By Connor Lynch
SOUTH MOUNTAIN — “If it’s going to be a line, it might as well be a straight line.”
That was a motto of Fred Weagant, who started the original Weagant Farm Supply in South Mountain in 1953. It’s been adopted by his son, Bob Weagant, who’s carried it with him through nearly five decades with the business. “Neatness and first impressions are important,” said Weagant of his father’s saying. “Whether it’s a storefront or your yard. It’s something I’ve followed through with and I know that it’s something our whole company has followed through with.”
Weagant retired on July 29. The retirement party at the Mountain Township Agricultural Hall was a fine send off, he said. A couple of hundred people showed up to meet, greet, dance and share stories, “some of them even true,” he said. Retirement won’t take him far from what’s he’s worked for and loved all these years. He still plans on buying and selling machinery. “Anything but farm equipment,” he said.
Growing up on the family business was much like growing up on a family farm, Weagant said. Children helped out. Old family photos always feature the family in front of tractors. From about 12 years old, Weagant was moving tractors around, and as he got older he started helping assemble equipment. He studied at the University of Western Ontario, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1970. He’s been full-time at the family business ever since.
It’s grown over the years. It started as a Cockshutt dealership in 1953, took on New Holland in 1956 and later expanded to Kubota. In 1973, they opened a new location in Brockville, two years after Weagant joined the business. In 1993, they opened Topline Trailer and Equipment Sales nearby on Highway 31.
The Weagant family has never been afraid to go new places. Growing up, Weagant remembered regular family trips, forays into the rest of Canada and the United States. He made 17 trips across the Atlantic Ocean and three across the Pacific for both business and pleasure. He made trips to Jamaica, Japan, various countries in Europe and even a couple of trips to Saudi Arabia. Once, he went to sell some combines; then again in 2005 to sell a dairy farmer a feed mixer, which came with the caveat that he had to teach the workers how to use it.
“You can’t visit (Saudi Arabia) otherwise. You need to be on pilgrimage or on business. It was an amazing experience.” Saudi Arabia might not be well suited to dairy farming, but the farm he was visiting had 25,000 head, and it’s not the largest dairy farm in the country. That one was down the road, with 80,000 cows.
Nor has the man ever feared new experiences. He inherited a dream of flying from his father, which his father was happy to finance. Pilot training cost $12 an hour. His first solo flight was on his 20th birthday. “The most sensational experience of your life is your first solo flight.” He got more thrills from his first flight than he was expecting. He was flying a Piper Colt, a small plane. “Its performance was dependent on weight.” So Weagant was in for a surprise when his flying instructor, all 220 lb. of him, hopped out of the plane to let Weagant soar on his own. “The wind catches you by surprise.”
He co-owns a Cessna 172 with an old friend, John Madill, and the two still head out to the hanger at Smiths Falls to fly.
An accomplished pilot who’s twice won the Governor General’s rally, a 2,457-kilometre round trip testing a pilot’s navigational skills, Weagant spent much of his time on the ground helping others. He was heavily involved in the opening of St. Clare’s Anglican Church at Winchester in 2015, an amalgamation of the congregations of South Mountain, Winchester and Chesterville. His faith is important to him, as it has been to his forebears. “The original Weagant was ordained in 1817,” he said.
He’s left contributions to his community scattered here and there. The snowsuit fund, which later became the North Dundas Christmas fund, fell under his guidance after its chairperson resigned. An old friend of Weagant, Terry Foley, had been involved with the fund when it began 30 some years ago. When the chairperson resigned some years later, Foley went to Weagant. “I got a job for you.
He said, ‘What’s that?’
We need a chairperson.
‘When’s the meeting?’ ” Just like that, he was chairperson for 15 years.
“We all have to give back. We can take and take and take, but we have to give back. It’s part of our DNA, it’s part of the way my wife and I were raised by our families, and I believe that it’s the way we’ve raised our family,” Weagant said. Without missing a beat he followed it up. “Speaking of which I have four daughters and eight grandchildren,” he said.