GUELPH — A founder of one of the world’s largest producers of turfgrass, the founder of the Great Canadian Bean Company and one of the original co-chairs of Farm & Food Care Ontario are a few of the newest members of this year’s Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association.
The five inductees will join 224 others that are already in the hall of fame at Guelph. The induction ceremony will take place on June 9 at the Country Heritage Park in Milton.
Here are this year’s nominees:
John Maaskant (1948- )
Maaskant began his farming career at the age of 16 and since then, has been involved in many agricultural organizations, chairing three large provincial groups. He was the chair of Chicken Farmers of Ontario (where he’s been a director for 30 years), the Ontario Farm Animal Council and was one of the original co-chairs of Farm & Food Care Ontario.
With the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Maaskant helped in a sector-wide fact-finding mission that resulted in a tariff system for chickens. That system was later adopted by the federal government for other ag sectors.
As co-chair of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition, Maaskant also advocated for reasonable environmental regulations and one of the major results was the creation of the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) model.
Marie Pick (1913-1986)
Pick immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1938, and she and her husband Otto started the Otto Pick Agricultural Service — which later became Pickseed — in 1947 at Caledonia, south of Hamilton. The company promoted advanced pasturing systems based on seed mixtures of varying mature legumes and grasses.
When Otto died in 1959, Marie took over the company along with her sons, Tom and Martin. The company expanded across North America, becoming the largest of its type in Canada and among the top five globally. The sons moved the company headquarters to Lindsay in 1993, which was purchased in 2013 by DFL Trifolium, a Danish seed company.
At the time of the sale, Pickseed was a $100-million company that was one of the world’s largest producers of turfgrass. Its grass seed was used on the famous Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia and the 2010 FIFA World Cup facilities in South Africa.
Kenneth Porteous (1937- )
Porteous started his farming career on Lingwood Farms in Simcoe County, becoming an elite dairy breeder who sold bulls to farmers in Cuba and Africa. When he sold his herd in 1973, the average price per animal (just under $2,000) was the highest ever paid in Canada at that time.
Porteous then focused on orchard crops, specifically the honeycrisp apple, which was rarely grown in Ontario in those days but is one of the most popular apples today. Lingwood Farms currently grows 850 acres of apples, pears, sour cherries and asparagus.
He was a co-founder of the Norfolk Cherry Company and Norfolk Growers, president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, vice-chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers Marketing Board and president of the Canadian Horticulture Council.
Under his leadership, the Canadian Horticulture Council developed the Canada Gap program which is internationally recognized and used as a model in other countries.
Wilfred John Schneller (1902-1987)
Schneller owned Spruce Grove Farm at Baden in Waterloo County, which was recognized for its excellent herd of high producing Ayrshires and was one of the first to install electric fencing.
A devoted conservationist, he implemented new soil and water conservation methods on his farm to inhibit soil erosion.
Through farm tours, demonstration plots and presentations, he showed others how to employ these practices.
A food and vegetable inspector for Agriculture Canada for 32 years, he was also president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association and became an honourary member of the Soil Conservation Society of America in 1959. He planted over 56 varieties of trees on his own farm and helped to develop an Arboretum near New Hamburg which opened in 1964.
Peter Twynstra (1939- )
Twynstra was born in Holland and emigrated to Canada with his parents in 1951. Twynstra purchased his father’s farm in 1962, incorporating it in 1967 as Twilight Acre Farms at Ailsa Craig in Middlesex County. A key part of his business was the production of edible beans.
In 1978, he founded The Great Canadian Bean Company to put more emphasis on marketing the beans from his farm and those of a few neighbours. The business grew to provide markets for more than 400 contract growers across Canada and the USA.
He was a director and president of the Ontario Bean Dealers Association and a director and founding member of Pulse Canada.