Dr. Charles Baldwin has been a passionate apostle of soil conservation, taking his message to a wide variety of audiences and readers in Kent County, across Canada and around the world
As a teacher at Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology and head of its Soils Department, he was in an ideal position to spread the message that wasteful and inefficient treatment of the land is detrimental to everyone. One former student explained: "You came away from his classes with the knowledge that soil was all-important."
Another said, "You just knew, after his classes that you had to protect the soil, for your own benefit, and for the benefit of future generations. I had a new respect for the land when I graduated from Ridgetown." The affectionate nickname given him by students was "Dr. Dirt", recognizing both his passion for soil conservation, and his educational achievements.
Harry Courtis remembered renting a house with fellow students across the street from the Baldwin home in his second year at R.C.A.T. The students were in their late teens or early twenties and "we pretty well knew everything!"
Dr. Baldwin was interested in every phase of the students' lives and experience. "I was on the Varsity hockey team, and he went to every game, even before we were any good." When a puck from a road hockey game shot into the Baldwin driveway as he drove in, nervous students were reassured when he said, "Have you got another stick?"
But Dr. Baldwin's influence went far beyond Ridgetown and the students. His fame as a soils expert resulted in his appointment to prestigious committees, and he spoke to audiences across the North American continent, and in countries like Thailand, Kenya, China and Ecuador.
Typical of his dedication and commitment was his stint in Ecuador in 1990, as coordinator of a three-year OMAF-Ecuador project. He spent his first two weeks in Quito in a Spanish immersion course; his second, visiting farm areas and colleges so he would have an informed approach to charting future needs. In 1984, he went to the Peoples' Republic of China to speak on a favorite topic, "Windbreaks and Crop Production". The following year, he was in Venezuela addressing the Fourth International Soil Conservation meeting.
One enthusiastic supporter said that in everything, Dr. Baldwin has tried to help farmers. "He is very much pro-farmer". She described him as "very ethical, very principled: very dedicated to conservation and to environmental issues". Another, "he had a lot of passion when it came to planting trees or windbreaks. In his work as a soil conservationist, he was a kind of evangelist."
Dr. Baldwin was born in Maple Grover, Concession 8, Bayham Township, the son of Verne and Faye Baldwin. He received his elementary education at Maple Grove and Eden Public Schools then went on to Tillsonburg High School, where he played football and enjoyed cadets. At Guelph, then affiliated with the University of Toronto, he took both B.Sc. (Agronomy), and M.Sc. (Soils) Degrees. He later got his Ph.D. (Soil Science) from Michigan State University.
It was while he was attending Guelph that he worked through the summer at a tile factory in Brownsville, on a survey crew for the Ontario Highways Ministry, at the American Can company, in Simcoe; and for the Farm Planning Service of the Guelph Soils Department.
In November, 1957, he joined the Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology as Head of the Soils Section. From October 1, 1988, until his retirement, December 31st, 1991, he headed the Continuing Education Section at Ridgetown, responsible for international programs, agroforestry research, extension and teaching, and continuing education for 12 countries.
Dr. Baldwin wrote or co-authored many scientific papers, books, and technical publications, and was involved in research on crops, including corn, white beans, soybeans, coloured beans, fababeans, and small grains. His pioneering, long-term and well-received Windbreak studies were believed the first of their kind in Eastern Canada and North America.
He has been a member of a host of agricultural organizations, including the Ontario Soil, Water and Air Research Committee, which he chaired from 1980-83; the Conservation Council of Ontario; and of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists Soil Conservation Committee, as Chairman.
He has also been a member of the Canadian and International Societies of Soil Science; the Soil Conservation Society of America; the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation; the International Soil Conservation Organization; the Ontario Institute of Agrologists and Agricultural Institute of Canada.
Dr. Baldwin has received recognition and many honours, including an Outstanding Contribution Certificate from the I.P.M. Committee; a Commendation Award from the Soil Conservation Society of America; and Commendation from St. Clair Region Conservation Authority for Windbreak Research. He was elected Founding Honourary Vice President of Soil Conservation Canada; and was named a Fellow of the Soil Conservation Society of America.
In his community, he has been active in the Ridgetown United Church, the Agricultural Society, and has coached minor hockey and baseball. In his retirement, he has had time to travel, to fish, and to participate in a variety of sports activities.
Dr. Baldwin is married to the former Marlene Longworth; and they have three children, a son, John of London; daughters, Jane (Mrs. Dave Brown), Tillsonburg, and Stephanie (Mrs. Thomas Gosnell), Woodstock. There are three grandchildren, Kayd Brown; and Andrew and Alannah Gosnell.
Dr. Baldwin has had many associations in life, none warmer than those with his students. As one said, "You were always aware of his high standards and principles, his dedicated approach to everything he did."