By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
The Hamilton-Wentworth Federation of Agriculture has named the Bennett family the apple of its eye for 2013.
Brothers Todd and Richard Bennett, along with their wives Carrie and Andrea, are partners in the operation of Bennett’s Apples and Cider, which has been named Farm Family of the Year by the agricultural federation. The award is handed out to honor outstanding achievement in the field of agriculture.
Todd Bennett said he and other family members were pleased but surprised to learn of the award and pointed out many people share in the success of the Ancaster farm.
“This is an award that belongs not just to the four of us, but to our employees and four generations of our family. We take a piece of it, but only a small piece,” said Todd.
The Bennett family has farmed at their Garner Road location for 103 years. Charlie Bennett and his wife, Maude, bought the 51-acre farm in 1910, packed up all their belongings in Burlington and transported them by horse and sleigh across the frozen bay to Hamilton Mountain.
Charlie started out by growing apples and raising horses, cows, pigs and chickens. In 1917, an apple cider press was purchased and neighbourhood kids often stopped by to fill their lunch pails with cider.
Through the next two generations of Bennetts —Odous in 1944, followed by Paul in 1961 — the farm continued to expand and diversify.
Sons Todd and Richard took over in 1992 and today’s Bennett’s Apples and Cider includes 33 acres of apples, 18 acres of sweet corn, 10 acres of squash, pumpkins and gourds and two acres of Indian corn. Bennett’s harvest and sells 12,000 bushels of apples each year, as well as pressing 800,000 litres of cider. The business employs 40 year-round staff and an additional 10 to 12 staff during harvest time. In a typical year, 100,000 people visit the farm store.
Todd and Carrie and Richard and Andrea all live on the farm, along with their six children.
The couples are active in their church, holding positions on the board and working with small group ministries. Bennett’s also supports City Kidz for at-risk youth, Hamilton Out of the Cold, local food banks and school lunch programs. The family has been involved with the Ancaster Fair for many years, exhibiting fruits and vegetables and assisting with the fair’s education program. As well, Bennett’s has supported the Ancaster Township Historical Society and its War of 1812 commemoration since 2011.
During their travels around town these days, Todd said family members have heard many words of encouragement and congratulations on the Hamilton-Wentworth Federation of Agriculture award.
“It’s nice to be recognized and knowing that your hard work has not gone unnoticed,” he said.
The Bennetts will accept the Osborne. L. Sager Farm Family of the Year Award from at a banquet on March 1 at the Ancaster Fairgrounds.