Acme residents Matt and Tara Sawyer took the Alberta/NWT regional Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year award after Thursday evening's 32nd annual awards banquet at the Olds College Alumni Centre.ìWe're very honoured,î said Matt Sawyer. ìWe're speechless. There was a wonderful group of people nominated this year. I think we're all equal.îSawyer said he anticipates representing Alberta on a national level in the OYF Program this coming November.ìWe'll touch up on our PowerPoint presentation, and showcase more of the environmental things we're doing on our farm.îSemi-finalists Brad and Cheryl McDermid of Tobray Farms, located west of Olds, said they would play it by ear as to whether or not they would participate again next year.ìWe've met lots of great people, and learned a lot from talking to everybody. It's been a really good experience,î said Brad McDermid.ìWhen I first got the call about our nomination, I didn't know if I wanted the public attention.îAlso nominated were Clinton and Marsha Aarsby, who operate a farm outside Didsbury.The attention cast on nominees isn't so bad, said Rick Stamp, an actively involved former winner and past-president of OYF.ìIt's exposure to the vast array of agriculture, and a network of friends all across the country that we're very close to.îThe evening's festivities kicked off with a dinner, followed by a series of guest speakers.Dianne Finstad of CKGY Radio emceed the proceedings, beginning with speeches from members of the various 4H clubs in Alberta.Last year's winners, Ryan and Annette Mercer, shared some of their farming stories, which included explanations of their inventory of high-tech farming equipment and methods.One such device was a seed sorter that uses colour-detection technology to sort varying kinds of seeds into correct bins.OYF Alumnus Rod Bradshaw then took to the stage to thank the judges for their diligence and dedication during the lengthy and difficult decision process.ìThese guys probably had the hardest job, while the honourees had the most stressful one,î he told the audience.Judge Norm Storch encouraged semi-finalists who didn't win to participate in the program again if they could.ìIf you're not successful this year, having been through the selection process, I think you'll do things differently with your presentations.îThe winners from other provinces have been nominated three times before they won, he said.ìThese young farmers are the ambassadors of excellence and innovation. You have entered into a circle of top farmers from Alberta and across Canada who use networking as a tool for success,î said Olds Mayor Judy Dahl.Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said he loves seeing young people enter the industry with an energetic entrepreneurial spirit, despite the challenges they often face in acquiring funds and assets.ìIt's the teamwork that makes up the family farm,î he said.ìI see two words here tonight,î said Olds College president Tom Thompson.ìExcellence and Innovation. That's what your college stands for as well.îThompson said Olds College is proud to align itself with an organization that prides itself in those two qualities, especially an organization of an agricultural capacity.Alberta Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden also made an appearance to encourage the young farmers gathered.ìWe don't often take time to celebrate our industry and the wonderful people in it,î said Hayden.Despite flooding in southern Alberta last year, he noted, farmers still had the third-largest fiscal year in the history of the province, at over $14 billion.ìWe're trying to bring young farmers who are professional and innovative, and trying to recognize them for the work they do,î said OYF president Brian Newcombe, who could not be present for the regional event last Thursday evening.Newcombe said social media like YouTube and Facebook are extremely helpful in keeping young farmers connected, alongside traditional mediums.ìWe're getting a lot more media exposure than we used to.îìIt would be great if everyone knew exactly what it is. We're trying to recognize innovation and progression, anything we can do to bring light to that is great,î said Newcombe.Being recognized by an external group makes these young farmers feel as though their efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated, said Newcombe.And, it's a huge benefit to their fellow young farmers.ìThey can learn from their peers and take it back to their farms and utilize the knowledge,î he said.ìI congratulate the semi-finalists for being chosen as honourees for the Alberta regional.îNominees for the Outstanding Young Farmers Award are young agricultural producers in the province who are between 18 and 39 years of age, and must derive at least two-thirds of their income solely from farming.Canada's Outstanding Young Farmer Program began in 1979, and was based on a similar program in the United States.For more information, please visit www.oyfcanada.com.