Herbert H. Hannam

Herbert H. Hannam

SEPTEMBER 27, 1898 - JULY 12, 1963

Herbert Hannam was born in 1898 in Swinton Park, Southgate district, Ontario. He was, in addition to being a dairy farm operator, a leading figure in the agricultural sector of Canada in the early 20th century; an editor, educator, and political leader involved in various organizations.

Hannam grew up on his family farm before attending the Ontario Agricultural College. In order to finance his education, he taught in elementary schools in Grey County before graduating from the O.A.C in 1926 with a B.S.A. After his graduation he took up work as the editor of the Canadian Countryman farming newspaper, serving as the livestock editor. In 1928 he began working for the United Farmers of Ontario party, becoming the editorial secretary and eventually relieving James J. Morrison as the general secretary in 1933, a position he held until 1942. While with the U.F.O he helped organize and promote folk schools. It was also during this time that he wrote two notable pamphlets on cooperativism, Co-operation: The Plan for Tomorrow which Works Today in 1938 and Pulling Together for Twenty Five Years in 1940. He eventually founded his own newspaper, the Rural Cooperator, editing it for seven years.

Hannam’s main goal was to bring Ontarian and Canadian farmers out of the turbulence of the Great Depression. As farmers struggled to recover from the catastrophic economic downturn and began to lose faith in their government, Hannam attempted to unite them. He stimulated rural prosperity through encouraging cooperation and organization among communities of producers. Through encouraging cooperation, he was able to increase the independence and self-reliability of farming families.

Furthermore, he oversaw the transition of farmers’ organizations from political movements to business lobbying groups. He created the Ontario Chamber of Agriculture in 1936, becoming its first president. This organization became the Ontario Agricultural Federation in 1940. He extended his ambitions to a national level in 1939, setting up the Canadian Chamber of Agriculture, which later became the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, becoming its managing director in 1943. The C.F.A was aimed at strengthening and federating all farm organizations in Canada into one strong, national body. It represented Canadian farmers in negotiating fair and stable prices and grant them access to world markets.

His service extended to an international level in 1949 when he founded and was elected president of the International Federation of Agriculture Producers. He was also appointed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker as a delegate of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

Despite his involvement in politics, Hannam still busied himself in education, something he was always passionate about. He worked with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (C.B.C.) and the Canadian Association for Adult Education to establish the Farm Radio Forum (F.R.F) in 1941, a national rural listening-discussion group project. F.R.F groups would meet once a week in neighbourhood groups and listen to half-hour radio broadcasts highlighting a particular topic of economic or social interest, which would then be discussed. A leader of each group would present a summary of their discussion to the C.B.C, which then made them the subject of next week’s program. Meeting and discussing new ideas with community members helped establish an air of confidence and optimism in the countryside. The establishment of this organization also had international repercussions, as UNESCO commissioned research into the F.R.F. in 1952, their subsequent report inspiring France, Ghana, and India to start using Canadian farm forum models in their programs.

Herbert Hannam’s lifelong dedication to agriculture was recognized in 1959 when he was elected as a Fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture