In their last year of eligibility, the Bos family, owner/operators of the Rock Ridge Dairy plant and dairy farm, was awarded the provincial Outstanding Young Farmers award.
The farm is owned by Patrick and Cherylynn Bos and they received the award in February in Banff at the annual Outstanding Young Farmers celebratory event and meeting.
“It was just a really great honour,” said Cherylynn.
“It was nice to get some recognition after all the years of hard work we put into the farm,” she added.
Those involved in the award process must first be nominated then fill out the lengthy application process.
“My mother nominated us,” Cherylynn explained.
“You have to be nominated before you’re 40. I turn 40 in two months,” Patrick added.
The farm was also nominated five years ago for the award. “We found it to be a really interesting experience,” said Cherylynn.
The Bos’s were then nominated for the two years following, but Patrick and Cherylynn decided they were not ready for the process.
The Outstanding Young Farmers award program takes seven operations from seven different regions across Canada. The winner from each region then competes in a national competition, which takes place in Edmonton in November 2015.
During the two day judging competition judges looked at the history of each farming operation, the owners’ involvement in the industry or their community, operational advancement and financial aspects.
Each group of competitors also had to make a PowerPoint presentation to the judging panel, which included staff from ATB Financial, a main sponsor of the award, and alumni recipients.
“It was a good process to go through because it really made you evaluate your own farm,” said Cherylynn. She feels having to layout the farm’s progress for the judges was a good reminder for her and Patrick of the accomplishments they have achieved.
Cherylynn credits a lot of the farm’s success to the support of their family. “We’re here today in big part because of Patrick’s family. They’ve been really supportive of the transition of the farm to the next generation. They’ve enabled us.”
Patrick says during the competition the judges also had advice for the presenting farms.
Cherylynn joked the best advice she heard was ‘take a long vacation’, but Patrick added it is a goal they are actually working toward.
“That’s the most crucial part for us, getting our farm to a place where it can operate without us,” he explained.
This summer the couple is set to finish building a new barn and accompanying building to house their new parlor; a semi-automatic goat milking machine.
While the farm is already the largest of its kind in western Canada, this new expansion will give Rock Ridge Dairy an even larger lead.
The farm has approximately 1,400 goats on site and 600 for milking. Patrick says it takes eight hours a day just to milk them all. “We hope to get up to 900 this year and 1,200 next year if possible.”
The near parlor that is going to be installed will be able to milk 900 goats per hour.
“It’ll be life changing for our farm,” said Cherylynn.
Last April Patrick travelled to Holland to see a variety of options and settled on the parlor design he is bringing to the farm. However, he was not completely satisfied and has made some adjustments to make the machine more user-friendly.
“It’ll be the first one of its kind in North America,” said Patrick.
Between the parlor — with parts coming from Holland and Israel, and locally — and the two new buildings, the project costs $1.2 million.
Together the buildings total almost 50,000 square feet. Construction began last summer but Patrick says he decided on the project in January 2014.
As part of a pilot project called Farm-On Technology, which awards 10 farms across the province that are doing something very different than the rest of the industry, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency is paying 20 per cent of the Bos’s bill for the new parlor.