Inducted: November 17, 2015
Diane Parks was born in Hamilton, Ontario on July 31st, 1942 to Bruce and Helen Taylor. She attended the University of Guelph 1961-1965, graduating with a BHSc. In 1965 she completed her dietetic internship at New Mount Sinai Hospital, graduating with a RPDT (Registered Practicing Dietician); and worked at Workman’s Compensation Hospital, Downsview, Ontario as a therapeutic dietitian.
Diane and Bill had met at the University of Guelph and were married in the summer of 1966. As teachers were in short supply, Diane accepted a Home Economics position at Ridgetown High School until the first of their four children arrived. The following five years proved to be the most fruitful and busy for her as first – Bruce (Hope), John (Charlene), Holly (John Ford), and Tom (Michelle) arrived. The children all married and have made Bill and Diane proud parents and proud grandparents of 12 grandchildren – 5 girls and 7 boys, aged 1 to 18.
In 1974, Bill inherited his Uncle’s farm at Port Stanley. At this time, Bill was working for Pioneer. As corn did not grow well on a portion of their farm, their friend and fellow Ridgetown Extension agent Russell Johnston, suggested they either “limit it or grow blueberries!” As blueberries had always been Diane’s favourite fruit, an idea took root and several trips were made to investigate the blueberry business in Michigan. The first blueberry plants were purchased in 1977 as rooted cuttings, which the family potted up and cared for at Port Stanley.
In 1979 a decision was made to establish the family in the Bothwell area. The current farm was for sale. Parks decided to make it theirs and the plants permanent home. The Bothwell farm had its share of blow sand and at that time, Andy Watson of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, was promoting windbreaks!!
In 1990 they built their first barn which daughter, Holly and Diane talked Bill into. It allowed them space to sell drinks and sandwiches to their customers. That barn was damaged in a tornado in June, 1994. Diane suffered a severe head trauma when a beam from the barn hit her. While Diane recovered, Holly took over, and Bill built the current barn which was more than 50% larger in area. Eventually 10 full time and 25 part time jobs were created, plus 12 seasonal off-shore labour positions.
Diane and Holly have researched and published several cookbooks on blueberries. They have created value added agricultural products for the store; jams, sauces, pies, muffins, scones and home meal replacements using home grown or local ingredients.
Eventually the original 10 acres of blueberries grew into 42 when the business and farm were sold to their eldest son, Bruce in 2013.
The North American research into the many advantages of blueberries proved advantageous to Parks Blueberries and Country Store. Diane says that the folks they have worked with, and the many adventures, which they have had in the agriculture sector, have made this time in their lives some of the very best.
Bill Parks was born on February 2nd, 1942 in Shedden, Ontario to Herb and Madeline Parks. He graduated from Crop Science at the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph in 1965.
Bill was first employed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food as a Soil and Crop Specialist at Ridgetown College from 1965-1972. He moved to Pioneer Hi-Bred as Sales Manager in 1973.
John Harris, Pioneer Hi-Bred President was killed in a traffic accident in 1978. Dr. Bill Brown, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dr. Owen Newlin, Vice-President of Pioneer Hi-Bred International asked Bill to become President of Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited in September, 1978. Twenty-four years later, Bill retired as President in 2002.
Bill has enjoyed the following events in his life:
- He has been the President of the southwestern branch of Ontario Institute of Agrologists, 1975.
President of the Ontario Highbush Blueberry Growers Association, 1984-1990.
- Bill was a member of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, and served as CSA President for 1995/1996.
- He won the Canadian Agri-Marketer of the Year in 2001.
- Director for Berries with the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, 2003-2009.
- Committee man on the Blueberry Committee and Crop Protection Committee, of the Canadian Horticultural Council, 2004-2012.
- Chaired the Blueberry Committee of the Canadian Horticultural Council, 2010-2012.
- Director of the Ontario Berry Growers Association, 2003, and continues to serve as a Director.
- During his tenure at Pioneer, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and the University of Guelph – Ridgetown
- Campus, received significant donations from Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited.. Bill also worked very hard with the Ridgetown College Foundation raising funds and ensuring that the Rudy Brown Rural Development Centre went forward.
- He’s an active Director of the KFA and PAC member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
- Bill supported numerous fundraisers over the years, such as the Four Counties Hospital in Newbury, and the Chatham-Kent United Way.
- Agriculturalist of the Year from the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce in 2001.
- In 2008, Bill and Diane received the Agriculture Innovators of the Year award from the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.
- In 2015, Bill and Diane received a Lifetime Leadership Achievement award from the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association.
Diane and Bill have dedicated their lives to their children, their grandchildren, fun, love of each other and agriculture. They built their blueberry farm in a cornfield, and have been proud stewards of the land. They have implemented new technologies for irrigation, bird control, and worked on the Natural Heritage Implementation Strategy for Chatham-Kent.
Bill and Diane have worked tirelessly for the greater agricultural community, promoting and selling safe nutritious food, and promoting and selling the best agricultural practices.