Two locals recipients of Annual Rural Urban Awards

·3 min read

The Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce has announced two local residents as recipients of the 74th Annual Rural-Urban Awards.

Barry Kearney of Thamesville has been chosen as the recipient of the Agriculturist of the Year Award. He said being chosen is a humbling experience.

“It’s very humbling,” said Kearney. “You know, you go through life trying to do the best you can. And when something comes along like this and recognizes yours, I say I’m very humbled.”

In 1979, Barry Kearney, who farmed in Howard Township, was looking for a piece of equipment he could not find on the market, so he decided to make what he needed. It was his first innovation, and within a short period of time, he was in the Planter business.

A short 10 years later, Kearney Planters was incorporated. He has not looked back since, and Kearney Planters has grown over the past 35 years to employ over 23 full-time staff. Kearney Planters provide farmers with a wide variety of parts, service and education in all aspects of agriculture.

Kearney has been the driving force behind the business and continues to serve farmers with new technology as agricultural demands continue to evolve.

According to Kearney, he serves customers from Windsor to the Quebec border. He added they have also done business overseas in Romania, New Zealand, France, South Africa.

“Agriculture is an up and down business to start with,” said Kearney. “We’re just trying to be here and support people in these times. We do our best that we can through this period with COVID and being able to keep our customers safe, but still, be able to do business with them.”

Also recognized was Wouter VanLeeuwen Sr., who was awarded the Agriculture Innovator of the Year Award.

VanLeeuwen is the owner of a hog farm, which operates on a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day operation. Being as efficient as possible is vital to success.

VanLeeuwen Farms, located near Ridgetown, is using solar-power technology and a European ventilation system that are providing efficiency and cost savings today and into the future.

Between the generation meter and the consumption meter, he said they use computer technology that constantly monitors the power being produced.

“If we’re producing too much, the computer gives a signal to the inverters to throttle back,” said Van Leeuwen.

He said while his name is on the award, it would not have been possible without the help and support of his family.

“It’s a huge honour to be recognized like this, but it’s not just myself; it’s the whole team on the farm,” said VanLeewn.

The virtual ceremony will be held Wednesday, November 25, at 7 p.m. Kearney, VanLeewn and Ian Lawton from Kent Bridge (Youth Agriculturist of the Year) and Jackson Seed Service of Dresden (Friend of Agriculture Award) will be recognized. The celebration will be showcased on the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce social media sites and YourTV local channel and media sites. Everyone is invited to attend - no ticket sales.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News