Township of Norwich Chamber of Commerce awards celebrate business, farms, citizens

By Jennifer Vandermeer, Norwich Gazette/IngersollTimes


Even Township of Norwich Chamber of Commerce president Darren Dayman said he was surprised to learn how much involvement the local Shoppers Drug Mart has had in the community.

This outreach and service was part of the reason the Norwich business was awarded the Large Business of the Year award at this year's Chamber Awards Night Wednesday, April 19 at the Norwich Community Centre.

Shoppers Drug Mart – Norwich owner Christin John was excited to receive the award. She said she moved from Toronto a couple of years ago and is proud to be operating the pharmacy which she said has been serving the village as a drug store continuously for 169 years. John gave much credit to her staff of 20 people – and introduced them all to the crowd gathered for the annual event. Several of them have been with the store for more than 35 years.

“I always say my staff is my family,” said John.

Small Business of the Year award went to The Wine Shack, co-owned by Esther VanManen and Lynne Stubb. After viewing a video of how the business operates, VanManen told the audience they are very honoured and thankful to have been selected for the award.

This year's Judy Cayley Memorial award was presented to Nancy Anderson for her work with the Norwich United Church, Norwich Optimist Club and many personal volunteer endeavours. Anderson explained she and Cayley had been friends since they were young girls and she was honoured to receive the award, especially with her family there to celebrate with her.

Paula Morrison said it was very humbling to be nominated and selected as this year's Citizen of the Year. A volunteer with Norwich Minor Soccer, Norwich minor hockey and the Optimist Club, Morrison said she never thought volunteerism was something that needed an award. She was raised by her parents to understand that sometimes a person just has to do what's needed – whether they're acknowledged for it or not.

With more than 500 hours of volunteer service under her belt, Kayla VanLagen received the Youth Citizenship award. The Rehoboth Christian School student has been very involved in volunteering in a variety of ways in the community, and told the audience it felt strange to be given an award for doing what she does.

The $500 Essay Contest Scholarship was presented to Jenna Rutherford for her essay that included ideas on how to boost tourism in the area.

Agriculture awards

Another member of the Rutherford family made his way to the podium after receiving special agricultural awards at the Chamber awards night. Kyle Rutherford received the $750 Agriculture Bursary award.

Two Farm Family awards were presented: to P.K. Kuivenhoven Greenhouses Inc., and Bloxslea Farms Inc.

In a video produced for the event, the Kuivenhovens explained how their business began in 1991 with cut roses growing in 30,000 square feet of greenhouse. The pressures of the imported rose market forced the family to change their production to gerbera daisies – which includes 70 varieties in a wide range of colours.

Peter Kuivenhoven explained the modern operation, with its computer-controlled roof, irrigation and fertilizer and use of sunlight and artificial light.

“We try to keep everything as efficient as possible,” he said.

There are six full-time staff and seven part-timers helping with the flower crop, and the future looks to grow for the family as Pete said his brother may come into the business which could mean doubling the size of the operation.

Jim and Hallie Bloxsidge and their son Sean, were recipients of the second Farm Family award for their pig operation Bloxslea Farms.

“Without our employees, I don't think we could make it,” said Jim Bloxsidge. “We've got a great bunch of people.”

It's the 20 employees – one who has been there 30 years – that help the family operate the farm that produces 120,000 market hogs per year.

“I like pigs because they're a real challenge,” Jim said in the video produced for the awards.

He likes the trial work of finding the best nutrition plan for a certain type of pig, or trying to improve the genetics of a breed.

Environmental protections are a large part of the Bloxslea operation, with no water contamination, quick manure incorporation into the soil, and transport trucks that run on natural gas. The farm hasn't used commercial fertilizer since 1999, opting instead for the manure produced by their pigs. Hallie said last year was the first time they were being paid by other farmers to take the extra manure for their own fields.