KENT COUNTY — An eclectic group of entrepreneurs was inducted into the Kent Agriculture Hall of Fame on Nov. 14.
The inductees included the founders of Maizex Seeds, the founder of a local radio station, a commodity prices reporter, Canada’s largest Brussels sprouts producers and a farmer responsible for reclaiming 5,000 acres of prime agricultural land 130 years ago.
The five inductees — consisting of seven people (as it includes two couples) — now bring the total number of inductees in the ag hall of fame to 192 members.
Here are the new inductees.
Laprise likes to start new businesses — has largest Brussels sprouts farm in Canada
Jean Marie and Lucille Laprise produce a large variety of vegetables, including producing more Brussels sprouts than any other producer in Canada. They will be the host family for the 2018 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, and have been heavily involved in agriculture for over 45 years.
The couple was married in 1974 and started Laprise Farms eight years later. The operation includes vegetable production and grain crops, greenhouse transplants production, hydroponic vegetable production and vegetable preparation for both the food processing and fresh market industries. Within six years in business, Laprise Farms became the largest Brussels sprouts producer in Canada. They also grow seed corn, popcorn, tomatoes, green peas, carrots, snap beans, cucumbers, commercial corn, industrial hemp, sugar beets, sunflowers, sweet corn, red beets, broccoli and wheat.
In 1990, the Laprises started Labradel Plants Inc., a greenhouse vegetable transplant company that is now run by their next generation. They produce 80-million to 100-million vegetable plug transplants each year and have one of the largest vegetable transplant operations of its kind in Canada.
In 1996, the couple also founded Kenex Inc., Canada’s first commercial hemp operation to process grain and fiber.
Jordan went from CBC Windsor to starting Farm Market News
John Jordan graduated with a diploma in agricultural tech from the Ridgetown Agricultural College and became host of CBC Radio Noon in Windsor in 1970. He created an agricultural public relations firm and eventually became news director and agriculture reporter for radio station CKSY in Chatham in 1986.
In 1991, he started working with OMAFRA and would send out the Farm Market News report to inform farmers of the commodity prices at a time when paper files were the only means available to farmers. He also covered the cost of production for farm animals and land rental prices.
John was instrumental in bringing the database into the computer age. He helped develop technology to translate the data within the Farm Market News to an interactive report that can be utilized by the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Sell Smart app.
Jack Beardall launched radio station after the war
Born in England in 1896, Jack Beardall studied at Canada Business College in Toronto before leaving to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the First World War. While a member of the RFC ground crew, he learned about telegraphic code, i.e., Morse code, and wireless voice communication.
Returning home after the war, Beardall and a few friends founded their own radio society, the Western Ontario Better Radio Club, and people with radio receivers could pay a fee to receive radio broadcasts directly from Jack’s basement studio.
By 1925, Beardall was appointed radio inspector for the Chatham District for the Department of Transport and had created the largest radio club in Canada with 2,000 members. That year, he built a short-wave radio station and a year later was granted a license to broadcast as 630 AM, one of the first privately-owned stations in Ontario.
In 1926, the station began airing Home and Farm Hour, which eventually became Harold Smith’s legendary Farm Report. Beardall also featured a weekly Sunday church service, and weekend servings of Scottish, Irish and classical music. He had his own Sunday morning program, the Chatter Period, answering questions from listeners and always signing off with, “Don’t be late for church.”
Beardall built the first station-based weather instruments in the country in 1938 and was able to get weather reports from the fields instead of airports. Beardall sold the station to Great Lakes Broadcasting in 1962. He died in 1969.
Forbes was big on drainage – took township to court
Born in 1836 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Harry Forbes moved to Canada and was instrumental in pushing for a drainage system in Tilbury East Township which reclaimed 5,000 acres of prime agricultural land.
Originally, Forbes wanted to grow crops, pasture his cattle and harvest marsh hay on his 700 acres of newly-purchased land at Jeannette’s Creek, but discovered that the land was too wet for it. He built a dyke using surrounding peaty mould and installed a pumping unit to keep the land dry, but the materials were too light to prevent leakage.
He studied the whole area and found that the high water in spring was due to the rapid drainage of water from the plains land of Raleigh and Tilbury East.
He asked township council for an extensive ditching and pumping project for the entire area of Jeannette’s Creek to reclaim the land for farming, but there was no interest. He continued to petition council, and after losing again in 1885, Forbes took the case to court. The court ruled the township had to provide drainage outlets for the submerged lands.
It is estimated that 5,000 acres of prime farm land that were previously under two feet of water were reclaimed for farm use and land values jumped from $2 an acre to as high as $40 to $50 per acre.
Dave and Brenda Baute founded Maizex Seeds
The founders of Maizex Seeds turned the family farm into the fourth largest seed corn company in Canada.
Dave Baute was raised on a 250-acre family farm and graduated with a diploma in agricultural production and management from Ridgetown College in 1977.
Brenda grew up in Smiths Falls in Eastern Ontario and helped keep track of customer invoices and accounts at her father’s slaughterhouse and butcher shop.
They married in 1979 and took over the Baute family farm in 1983. They started Maizex Seeds two years later.
Baute is the current chairman of the Agri-Food Foundation (Ridgetown Campus), a past president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, and was named Agriculturalist of the Year by the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce in 2016.
Baute’s wife Brenda studied at the University of Guelph and worked in banking before turning to agriculture. She’s the chief financial officer of Maizex and Soiex Farms (a 2,500-acre seed farm) and has coordinated detasseling crews and managed hiring and payroll.