By Connor Lynch
RICHMOND — Before anyone grew corn in Eastern Ontario, Garnet Ralph wanted to give it a try. So, he first tile drained his land.
A neighbour told him he was crazy. But after seeing Ralph’s yields, he decided to put in tile drainage and plant some crop himself.
When Ralph noticed, he said, “I thought you said I was crazy.”
Replied the neighbour, “You may be crazy, but you’re not stupid.”
In the early 1960s, Ralph impressed the county when he produced what was then an astounding 87 bushels per acre of grain corn.
Ralph was a dairy farmer, innovator and farm supply business owner. He died Feb. 3 at the Bridlewood Trails Retirement Community in Stittsville. He was 91.
Longtime friend, Bob Aumel, listed Ralph’s virtues at the funeral eulogy and singled out integrity, noting, “Integrity is telling people what you are going to do and then doing exactly what you said you would do.”
Ralph was born on a farm in Burritts Rapids, a tiny hamlet west of Kemptville, in 1924, and grew up with 4-H and Junior Farmers. He graduated from Kemptville College in 1947 and two years later bought a 400-acre farm near Richmond, southwest of urban Ottawa. He married Lois Adams the same year. They have three daughters.
One of the first things Ralph did was tile drain his land, because otherwise it wouldn’t grow anything, his daughter Cheryl told Farmers Forum. Neighbours told him he was wasting his money.
In the early days, he ran a dairy operation and grew corn, clover, grass seed, and soybeans. Ralph started with about 45 Holsteins, and after a few years was up to 90. In his late twenties he was an official judge for the Holstein Friesian Association and also judged field crop competitions for county organizations for 35 years.
He could look out at 125 to 150 head of cattle at the back of his farm and tell you where he’d gotten each one, and what he needed to sell them for, without so much as a glance at their papers. Ralph pioneered the use of bulk fertilizer in Eastern Ontario and started his own business, Ralph Dale Fertilizers in partnership with Cyanamid in 1963. That’s when he sold his dairy herd but continued to breed Holsteins.
Ralph seemed to be involved in everything, including the county’s soil and crop improvement association, fair boards, the Ontario Research Council, the Ontario Agriculture College advisory council and local school boards.
He won two W.M. Ewing awards for his techniques in improving pasture production and also won the W.G. Thompson & Sons outstanding leadership in agriculture award in the late 1970s and the achievement award from the Plant Food Council in 1986. He was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2005.
He retained close ties to Kemptville all his life, conducting test experiments for the college and in 1983 hosted tent city for the International Plowing Match. The entire college, instructors and students, were bused to the event.
Ralph’s generosity helped launch Farmers Forum newspaper from the basement of the home of retiring college instructor Terry Meagher. Ralph allowed a sales rep. to split his time to sell advertising.
Recalled college friend Norm Blodgett: “He was a quiet man, but he stood out. He was a leader, but he didn’t go around waving the flag. He was one of those bright lights in the world.”