Bakkers, Riddell honoured at HCFA annual meeting - Nov. 16, 2017
BY LISA B. POT
Saying he was the one blessed to have had a career working with and for farmers, former Minister of Agriculture Jack Riddell of Exeter graciously accepted a plaque for being inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame from Huron County Federation of Agriculture (HCFA) President, Erica Murray.
“It has been a real pleasure for me to spend as much time as I did with the agricultural community,” said Riddell at the HCFA’s annual meeting held late last month in Holmesville. “You are all friends. I can’t think of a better group of people to be associated with.”
His speech was met with a standing ovation of appreciation for the man who served first as Huron-Middlesex MPP then Huron-Bruce MPP in the 1970s and 1980s. He was named the Ontario Minister of Agriculture in 1985 and served for four years during a difficult period for agriculture. Riddell was involved in creating over 30 programs to support the agriculture industry and was a respected voice for the industry.
“My dad has a plaque hanging in the hall of fame in Middlesex County and with mine now hanging in the Huron County Museum, I feel kind of an equal with my father,” added Riddell.
Also honoured at the HCFA annual meeting were the volunteer-oriented couple of Marinus and Margaret Bakker of Auburn with an extensive list of volunteer associations ranging from president of the HCFA, to charter member of the Lions, to director on Farm and Food Care to working at this year’s International Plowing Match. They were given the HCFA Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture Award.
The couple had no idea and were completely surprised and honoured by the award. They had been curious when their two daughters travelled back home to attend the meeting with them but didn’t realize it was because they were being honoured.
“I gave that award when I was president of the HCFA but I never expected to receive it,” said Marinus. Margaret said, “it was quite an honour and we were quite surprised.” Volunteering has become a way of life for the couple, with Margaret active with Camp Menesetung and Friends of the Huron County Museum.
“It sort of grows,” she said. “We find it really rewarding and a chance to give back to the community. Plus, when you volunteer you get to learn things, meet great people and get involved in interesting projects.”
The couple dairy farmed most of their careers, continuing the tradition Marinus’ parents began in 1952 outside of Auburn. They sold the cows in 2006 and currently cash crop.
The HCFA has an active volunteer base and was commended for attracting a wide range of age groups to serve at the board level.
“It’s good to see all the younger people taking part. It’s good for the organization and it’s good for agriculture,” said Bev Hill of Varna, himself a committed volunteer and former president of the HCFA.
Marinus agreed. “Huron County has the ability to get younger people and it’s our job to mentor them and encourage them,” he said.
Guest speaker for the evening was Arnold Mathers, a former principal and now the author of short stories reflecting on his childhood growing up on a farm. Over 65 of his stories have been featured in The Rural Voice magazine. He splits his time between Exeter and Florida with his wife, Ila, and says his goal when speaking is to make people laugh.
“I can’t sing and dance, but I like to write and tell stories. I write to preserve the past and I like to entertain,” said Mathers. He originally wrote to entertain his grandchildren with stories of “the good old days.” It was his mother who suggested he compile the stories in a book for posterity. That suggestion became a reality with the publication of Homemade and Hand Me Downs, Mathers’ collection of short stories.
Following the award presentations and Mathers’ talk, elections were held for the HCFA board. President Erica Murray was acclaimed as president, as was Ethan Wallace to the vice-president position and Mike Colclough as second vice-president. Paul Klopp, Joan Vincent and Adam Garniss were named Directors at Large. Bev Hill was thanked for his many years of service on the board.