Learn who took home awards presented at the 2023 CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet.
Agronomist of the Year – sponsored by BASF
Winner: Rahul Patel of Pioneer Cooperative Unlimited Association
The 2022 Agronomist of the Year Award, sponsored by BASF recognizes an individual in the field of agronomy who exemplifies an outstanding commitment to professional growth and finding new solutions for farm customers. Exceptional professionalism and stewardship.
While CAAR certainly knows many agronomists fit these criteria, there is one who fits it just a little bit better—Rahul Patel.
Patel works with the Pioneer Cooperative Unlimited Association, and comes from a farming background—his grandparents were farmers in India, producing dairy, cereal grains, and mango.
He has a Master of Science and a Ph.D. credit study in Plant Pathology & Agricultural Entomology from India and immigrated to Canada in 2007. He worked with the OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) as a project manager before joining the Shaunavon Co-op Agronomist in late 2012.
As of March 2018, Patel has been working as an agronomist with Pioneer Co-op, helping Shaunavon region farmers to make better agronomic decisions and achieve sustainable crop production.
He continues to deliver exceptional customer service to those he is working for and ensures that proactive crop management practices are implemented on time to ensure success in crop production.
He serves growers in the Eastend, Bracken, and Shaunavon districts in Saskatchewan, advising on over 100,000 acres of pulses, oilseeds, and cereals crops. He has initiated data collection for crop pest and disease forecasting services for his growers. He also champions over 15 grower cooperator trials annually on new crop protection and nutrition products.
As a leader within his field, he is one of the first agronomists in the CRS (Cooperative Retailing System) to achieve the 4R Nutrient Management designation from Fertilizer Canada in January 2013.
He continues to advocate for people to become certified, and proudly promotes 4R NMS activities and awareness among growers in the Shaunavon region.
His focus is to help farmers use their fertilizer products efficiently and sustainably, to ultimately reduce fertilizer losses and over-application of crop nutrition products. In 2023, Patel reported a total of 29,000 acres under the 4R NMS plan to Fertilizer Canada.
Although unable to attend the event, Patel did pass along an acceptance speech that was read to the audience in Edmonton.
Said Patel: “I would like to dedicate this award to my mother, who passed away on November 19, 2021, back home in India after suffering from long-time heart problems. Also, I would like to dedicate this award to my family, who live in Toronto, for providing me extra support to work very hard in the Shaunavon area and encouraging me to help out farmers of the region to grow better crops every season.
“In addition to this, I would like to thank my Pioneer Coop Team members and managers,” he continued. “And last but not least, I am highly thankful to all farmers of the Shaunavon, Eastend, and Bracken regions who have supported me from the beginning. Thank you, also, to CAAR and the Awards committee.”
Retailer of the Year Award – sponsored by IRM/Sherritt
Winner: Blair’s Family of Companies
The next award, sponsored by IRM/Sherritt, is the 2022 Retailer of the Year award.
Nominees for the Retailer of the Year award were measured in five categories:
- Customer service & satisfaction;
- Effective employee relations;
- Business innovation, efficiency, and safety;
- Environmental stewardship;
- Community and industry leadership.
This year’s winner of the Retailer of the Year is Blair’s Family of Companies, who are celebrating 75 years of service in agriculture production.
While it is undoubtedly true that Blair’s Family of Companies have had numerous exciting firsts over the years, the company first opened its doors in 1948 when brothers Sandy and Lindsay Blair brought the first railcar of bulk fertilizer into Saskatchewan. The brothers had been farming in the region before that, but it was curiosity that sparked a new business and inspired company growth in the years that followed.
Sandy’s sons, Ron and Dale, continued to expand adding more locations and services as agriculture became more complex.
In 2003, Ron’s son Kevin inherited the business, and Dale’s son, Darren, became Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively.
Today, the company continues under their leadership as the fourth generation of Blair builds their careers in the family business.
In 2021, Blair’s Family of Companies entered into a joint venture with Federated Co-operatives Limited. The joint venture, now known as Blair’s Crop Solutions, continues to be managed by the Blair family and operates retail locations under the Blair’s banner.
While names and people may have changed over the generations, the company’s purpose remains the same: supporting family-farm profitability, offering reliable supplies and support, and delivering expertise to help farmers make decisions.
Chairman’s Award – sponsored by Nutrien
Winner: Ray Redfern & Redfern Farm Services
The prestigious Chairman’s Award is presented annually to a member of CAAR for their support of the association, and their steadfast commitment to the Canadian agriculture industry. CAAR’s Board Chair chooses the award recipient.
The 2022 Chairman Award recipient is Ray Redfern and Redfern Farm Services—both individual and organization were instrumental in developing WFCDA and transitioning to a much broader organization CAAR in 1995. Identifying and lobbying for agri-chemical warehousing standards are just two accomplishments.
Retailer Hall of Fame Award – sponsored by BASF
Winner: Garth MacDonald of G-Mac Ag Team
Established in 2008, the peer-nominated Retailer Hall of Fame Award recognizes an individual from one CAAR member who consistently demonstrated exceptional performance and dedication to Canadian ag retailing.
The 2022 Retailer Hall of Fame Award winner is Garth MacDonald of G-Mac AgTeam.
Below, is a brief history of the organization he built throughout Saskatchewan:
- January of 2000 – three retail locations opened in Kindersley, Etonia, and Plenty with a staff of 12 people;
- 2003 - new retail in Marengo;
- 2004 - purchased SWP retail location in Leader;
- 2011 - purchased retail location of David Jesiman in Elrose;
- 2012 - purchased the Greenfield locations in Rosetown and Milden;
- 2017 - new retail constructed in Luck Lake;
- 2019 - added a new distribution centre in Brock;
- 2020 - the merger of Cavalier Agro, Meota, Medstead, Meadow Lake, and Spiritwood locations;
- 2022 - construction of retail and distribution centre in Hamlin;
- 2023 - on January 9, Garth sold the company to Simplot, who purchased 15 locations, took on 135 employees, and added over 1,000 customers.
Although unable to attend the event, MacDonald did chat with CAAR Executive Director Mitch Rezansoff earlier, asking him what he was most proud of. He offered many insights.
Said MacDonald: “The influence of advanced agriculture in Saskatchewan. Production practices improving profit and sustainability of farm customers. Increasing pulse production. Developing a staff and culture of caring and making a difference. Tracking, retention, and enabling of staff. Staff living in and supporting the communities of G-Mac locations.”
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