A West Gwillimbury resident has been singled out for her contributions to both agriculture and the community.
Bonnie West, ‘farm wife’ and long-time volunteer, was awarded the Women of Excellence in Agriculture Award at this year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
The award, sponsored by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario in partnership with the Royal, recognizes the significant contributions of “dedicated, public-minded” women to agriculture.
West was honoured for engagement in the family’s cash crop operation and for her long-time involvement in the Tec-We-Gwill Women’s Institute, which meets regularly in Newton Robinson.
“Bonnie just gets things done, and gets things done to perfection,” said Donna Jebb, who nominated West for the award.
West has been a member of the Tec-We-Gwill Women’s Institute since 1978 – 41 years in total – and has served in every capacity on the executive team.
She was secretary “for quite a few years,” served as treasurer and committee chair, and recently served a term as president.
West has now stepped away from the executive team. “I decided it was time to let others step up,” she said, although she still attends all meetings, and lends a hand whenever needed.
In addition to her work with the Tec-We-Gwill WI, which has included organizing workshops open to the public, West was recognized for her involvement in the 2014 International Plowing Match held in Simcoe County, her support for 4-H Dairy programs, and her volunteer work with St. John’s Anglican Church in Cookstown, where she is choir director.
West downplays the time she contributes to the community. “I used to co-ordinate the seniors’ lunches at St. John’s and at the institute,” she said. “Now I just go to help. It’s great!”
But she acknowledged that the hours spent volunteering can be extensive. “It would be common to be 20 hours a month, just for Women’s Institute,” West said – plus the many hours devoted to the church choir, choosing the music, arranging practices and performances.
It’s all worth it, she said. “You’re helping others, and to me, that’s a great sense of satisfaction.”
In particular, West has enjoyed organizing workshops. Through W.I., “You see other people able to do things… that they couldn’t,” she said. “Running workshops, it gives other people an opportunity to learn new things.”
West is modest about the award, insisting that “there are so many women involved in agriculture far more than I am” and more deserving of the honour. She hopes that more women are inspired to get involved in their communities.
The motto of the Women’s Institute is ‘For Home and Country,’ and it’s all about “improving the home life and community life,” West said. “I think it’s important for women to keep on doing what they enjoy doing.”