Farm and Food Care Ontario (FFCO) recognized Sandi Brock and Paul Nairn as its 2021 Food and Farming Champions.
“This is truly an honour. To be nominated by peers is truly amazing and I, for once in my life, I’m a bit speechless,” said Brock.
Why it matters: Farm and Food Care’s annual award brings recognition to those who work to connect farms and consumers.
Christine Schoonderwoerd, an FFCO board director, said the transparent approach Brock takes to storytelling her triumphs and challenges on social media posts and vlogs offers followers an unfiltered glimpse into the daily life of a sheep farmer.
“Her grit and authenticity have garnered the attention of over 240,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel Sheepishly Me, and over 140,000 followers across social media in her nomination,” Schoonderwoerd said.
Brendan Byrne, of Grain Farmers of Ontario, nominated Brock in part due to her work creating a more open and encouraging environment around mental health in Ontario agriculture by sharing her own mental health experiences so openly.
Brock said Hugh Simpson, a beef producer she sat beside during a Farm and Food Care Ontario event years ago, lit the spark that fired up Sheepishly Me.
“I remember him saying, ‘If only there was a way to create empathy with society . . . I think farmers have a long road ahead of them if we can’t figure out a way to do this,’” said Brock. “That lit a little fire in me. It’s always been in the back of my brain and sits heavily on my heart.”
Four years ago when Brock began her foray into social media, she realized she was on a journey to figure out how to be empathetic with herself and her family and build relationships and connections with authenticity and transparency.
There is only one way to get empathy, she said.
“You have to give it truly and authentically and expect nothing in return. That was the biggest gift I learned doing this,” she said. “If it helps the industry, I’m more than happy to be that person.”
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, with supporting letters from staff and members of the Perth County pork producers group nominated Paul Nairn for his long-standing volunteer service and agriculture support at the local and provincial level.
“His staff and peers have no shortage of kind words to say about his role as a leader, a mentor, volunteer, and advocate for Ontario agriculture,” said Crispin Colvin, FCCO board director.
Nairn’s 25 years of service with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and his position as Western Region Member Services Manager are just the beginning of his contributions, said Colvin.
“He always encourages others to become more involved in their community and be the faces of agriculture with the public,” Colvin said. “He leads by example.”
Nairn is the first person to offer assistance and the last one to take credit, said Colvin, whether volunteering at events, in organizations or motivating others.
“Paul is known at (FCCO’s) Breakfast on the Farm as the kitchen boss. He runs a tight ship, but it is always fun for his crew,” Colvin said. “And once finished his job, he then helps in other areas as needed.”
Nairn was shocked by the award and thanked the groups and individuals who nominated him.
“Supporting the work of Farm and Food Care, promoting agriculture and trying to make a difference in what I do to the industry has certainly been what I’ve done since I graduated from university,” Nairn said. “I really appreciate the award.”
Updated April 30, 2021 to reflect a correction in photo credit.