In 2008, Hillside Gardens was honoured with the presentation of the Minister’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. It’s quite a mouthful, but simply put, The Minister’s Award is presented by the Minister of Agriculture to a farm that uses a new innovation or practice to push the agri-food industry forward and change the landscape of the farming business.
We received the award for our traceability program. Traceability is an aspect of food safety that allows farms and other food producers to keep individual track of every production unit. This allows us to evaluate the quality and yields of our produce from the time the seed goes into the ground until the final product arrives at the grocery store, gives us a real-time inventory, and provides all sorts of useful data for the management of the farm. More importantly, however, it would allow us to react quickly and decisively if the safety or quality of our produce were ever to be compromised, which means that only safe, wholesome produce reaches our consumers.
We implemented our traceability program with the help of OMAFRA, switching from our previous method of labouriously tracking everything on paper to the more efficient and reliable method of tracking our produce via computer. We installed ProducePak software and began using PDAs throughout the farm to quickly and easily scan all our data into the program. We have been able to share the benefits our computerized traceability system with other farms through on-farm tours and industry presentations. We were very grateful to receive this award and will keep striving for excellence in our farming practice, so as to bring the freshest, safest produce possible to our consumers.