James A. Garner

James A. Garner

1898 - 1958

James A. Garner was born in 1898, in Grey County, Ontario. His parents, David Garner and Francis Garner, were of Scottish descent. He was part of the graduating class of 1923 of the Ontario Agricultural College. After graduating from college he entered the Extension Branch of the Ontario Department of Agriculture, serving in Victoria, Grey, and Rainy River. It was when he moved to Kent County in 1929, however, that he had the greatest impact, as he served there for 17 years- more than half of his career.

It was Garner’s mission to ensure that farmers would have an easier time transitioning from the small-scale, self-contained family farming that had existed before the Depression to the type of large-scale agriculture that was to follow. During the Depression, when commodity prices were at an all time low, Garner helped local farmers adjust to the difficult times. He set up several influential commodity marketing organizations that would help farmers have their voices heard, such as the Burley Tobacco Marketing Association of Ontario. Furthermore, he encouraged leading men in the seed industry, like Nap King and Ian Maynard, to experiment with hybrid seed corn and was instrumental in its introduction in 1938; this was something that would help Canada meet the high agricultural output demands of World War II. He also increased soybean acreages in Kent county.

Garner also had an important role on the agricultural front during World War II. He was in charge of the influx of prisoners-of-war that arrived in Kent County, organizing them into an efficient source of farm labour. He established the first prisoner-of-war labour camp in Kent, which helped solve the issue of labour shortage that was very pressing at the time.

In 1946, in recognition of his efforts, he was made Director of Extension for Ontario. Ten years later he was appointed Chief Agricultural Officer of Ontario.

Throughout his life, Garner demonstrated his dedication to helping out Ontario farmers. He was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1980; his citation read, "Mr. Garner's career is a shining example of selfless dedication. His imaginative ideas brought many changes to the Ontario extension service."

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture