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Canola Award of Excellence

The Manitoba Canola Growers Association would like to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals and organizations who contribute to the sustained growth and prosperity of Manitoba’s canola industry. At MCGA, we have developed an annual award to be given to an individual who has made a contribution to the canola industry. Any individual or organization involved in the growing, production or marketing of canola is eligible to be nominated. Researchers and educators of canola, as well as chefs and media personalities who promote canola are also eligible.


Paul and Pat Orsak

There is something magical about the connections formed at summer camp. Combined with the magic of a prairie harvest, the idea behind Harvest Camp grew. What began as a modest initiative quickly developed into an annual event that bridged the gap between urban Canadians and farmers, fostering understanding and building lasting relationships. 

The idea traces back to conversations between Pat Orsak, Professional Home Economist and partner at Orsak Farms Ltd., Ellen Pruden (former MCGA staff) and Jennifer Dyck, market development director at MCGA around bringing urban Canadians to the farm.

Each September for eight years, a group of about ten campers including influential food writers, digital content creators, scientists, dietitians and chefs were invited to hop on a bus for three days and visit a variety of farms including a mixed grain and cattle farm (Jacksons), a bison operation (Millers), a family-owned grain storage facility (Derkachs), a honey operation (Wendell Estate Honey) as well as two grain and oilseed farms (Orsaks and Dalgarnos). As Camp evolved, more stops were added focusing on additional topics like soil health and science.

Harvest Camp ran from 2012-2019, and was an opportunity for the participating farmers to tell their story and help Canadians understand their commitment to growing safe food in a sustainable manner.

“It was about people wanting to learn,” Pat emphasizes, reflecting on the camp’s nature. The event wasn’t just about showcasing modern, sustainable agricultural practices; it was a platform for mutual understanding, where chefs, dietitians, food writers and farmers could find common ground and relate to each other as individuals with similar concerns.

A highlight for Pat was lunch in the field where campers got to make the connection between farm and food. “We ate bison burgers and locally raised (garden) vegetables, and the campers got to ride in the combine and grain cart.”

Paul and Pat have both been involved in community and agriculture organizations over the years, and have created many connections in their community. 

“The Orsaks played an integral role in the success of Harvest Camp,” says Dyck. “It’s the trust and respect the Orsaks have in their local community that allowed our group to learn and visit local farms in the Russell, Inglis and Binscarth area. Asking a farmer to take time out at harvest to allow urban Canadians to experience the beauty and wonder of farming firsthand, is a big request. The Orsaks’ care and commitment were instrumental to the success of Harvest Camp.”

Appreciative and overwhelmed, the Orsaks were genuinely touched to be recognized for their contributions to the organization, something they refer to as ‘just what we do’. 

“We certainly weren’t expecting this recognition,” says Paul. “Harvest Camp was a great experience for us. It was a time to pause and share our farm with people who hadn’t had the opportunity to see what we do. Overall, we found everyone was respectful and eager to learn.”

Expressing surprise and gratitude for the recognition, Pat emphasises that it was a group effort. “It wouldn’t have flown without the families in the area that were so generous and willing to participate, the help and support of our family, and the trust that the Canola Growers put in us as the event evolved.”

“I attended Harvest Camp in 2013 where Paul and Pat opened their home and farm to a group of farm newbies,” says Erin MacGregor, dietitian. “I thought I would be learning about canola production, but what I learned was so much more. I learned about the passion Canadian farmers have for their products, their land, the environment and the legacy they’re building for future farming generations. During my visit to the farm and ever since, my questions around farming and our food system have been welcomed without judgement by the Orsak family. They have become part of my ‘food community’ and have helped me become an advocate for truth and transparency in food communication.” 

It was the Orsaks’ unwavering dedication and connection to their community that built the relationships necessary to make the program happen and thrive. “Harvest Camp is still brought up more than five years after it wrapped,” adds Dyck.

The relationships formed and the lessons learned through this program created the necessary building blocks to embark on the new campaign brand, Hello Canola, launched in fall last year. 

Paul and Pat Orsak are the second generation on Orsak Farms Ltd. and are parents to five adults; Laura, Owen (who is part of the farming operation), Lynn, Leah and Alanna. Pat loves to garden, cook and ski, and some of Paul’s passions include farming, flying and skiing.

Manitoba Canola Growers are proud to celebrate the Orsak family with the Canola Award of Excellence and extend a heartfelt thank you to Paul and Pat for their unwavering contributions, leaving a lasting mark on the canola industry. 

Previous Award Recipients

Michael Eskin

2023 Recipient

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Ned Bell

2022 Recipient

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Brian Chorney

2021 Recipient

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Dr. Don Flaten

2020 Recipient

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Dr. Cynthia Grant

2019 Recipient

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Murray McConnell

2018 Recipient

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Dr. Carla Taylor

2017 Recipient

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Mairlyn Smith

2016 Recipient

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Bruce Dalgarno

2015 Recipient

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Dave Hickling

2014 Recipient

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Ken Edie

2013 Recipient

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Chef Feeke

2012 Recipient

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Dr. Rachael Scarth

2011 Recipient

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Charlie Froebe

2010 Recipient

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Jim Green

2009 Recipient

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Dawn Harris

2009 Recipient

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William Max Polon

2009 Recipient

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Dr. Baldur Rosmund

2008 Recipient

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Any individual or organization can make a nomination. The process is simple - obtain a nomination form through the MCGA website or by calling 204-982-2122. Each entry must include:
  • Completed nomination entry form
  • Short biographical sketch of the nominee
  • Statements detailing the nominee’s dedication and/or contribution to the canola industry
  • Additional background information which may prove helpful to the judges
  • High quality photograph of the nominee
  • Presentation of this award will take place at the MCGA Annual General Meeting.
For additional information on the Manitoba Canola Growers Association or the Manitoba Canola Growers Award of Excellence, please feel free to contact us by phone (204-982-2122) or email ([email protected]).