DURHAM: The Ashton farm family has been feeding Durham Region for the past 185 years, having settled in Durham, before Canada was a country.
The Ashton’s, along with many other farm families, farming in the community for over 150 years, are being honoured at the 4th Annual Durham Farm Connections Celebrate Agriculture Gala, on October 26th.
The gala is meant to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, as well as agriculture in Durham, so all the families being honoured at the gala have farmed for 150 years or more.
“The farm families are very proud of their heritages and are excited to tell their story,” said Marlene Werry, event organizer.
The Ashton’s are fifth generation farmers, and currently focus on dairy farming, cash crops, and maple syrup.
Robert Ashton, of the Ashton Farm, said the gala is a great way to celebrate agriculture and is something that should happen more often.
“I think this is a great event to celebrate agriculture. Like I said, we just don’t do it enough,” Robert said. “We need to get our story out and this is a good way of doing it.”
Agriculture is the second largest economic driver in the Durham Region, right next to the auto industry. Exported goods, such as dairy, corn, poultry, soybeans, cattle/calves, wheat, sod, field vegetables, and fruit, brought $227.4-million of wealth to the Durham Region in 2012.
“We drive a lot of the economy in Durham Region so it should be recognized,” Robert told the Standard.
The proceeds raised, from the gala’s live and silent auctions, will go towards supporting the Durham Farm Connection Committee, and the educational programming they provide throughout the year.
During the spring, Durham Farm Connections teaches a little over 1,200 grade 3 students about the importance of agriculture and how food gets to their table.
According to Robert, Durham Region is blessed with great soil and conditions for growing crops, which has allowed this area’s agricultural industry to flourish.
“We have very fertile soil here that allows us to grow great crops to raise livestock on. Even in the maple syrup part of it, we are blessed with great maple trees in this area, with a great soil that gives it a nice distinct taste,” Robert said.
He is looking forward to attending the gala and catching up with other farm families. Robert said the gala is like a big reunion for farmers around Durham and is a great chance to catch up with old friends.
Marlene, encourages residents of the Durham Region to support agriculture whenever they can.
She said, “It’s an economic benefit, it makes our community’s viable and vibrant, and there is nothing better than local food, in my opinion.”
Marlene thanks the community, for all the support the gala receives each year, and emphasizes it’s what makes this event possible.
“She said, “The strong support that we get from the community, we are very appreciative of. [This event] wouldn’t happen without them.”