award citation Marcel Porte with Bayer Crop Science, said Grunert always saw the best potential in farming.

"Perhaps Craig's greatest contribution to agriculture was his incredible, boundless optimism for the industry. Craig was not one to become frustrated or to complain about those things which he could not control. As he once said, "Most years turn out pretty good; complaining changes nothing; so we might as well be optimistic," he said.

Porte also noted Grunert was always ready to try new things on the farm.

Craig appreciated the latest technology, seed varieties, herbicides and equipment and was an early adopter on a large scale farm. His land base was ideally located for farm trials undertaken by the various seed and fertilizer companies. Each spring and fall, Craig took the time to assist with the establishment and harvest of plots. He also assisted Morris Industries when they needed to test new equipment in field situations. Craig had the ability to sort out all the hype about new technology and to apply it at a practical level.

As the farm operation grew Craig's focus was increasingly on management.

"Craig was a leader," said Porte. He was the "quarterback" of a large, progressive grain farm. He had incredible organizational skills and a real talent for managing his employees who all respected him and enjoyed working with him. It was important to him that he and his men have fun at work every day. A man of noble heart, Craig was well respected for honest dealings with all his business associates in the agriculture industry. Few people know that he quietly assisted young producers in substantial ways on just a handshake. When one young producer asked Craig why he would assist in this way, Craig replied, "We need good young farmers like you."

Despite his success, Craig's "hat size" never changed. He was the same modest man as he was when he owned only two quarters of land.

The award coming at Harvest Showdown also had significance for the family.

"Craig's father, Gerald and his uncle Craig Burkell both served as Presidents of the Yorkton Exhibition Association so he was always interested in the Association. He served as a Director, spearheading and organizing the first tractor pulls. He was an exhibitor at Harvest Showdown and won an award for his canola samples," explained Porte.

… Dennis Solonenko

 - Marcel Porte with Bayer Crop Science, left, presents a Farmer Recognition Award to the family of the late Dennis Solonenko.. -

Marcel Porte with Bayer Crop Science, left, presents a Farmer Recognition Award to the family of the late Dennis Solonenko..

Dennis Solonenko posthumously received a Farmer Recognition Award at last week's Grain Millers Harvest Showdown.

Jason Popowich who presented the award citation at the commercial grain show awards Thursday said Solonenko was certainly a deserving recipient, a farmer who loved what he did.

"In my travels, I have seen many well run, successful operations and the Solonenko's were one of them," he said. "Dennis was a natural at operating equipment. Whether it was land leveling or straight cutting some wheat, Dennis made it look so easy, it was like he could with his eyes closed.

"Watching, his sons Cortney and Devin operate equipment, Dennis could also be classified as a Good teacher."

The award was one Solonenko's sons said was gratifying, yet came with many emotions, since their father died only a few months ago..

"There lots of emotions," said Cortney. "It's still hard to talk about it."

"It's kind of mixed emotions," echoed Devin. "It's still pretty fresh in our minds."

Cortney said it was a moment of pride to realize his father "had that kind of impact on everybody," that he would be considered for such an award." He added it was "just a great feeling" seeing that his father's efforts as a farmer had an impact on his community.

Again Devin echoed the sentiment saying it was special that their father;'s friends "felt he deserved a recognition award."

Devin added their father always took great pride in the farm.

"He dedicated everything he had to working to succeed," he said.

So the award meant much to Solonenko's sons, who have taken over the farm operation looking to follow the passion they share with their father.

"I thought it was a great honour," said Cortney.

"It means a lot to us. It would have meant a lot to dad," said Devin.

Solonenko was born June 6, 1949 and attended school in Stornoway up until Grade 8 "when he realized farming was his passion," said Popowich. "At this time, he began farming with his dad, Steve. The farm was a mixed grain and cattle operation.

"Dennis and his dad also custom cut silage and baled. In 1970, Dennis bought their first cat and cleared their land of bush and expanded into custom land clearing for the neighbours. Years went by and they expanded the custom business to include seed cleaning and grain hauling. Dennis was a natural for operating equipment ….

"On Aug. 21, 1971, Dennis was united in marriage to Sylvia and together they worked with Dennis's parents and their own children to develop a successful farming operation. In the late 1970's, the farm gave up the cattle to concentrate more on the grain and earth moving side of the farm business, expanding to include excavating and road construction. Dennis loved to move and work with dirt. He was very passionate about it and did it so well…

"Sadly, on April 22, at the age of 63 years, Dennis passed away while operating one of his track hoes doing what he loved to do."

As a producer, Solonenko was a forward-thinking farmer ready to try and adapt new innovations on his farm, said Popowich.

"Dennis always believed in using the latest and most up-to-date equipment. His was one of the first farms in the area to use Mid Row Banders and to incorporate zero till farm practices into their operation.

"Dennis, and with the help of his sons Cortney and Devin, expanded the land base to 14,500 acres and are custom farming an additional 2,000 acres. They all worked very hard expanding their operation.

'"Dennis never lost the desire to improve his farming knowledge and accepted invitations to tour farms in France, Ukraine and Germany. "

Popowich said Solonenko was also willing to share his knowledge with others.

"Dennis hosted many European farm tours over the years, welcoming many farmers to see his operation and farm practices. The visitors were always treated to fine hospitality as both Dennis and Sylvia were also good cooks in their own way.

"The Solonenkos believed it was important to showcase the latest chemicals and seed varieties and that the time required to perform the trials was very important not only to their own farm but all the farmers in the area interested growing the best crops possible. "Dennis began chemical trials at his farm in the 1990's to study the effects and more efficient ways to manage weeds. The farm has also hosted many canola trials, seeding different varieties to study and determine which varieties are best suited for this area.

"The Solonenkos were regular participants in the Harvest Showdown submitting samples of their grain every year."

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