PUTNAM COUNTY — Hirzel Canning Company & Farms, producers of the Dei Fratelli tomato brand, recently held its yearly Growers’ Dinner on April 7 in Pemberville. This annual dinner recognizes their local family farms that partner with Hirzel Canning in growing tomatoes and cabbage for their Dei Fratelli and Silver Fleece brands.

For the 2014 season a group of growers were awarded the 100 percent Usable Award for delivering a 100 percent usable load of tomatoes to Hirzel Canning during the harvest season. This year 11 loads from eight different growers achieved this award. Also at the banquet this year grower Steve Busch of Hamler was awarded the Pik Rite 100 percent Usable Award, given to the first grower to deliver a 100 percent useable load of tomatoes with a Pik Rite harvester. This monetary prize was earned by Busch early in the harvest season.

The prestigious Grower of the Year Award was presented to Randy Luckey of Elmore, with Master Grower Awards going to Rothert Farms Inc. of Elmore and Steve Busch of Hamler.

“This banquet is a great opportunity to recognize our growers for their outstanding performance and achievement during the growing season,” said Jeff Unverferth, Agricultural Manager at Hirzel Canning Co. & Farms. The following awards were presented:

Grower of the Year - Randy Luckey of Luckey Homestead, Elmore

Master Grower Award - Steve Busch of Steve Busch Farms, Hamler and Todd and Trent Rothert of Rothert Farms, Elmore

Top Grade - Randy Luckey of Luckey Homestead, Elmore

Pik Rite 100 Percent Usable Award - Steve Busch of Steve Busch Farms, Hamler

100 Percent Usable Award - Randy Luckey of Luckey Homestead, Elmore, Mike Lugibihl of SCM Farms, Elida, Dale Gerding of Gerding Farms, Ottawa, Todd and Trent Rothert of Rothert Farms, Elmore, Andy Stickel of Stickel Farms, Bowling Green, Jim Wolf of Wolf Farms, Bowling Green, Joe and Tom Wischmeyer of Wischmeyer Farms, Ottawa

All of the growers are family farm operations, whose fields are located just a short drive from one of Hirzel’s three processing plants, including one in Ottawa. The short distance ensures a fresh, high quality product for consumers.