One of our own ...
Tom has been a part of this woodlot all of his life ... well before he could even walk. Following in his father's footsteps and maintaining his father's vision, his influence has urged the Sawyer Preservation Woodlot Association forward — not only in forest management but in environmental responsibility and community education.
As an organization, we are pleased that Tom has been recognized for his many and varied contributions to the agricultural community. This woodlot may be where his roots are planted, but his branches and leaves extend well beyond.
Tom Sawyer Enters Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame
Ceremony Sunday, June 12, 2016 at the Hall in Milton
Article courtesy of St. Marys Journal Argus ... By Stew Slater
|Photo by Martin Schwalbe|
Kirkton-area native Tom Sawyer, a pioneer in the promotion of synthetic inputs to boost the yield potential for southwestern Ontario farms growing corn, will be inducted this coming June into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in Milton.
Sawyer, who currently lives near Hamilton and was nominated by his most recent employee, The Sylvite Group, was among five 2016 nominees chosen by the Agricultural Hall of Fame selection committee to be recognized during this year’s induction ceremony on Sunday, June 12.
“I really believe I shouldn’t be nominated alone,” Sawyer told the Journal Argus last week, when contacted about his pending induction. “Because it really was a team effort, the things we were able to accomplish.”
Those early accomplishments, he went on to explain, revolved around the introduction in the late 1950s and early 1960s of a herbicide called Atrazine, the use of which he says led to a significant amount of nitrogen becoming freed up in the soil for use by the corn that was being increasingly planted at that time by southwestern Ontario farmers. The increased nitrogen effect happened, he noted, because the herbicide was able to so effectively knock out much of the quackgrass that so often plagued farm fields at the time. Quackgrass takes in nitrogen as it grows.
That early work, first as a summer student while studying at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College, then as a full-time employee working with the region’s farmers, led to a long career from 1964-89 with the Ciba Geigy company. From Atrazine, Sawyer went on to work on the research and promotion of various other of the company’s pest control and fertilizer products.
In 1989, he left to take on what turned into a 10-year role with the Fertilizer Institute of Ontario, then followed that with a six-year relationship with the Sylvite Group.
Recalling his graduation from OAC back in 1962, Sawyer recalls one particular professor saying he was happy to hand his students a certificate saying they had graduated. But he was reluctant to say they had actually “passed” until they could someday show they had achieved their goals. Years later, the Kirkton native saw that same professor and a discussion ensued about the remarkable increases in yield potential achieved over a seemingly short span of a few decades by Ontario’s crop farmers. The professor judged Sawyer’s work to have played a role in those increases, and declared his former student had “passed.”
“We collectively learned as we went along, and the farmers were very good about it because they were learning too,” he recalled in the Journal Argus interview.
Sawyer has, by no means, forgotten his Perth County roots. A wooded, 29-acre tract of land, a part of the farm on the Blanshard/Usborne township boundary north of Kirkton that his father, Otis, purchased back in 1923, now sits preserved from development thanks to his family’s fulfillment of Otis’s dying wish. For several years, Tom served as the president of the non-profit organization looking after the “Sawyer Woodlot.”
He also served several years on the board of directors for the St. Marys-based Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “There were a lot of lawyers (on the board at the time),” he smiled.
“So I took it upon myself to be the person in charge of the grounds (at the Hall of Fame). And I very much enjoyed my time on the board.
“The people of St. Marys must be very proud of what that organization has achieved.”
Also scheduled for induction into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in June are: Sod industry pioneer Bill Campbell; Farm and Food Care founding director and long-time Shur-Gain manager Bruce Christie; beef industry leader Graeme Hedley, and poultry industry advocate Deborah Whale.