Christmas congratulations go out to the Peter Ruiter family of rural Ottawa who’ve decided to give themselves a big bright gift: A $1-million-plus rebuild of their dairy barn and replacement of their herd following a devastating fire last Sept. 8.

This despite the fact their dairy operations are on land leased from the National Capital Commission which isn’t famous for its relations with Greenbelt tenants. However, a warmer, fuzzier NCC seems to be at work here, welcoming the Ruiters to put up a modern barn and making the process as easy as possible.

Peter Ruiter thought long and hard about what to do following the fire which killed his 80 prized cows. His heart won out. He missed his cattle. He decided to recreate the lifestyle of the family farm that he loves so much, something to leave to his three children. He’s satisfied he has a realistic plan in front of him which will “make a dollar” and hopes to begin construction of an automated new barn sometime in 2018.

His decision was partly based on the encouragement of friends and family which supported the Ruiters to an extent rarely seen in what is always a generous agricultural community. Held Oct. 14, the Blackrapids Farmfest fundraiser was a resounding success, drawing hundreds of supporters and earning thousands of dollars for the family.

It demonstrated that Ruiter, Ontario’s self-proclaimed Biggest Farmer, has a lot of friends both inside and outside of agriculture. While the Ruiter barn was partially insured, the family faced related expenses and the goal of Farmfest was to bring in as much money as possible to help recoup those extra losses.

Proceeds from the Oct. 14 event were added to more than $55,000 raised through a GoFundMe account; the auction portion of Farmfest alone raised an estimated $50,000. As for the final donation total, Ruiter prefers to keep it private.

It’s certainly far from the full $1-million needed but it’ll sure help. It’s satisfying to hear that Ruiter will remain in the business he promotes so enthusiastically as a keen ambassador for Ontario agriculture.