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Quebec farmer wins ‘Seed for Life’

For Marc-Andre Pilon and his wife Natalie, winning the “Seed for Life” contest means they can invest much of the seed budget on other things. (Ralph Pearce photo)

Farming continues to grow more complex, as costs vary for land, fuel, fertilizer, equipment, chemicals and seed, many of which can challenge a grower every year. But what if seed costs were greatly reduced — not just for one year, but for 25?

The question of “What if?” no longer applies to Marc-Andre Pilon, who farms near Saint-Polycarpe, Que., after winning the “Seed for Life” contest, sponsored by DuPont Pioneer. The announcement came at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, near Woodstock, Ont.

As the 2016 winner, Pilon will receive $50,000 in Pioneer seed each year for the next 25 years — a value of up to $1.25 million. Asked what this prize means to him, his wife Natalie and their daughter Magalie, Pilon replied it takes some of the burden off of a young farmer.

He’s a third-generation grower and incorporated the operation, Ferme Pilon Inc., with his father in 2008. Together they farm about 1,000 acres, with 500 acres in corn and the rest in soybeans, including some land close to the nearby town of Ste-Justine de Newton.

Among his many challenges, Pilon has to deal with the threat of compaction thanks to his clay-loam soil. To say he’ll work the soil when it’s dry isn’t always feasible, as much as he tries.

“We’ve improved conditions with drainage in the past 10 years, but it’s a perpetual battle to be doing it,” said Pilon, through an interpreter. “It’s fairly flat land and a high clay content, so any mistake you make at working the soil a little bit early, you’ll pay for it for many years.”

Five other growers won secondary prizes of up to $10,000 worth of seed from Pioneer: Denis Moreau of Saint-Flavien, Que., Royalair Farms Ltd. of Dublin, Ont., Geoff Buckrell of Burgessville, Ont., Harcan Farms Inc. of Petrolia, Ont. and Shar View Farms of Sharon, Ont. were also announced at Outdoor Farm Show.

For Collin Phillip, the “Seed for Life” contest is as important an opportunity for growers as it is for DuPont Pioneer.

As business director for Eastern Canada, he agreed the contest has generated considerable excitement, especially in Ontario, where growers were distracted earlier this year with the guidelines surrounding the use of neonicotinoid-based seed treatments. But he said he’s heard some people comment that the chances to win the grand prize were rather slim.

In response, DuPont Pioneer has launched a “Seed for a Season” contest for 2017, featuring 20 prizes of $25,000, with 12 winners in Ontario and eight in Quebec. Draws will take place throughout the season based on early offer and early pay deadlines.

Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont. Follow him at @arpee_AG on Twitter.

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