Youth Agriculturist of the Year

·2 min read

If Ian Lawton is representative of the future of farming, agriculture is in good hands.

At age 17, the Grade 12 student has been named ‘Youth Agriculturist of the Year’ for 2020 by the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.

Raised on Boundary Line, by parents Ken and Jane, the younger Lawton has been immersed in farm life since birth and he plans to make it his life’s work.

“I started helping Dad when I was about 7,” Lawton says. “And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

At age 9, Lawton joined the Ridgetown 4-H club, where he learned a myriad of skills, ranging from rabbit agility to Lego robotics to life skills.

“It’s really helped me with my public speaking and leadership skills,” Lawton explains.

His ongoing membership with the club is one of the reasons he was anonymously nominated for the chamber award.

Regenerative agriculture is another of Lawton's passions. Inspired by his father, he’s experimenting with growing cover crops amidst the rows of their main cash crops of corn, soybeans and wheat.

“It’s farming smarter,” Lawton says, adding when weeds are shaded the need for using chemicals is reduced.

Computer savvy and technology smart, the Ridgetown high school student understands precision farming is here to stay.

Collecting data and improving hybrids are the wave of the future, he says.

“It’s a numbers game,” he adds. “It makes a lot of sense.

“We have to grow more food on the existing acres of arable land.”

Capturing carbon and sequestering it in the ground are among Lawton’s goals.

Lawton plans to carry on the family tradition of attending Ontario’s premier agriculture school. If the pandemic doesn’t interfere, he plans to enrol at the University of Guelph in the Bachelor of Agriculture Sciences for 2021.

His father graduated from the university, and his grandfather Lewis Sherman attended Ontario Agricultural College, the school’s forerunner.

Last week was a big one for Lawton. Not only did he do media interviews about his award, his dad finally let him combine corn alone for the first time.

Currently he and his father work around 1,000 acres with other family members, using a minimal till approach.

The chamber's 74th annual Rural Urban awards event will be held virtually Nov. 25.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald