Despite community support, Ag Society falls short

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By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent

Highgate District Agricultural Society members are naturally disappointed they didn’t win the $25,000 prize in the BASF Agricultural Solutions’ Growing Home community contest.

Rather than being sullen, they are looking at the bright side.

“Of course, it’s disappointing we didn’t win it, but we had phenomenal support from the community,” said Cory Gosnell, secretary of the HDAS. “We’re all very, very pleased with the support and the awareness it brought to the Ag Society and the programming we do. We’re happy with the attention this has brought to our fair and its 170th anniversary; we’re super excited about that.”

The Ag Society was hoping to use the $25,000 for this year’s milestone Highgate District Agricultural Society Fair, which will take place on Sept. 28.

The HDAS was one of three organizations to make the final three for the first BASF Growing Home contest in Ontario.

Unfortunately, another of the nominees was about 15 miles to the north, and since individuals were only allowed to vote once, it forced residents to choose one over the other.

And when the 27,701 votes for the Ontario portion of the Growing Homes contest were tallied, Three Oaks Respite Cabin in Florence finished first with 9,958 votes, while Norfolk Little People’s Day Care was second with 9,748. The Highgate District Agricultural Society finished third with 7,995 votes.

“It was a close race throughout the entire voting period,” said Kasia Kistelski, Communications Specialist for the Calgary-based BASF Agricultural Solutions.

“It was pretty neat to see the community engagement,” Kistelski said.

Three Oaks Cabin, located north of Florence on Bilton Line between Bentpath Line and Lambton Line, is a respite for farmers and first responders built by the Diane and Al Bergsma family in memory of their son Dalles, a farmer and member of the Dawn Euphemia Fire Department, who died by suicide in 2020.  The funding from the BASF Growing Home Contest will directly support mental wellness programming.

The Growing Home contest started in 2023 with contests in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba before expanding to Ontario this year. More than 600 nominees were entered as BASF officials narrowed the field to three entries per province.

The Highgate Ag Society and Norfolk Day Care Centre received a $1,500 consolation prize for being nominated.

“We’re looking forward to receiving that money and putting it to good use,” Gosnell said.

Gosnell said the Ag Society is already working on its line-up for its Sept. 28 fair, which starts with the traditional parade at noon and leads to the fairgrounds. There, there will be a combination of entertainment, education, and activities for the kids.

The HDAS will also be putting together an application for the 2025 BASF Growing Home community contest to try their luck again.

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