By Connor Lynch
A couple of familiar faces to Eastern Ontario farmers are headed for retirement after more than four decades in the farm supply and service business.
Ron Ferguson, with Pride Seeds in Eastern Ontario, and Dave Carmichael, a service-technician turned service manager with Ottawa Valley Harvestore, are retiring. They each put in 44 years in the business. They both started in 1974, the same year the Philadelphia Flyers won their first Stanley Cup and Muhammad Ali won back the world heavyweight boxing title from George Foreman.
Ferguson, a native of Osgoode Township, south of Ottawa, and a farm kid, grew up surrounded by dairy cows in a time before marketing boards. After graduating high school, he went out to work, starting at Atlas Tires, Batteries, and Auto-Parts. He spent five years there before having an interview with Paul King, the then-owner of Pride Seeds. “Once I got this job, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
In his time in the industry, a lot has changed. The Roundup Ready trait in soybeans and BT corn were game changers for farmers, said Ferguson, who is retiring as a regional manager. In-seed herbicide tolerance and resistance to European corn borer greatly simplified farmers’ lives and made getting better yields much easier, as skyrocketing yields would attest over the years.
Working with multiple generations on one farm has been one of Ferguson’s pleasures of the job. Despite farms disappearing and getting bigger, they remain family farms. “I’ve had the opportunity to deal with three different generations (on one farm). I’ve run across that a few times in my career, which is nice.”
Kemptville-native Dave Carmichael is a familiar face to farmers in the Ottawa Valley. Raised on a dairy farm, he knew from a young age he wouldn’t be taking over the dairy farm. He started working for Ontario Harvestore in Guelph in the 1960s, but a farm boom in the 1970s saw the company open a new location in Kemptville, and tapped the native son to work there. At the time, he never expected to work there as long as he did, but always found the work to his liking.
In his time as a service technician to a service manager, Carmichael has seen farms grow immensely in size and technology grow immensely in sophistication. Every five or six years there’d be something new, he said, and now virtually everything has changed. “It’s all a learning process, keeping up with the new technology. You’re always learning.”
Both plan to retire sometime this year.