Inducted: October 27, 1999
Jack Rigby is living proof of the claim that if you want a job done, and done well, pick a busy man to do it. His activities and interests, blazing new trails in agriculture, and supporting his community, have earned him the reputation of being an individual who makes every minute count.
Mr. Rigby is deeply concerned with the environment and its protection, and is committed to a “no-till” production that exemplifies his convictions. As one friend said, “He is the ultimate conservationist!” He has won many friends and admirers because he is always willing to share the results of his agricultural innovations with others.
This is true, not only in Kent County, but nationally and internationally. In 1993, he went to New Zealand to Massey Univeristy to meet Dr. John Baker, the designer of the cross-slot openers for no-till production. A side trip took him to Australia, to get information on the newly-developed “Vegetation Detect Spraying System”.
In 1995, he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, which enabled him to study in Europe, with emphasis on soil conservation. He has since served as a Director of the Nuffield Foundation of Canada.
Early in 1999, he was one of ten Canadians chosen for a food study tour of Ethiopia and Kenya for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, one of his international interests. He has shared information gleaned from this trip with Kent audiences.
Mr. Rigby’s concern with soil erosion on his property within the Rondeau Bay Watershed was translated into action, when he organized farmers with the same problem into the Rondeau Bay Watershed Committee, later the Rondeau Agricultural Conservation Corporation. He became its first Chairman.
It was the first time that a group of Ontario farmers had boldly tackled the twin problems of soil erosion, and the resultant Great Lakes pollution. The $10,000 raised by the group, with a matching provincial grant, was used to buy a no-till corn and soybean planter. No-till plants were sown side-by-side with conventionally planted corn and soybeans, and Field Days enabled farmers, extension workers and agricultural researchers to compare the results.
Mr. Rigby was the first to be convinced of the soundness of the new system. He was the first farmer to grow seed corn successfully, using the no-till method; and he sold most of his conventional tillage machinery in 1985. He is now Treasurer of the Rondeau Corporation.
Arising out of this was the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, incorporated in 1994 after operating informally for eight years to provide workshops and field days. This Association, in turn, organized the “E” Plus Program, to demonstrate “Farming for Economic Efficiency and Environmental Excellence”.
Another offshoot has been the Stewardship Information Bureau, to promote environmentally sustainable farming practices by providing farmers with accurate and up-to-date information on current developments. Mr. Rigby is on the Advisory Committee of the Bureau, and has helped raise money to cover the shortfall in Agriculture and Agri-Canada funding.
Mr. Rigby was born in Blenheim, the son of Monte Rigby and the former Ruby Steele. His early education at Blenheim Public and District High Schools was followed by business training at Bulmer Business College, and a successful apprenticeship as a Class “A” Mechanic. This training proved helpful in his work, first as a mechanic in his father’s Ford dealership, and after 1960, as a farmer at Montrig Farm, then a family dairy farm.
His mechanical ability has since served him well in the adaptation of machinery for no-till farming, and in specialized planters that have enhanced the results of no-till planting and weed control in corn and soybeans.
Mr. Rigby acquired his first farm, 50 acres in 1973, and soon became involved in agricultural organizations, including the Kent County Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Conservation Canada and the Soil and Water Conservation Society.
He and his son, Stephen, operate Montrig Farms Inc., including about 500 acres, and 600 acres share-cropped or rented, growing commercial corn, soybeans, white beans, feed and specialty corns, wheat and food-grade soybeans for export.
Mr. Rigby has also found time in his busy life for community organizations. He had perfect attendance in his 18 years as a member of Blenheim Kinsmen Club, one as President.
Mr. Rigby has also been a member and President of the Blenheim Rotary Club, and his family has acted as host in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. He is counsellor to all incoming students in the Blenheim Rotary Youth Exchange Program.
Mr. Rigby was an Officer in the Blenheim Air Cadets for four years, a member of the Boy Scouts Steering Committee for five years, and the last two as Chairman. He has coached Minor Hockey teams.
Mr. Rigby was married in 1957 to the former Donna Everitt. They have five children and seven grandchildren: Stephen (Lisa), on the family farm: Richard (Tracey) and their children, Lauren and Ryan, of Waterdown; Valerie (Gino) Loni, and sons, Matthew and Shawn, of Aurora; Pamela (John) Roth, and daughters, Olivia and Sophia, of Chatham; and Carolyn (Sid) Stevens, and son, Jordan, Pickering.
Associates and neighbours are unstinting in their praise of Mr. Rigby. He is “family oriented”, “community-minded”, and a “damned good neighbour”. One associate said, “It’s nice to work with Jack because he always gets things done.” Another, “In his thinking, he always looks ahead.”
A long-time friend and associate said, “I don’t think they come any straighter, more honest, more sincere than Jack Rigby”. On one hand, he is a visionary; on the other, very down-to-earth, and determined to achieve his goals, once he is sure they are sound. His dedication to agriculture is all the more surprising because “he didn’t come from a farm background”.
“He always wanted to be a farmer, and once he was, he could never be satisfied with being anything but the best!”