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Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame to induct 11 new leaders

Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame to induct 11 new leaders

The Hall will add 11 new members to its class of 2023 inductees.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

In 2023, the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame (OAHF) will induct 11 individuals who have made significant impacts on Ontario agriculture and beyond.

The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame opened in 1980, inducting nine initial pioneer agriculturists who represented over 100 years of combined efforts and initiatives in building better agriculture for the province. Including the new 11, the Hall of Fame will have 256 well-deserving members.

The 2023 class of inductees continues the level of commitment, offering influences ranging from agronomy and crop consulting, soil health and water quality advancements, pesticide and crop research, the development of farm shows and farm co-operatives, and leadership in the sectors of horticulture, dairy, forages, eggs and pullets.

“Our Board of Directors was overwhelmed by the number of nomination packages received for consideration last year,” stated Nick Whyte, the President of the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association who are responsible for the Hall. “This level of interest really shows the importance that the agricultural industry places on recognizing its leaders—both past and present.”

The successful nominees for induction include:

  • David Biesenthal – A graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College. He is a veterinarian and progressive beef and crop farmer. During the 2000 Walkerton water crisis, his family was the focus of much-unwanted media attention and intense scrutiny due to accusations against him and his cattle. Fortunately, his record-keeping and early adoption of the Environmental Farm Plan and the Nutrient Management Plan programs eventually exonerated him. This resulted in him being recognized as a leader and public speaker, committed to advocating and doing what is right. He has had a profound impact on the future of agriculture due to his work advocating agriculture’s role in water quality;
  • Dale Cowan - With over 40 years of experience, he has been a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) since 1997. He has advised growers of numerous crops, has mentored many new CCAs, and has reviewed crop recommendations spanning 275,000 acres. Through his extensive volunteer activities, he has become the “go-to” person when it comes to associations and government looking for an agronomist to provide balanced, science-based, and practical input. He is known for his exploration of the newest technology and has also been instrumental in the development and promotion of sustainable agronomy and precision farming practices throughout Ontario;
  • Mack Emiry - A dairy farmer dedicated to advancing ag in Ontario, his greatest passion is soil health, wanting to leave the soil in an improved condition for following generations. His work as chair of the Land Stewardship Committee evolved into work that led to the development of the Environmental Farm Plan. He has also provided a much-needed voice to many agricultural discussions on behalf of Northern Ontario. Organizations benefiting from his commitment include the Manitoulin West Sudbury Milk Producers’ Association, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and the provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee;
  • Richard Frank (1928-2021) - He co-created and was director of the first pesticide testing lab in Ontario. Beginning in the mid-1960s and until he retired from government, he authored over 100 scientific papers, providing valuable scientific data and understanding of the occurrence, fate, and risks of pesticide residues in Ontario. He worked to both study and improve access to pesticides while ensuring that his priorities related to protecting the environment as well as producer and crop safety were considered before any recommendations were made. In the 1970s, when Ontario’s horticultural producers were faced with pest control problems, his lab provided critical pesticide residue data that allowed federal authorities to grant uses. The Minor Use Program later grew into the world-recognized entity that it is today;
  • Brian Gilroy - An apple grower near Georgian Bay, his years of determined consensus building are a fundamental cornerstone of today’s Ontario and Canadian apple industries. His work has left long-lasting impacts on the edible horticulture sector nationwide, as well as a public trust and outreach efforts in Ontario that benefit not just fruit and vegetable growers but farmers from all sectors. He has been an active and involved member and leader of many organizations including the Georgian Bay Fruit Growers’ Association, Ontario Apple Growers, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, Farm & Food Care Ontario, the Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada, and the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair, among others;
  • Peter Gould - He spent 36 years with the Ontario Milk Marketing Board (now Dairy Farmers of Ontario). Known as a visionary, he recognized the milk industry’s need to continue to evolve to remain relevant. He was instrumental in the establishment of a single quota system, implementing a raw milk quality program, and taking responsibility for the administration and enforcement of Ontario's raw milk quality regulations. A strong supporter of supply management, he played an active role in numerous international trade negotiations and was also a leader in raising funds to build the world-class dairy research barn at the University of Guelph;
  • Carolynne Griffith - With a long history of making significant contributions to improve Ontario’s egg and pullet farming sectors locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. As chair of Egg Farmers of Ontario, she was an effective advocate in defending the interest of Canadian egg farmers, the broader industry, and supply management during historic trade negotiations. In this capacity, she ensured the perspective of Canadian egg farmers was heard by international trade negotiators, government representatives, and other stakeholders. These efforts will have an impact on generations. A strong supporter of building meaningful connections with consumers, she has answered thousands of questions about eggs and egg farming at the Canadian National Exhibition, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Western Fair, local events, and schools;
  • Ray Robertson - He has helped the ag community adapt to changing economic, environmental, and political realities and needs. He has helped to grow an appreciation for the role of forage crops on farms to promote soil health and conservation, was instrumental in forming the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association, and served with the Ontario Forage Council and the Ontario Hay and Forage Cooperative. His contributions have left a permanent impression on the industry. He is committed to working on behalf of farmers and the industry, to maintain and build upon programs that are essential for their adoption and continuing success. He has served in leadership roles in programs such as Land Stewardship and the Environmental Farm Plan and even developed and sourced funding for programs in Grey County to help farmers adopt conservation methods;
  • Robert James Scott (1900-1946) - He was one of Ontario’s greatest and most influential farm activists and one of the most prominent men in Canadian agriculture during the 1930s and 1940s. He organized farmers into cooperatives where farmers could pool their resources. By organizing farmers, they were then able to be more competitive, were no longer taken advantage of, and had a strong, united voice to influence change. He led the United Farmers’ Co-operative of Ontario and advocated for many farm-related matters such as for fixed prices of commodities during WWII to guarantee an adequate food supply. He spoke up for fair railway freight rates for crops and was called upon for advice by Ontario Premiers and Prime Minister MacKenzie King. At the time of his premature death, he was a director for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ontario Stockyards Board, and the Ontario Beef Cattle Producers’ Association;
  • Tarlok Singh Sahota - He managed and sustained the privately-run Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station and its successful transition to Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station. The research station, under his leadership, focussed on development-oriented agricultural research which found an easy application on farms. Until 2004, Thunder Bay producers grew only a few crops that were needed for cattle. But his research and extension helped area growers to diversify their cropping systems by adding numerous crops to their mix. He has authored hundreds of publications, and extension articles and participated in media reports. Thunder Bay farmers rely on research conducted by him to make their businesses more profitable and environmentally sustainable;
  • Doug Wagner – He has contributed to Ontario’s agriculture and food industry via his work with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ontario Seed Growers’ Association, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. Through many organizations, he has developed numerous young agricultural leaders, established new programs for educational and networking venues for farmers, and advanced opportunities to showcase innovative technologies to producers, businesspeople, and government decision-makers.

The 11 new inductees will be formally recognized at the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame at an in-person ceremony on June 11, 2023, at the Grand Way Event Centre, in Elora.

Tickets are available: $40 for in-person attendance or $20 for virtual attendance, at the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame’s website: www.oahf.on.ca.


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