Kim Cooper grew up in Chatham, never farming a day in his life, but his career of more than four decades in agriculture has taken him to more than 30 countries and earned him the respect of the farm community.
The author of the popular Food for Thought column, that has run in The Chatham Daily News for nearly 20 years, is retiring on Aug. 2.
Cooper recalls visiting his grandparents’ farm in Jeannette’s Creek as a child, but said a career in agriculture wasn’t even on his radar.
He credits Stu Irving, the former manager of the M.J. Smith Grain Company and fellow church member, for calling to offer him a job in the early 1970s.
He took the job stocking shelves and began learning about seeds. He also met several farmers and learned about the chemical trade and fertilizer.
“I just fell in love with agriculture, that was the start of it,” Cooper said.
During this time, he developed some health problems but wanted to attend Ridgetown’s agriculture college. His employer paid his tuition and he returned with a diploma and a desire to learn more about agriculture, “because I was just eating this up.”
Cooper went to the University of Guelph, but had to drop out due to health reasons, noting not obtaining his degree is something he’s always regretted.
He came back to work at M.J. Smith before landing a job at King Grain in Pain Court in 1985. He spent 10 years there, gaining a lot of knowledge doing everything from loading fertilizer to making deliveries, to formulating fertilizer blends to selling.
“Eventually, I got into grain trading, so I bought and sold all the corn, wheat and soybeans out there for a number of years,” Cooper said.
He spent another year with the company after it was purchased by Thompsons, working in the soybean export program,
From there, he joined the Ontario Soybean Growers’ Association for 10 years working as their marketing specialist. He later joined Southwest Ag before joining Chatham-Kent’s economic development department nearly 12 years ago to work as an agriculture specialist.
Cooper’s career has taken him across the globe, including Japan and China, where he’s met farmers from many different countries along with company presidents and ambassadors.
He also became well respected for raising awareness about local agriculture through his weekly newspaper column.
He recalled being on the agriculture committee of the then Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce at a time when there was a lot of bad press about farming.Click here to see more...