Inducted: November 21, 2023
Robert Devolder was born in Chatham on February 21st, 1957 to Andrew and Molly Devolder. As a self-described lifelong farmer, Bob worked closely with his father Andrew Devolder learning how to produce quality pedigreed seed.
In 1979 Bob married Diane Martin born on February 20th, 1957 to Paul and Marguerite Martin. Diane and Bob were both raised in farming families in the rural Dover and Chatham Townships of Chatham-Kent. Their work experiences on the farm as youth helped shape their ideas about hard work and helping others.
They have three daughters – Lisa (Devolder Babula), Denise (Chua) and Christine (Hope), and they have been blessed with 7 grandchildren (Brody, Alyvia, Olivia, Emmersyn, Katie, Charlotte and Hayden).
Proud of their rural roots and humble beginnings, Bob and Diane Devolder often relate the success that has been achieved to their strong work ethic, family values and a pure love of farming. It is often said by the Devolder family that a belief in possibility has provided them with a rewarding journey in agriculture.
Diane and Bob were involved with livestock, tobacco, and various cash crops during the 1980s.
Bin run soybeans and wheat were still very common and an opportunity to clean seed in the local area was identified. At the time, their vision was modest, and a small seed cleaner was purchased to provide a custom seed cleaning service. Local farmers began visiting the Devolders each year to have their crops cleaned prior to planting. It wasn't long before a larger seed-cleaning machine was needed to keep up with local demand. In 1988, Devolder Farms was established, focusing initially on custom seed cleaning for neighbouring farmers.
Bob and Diane's reputation for quality work in the seed industry led to many opportunities in the 1990s. Their business continued to evolve as they aligned themselves with a farmer-led business and key visionary in the pedigreed seed world, First Line Seeds. These years were formative as the business expanded their operations into an ISO-registered seed processing facility producing both wheat and soybeans. Bob and Diane continued to work side by side in the production plant with a small but key group of employees running the cleaning and packaging equipment and shipping the seed out to retail customers and an established dealer network. Devolder Farms was instrumental in the rollout of some of the newest technologies and concepts to hit modern farming at the time. This included the early adoption of herbicide-tolerant traits for soybeans and bulk retail sales of pedigreed seed.
With firsthand experience growing the newest varieties of seed, Diane and Bob quickly became an influential and trusted resource in the seed industry, working with seed breeders and fellow seed growers, always striving to produce the best possible crop. Devolder Farms is considered one of the largest independent facilities that contracts, grows and packages pedigreed soybean and wheat seed in Southwestern Ontario. Devolder Farms currently grows and packages pedigreed soybean seed for Bayer Crop Science Canada and pedigreed wheat seed for C&M Seeds.
The passion that Bob and Diane share for quality workmanship and learning new technologies allowed Devolder Farms to continue to evolve and invest in future growth.
With yields increasing, aging equipment, and farm consolidation becoming the norm for Ontario farm operations, a new possibility to help farmers emerged. Devolder Farms acquired Lachine Farm Equipment in 2005 upon owner Stu Lachine's retirement from the grain storage, drying and handling equipment industry. The new venture allowed Bob and Diane to diversify and increase their workforce into a year-round operation, while also providing reputable options for farm operations needing access to quality equipment from the family-oriented business, Sukup Manufacturing.
The Grain Systems department of Devolder Farms expanded quickly and earned recognition as an innovative leader in grain drying and storage management providing design, installation, repair, and maintenance support. Gaining satisfaction from providing solutions for farmers led to another opportunity that fit the business vision of helping farmers do what they love and be successful at it.
In 2013, the Precision Ag department of Devolder Farms was established as Diane and Bob saw precision agriculture as an increasingly important tool in achieving not only their own farming goals but also moving the entire industry forward and into the next era of modern farming.
When researching emerging ag-based technologies, Diane and Bob found themselves aligning with another farmer and family-oriented company, Precision Planting. Using sound agronomic principles and practical equipment solutions to gain better emergence, the Devolder family began their journey using precision ag tools to consistently push forward the pursuit of growing not only a better yielding crop, but also achieving a better bottom line. The Precision Ag department of Devolder Farms has now expanded to include fertility and sprayer technologies, tillage, harvest and after-market wear parts, and full planter overhauls and builds.
Bob has dedicated many years over his career to participating on various industry boards and committees, including the Soybean Board, the Wheat Board and the Ontario Seed Growers Association.
In 2016 Bob received a Long Service Certificate from the Canadian Seed Growers Association, recognizing his 30 years as a pedigreed seed producer and Select seed grower status.
Bob and Diane have also supported numerous local initiatives over the years, including the Chatham-Kent United Way, the Brian Fox Memorial Agricultural Scholarship fund and the 2018 International Plowing Match.
Bob and Diane have been recognized over the years for their leadership and vision for producing quality crops and providing access to innovative tools and equipment that will help farmers achieve their goals. Some of their industry recognitions have included: Business Partner of the Year (First Line Seeds, 2002), Technology Development Award (Monsanto 2004), Top Project Winner (Sukup Mfg. 2012), Industry of the Year (Chatham Chamber of Commerce 2015), and Top Growth (Precision Planting 2021).
Together, Bob and Diane have spent 35 years providing services to meet the ever-expanding needs of progressive grain producers in Ontario. Known for their honest, hard-working and likeable approach, the Devolder family has continued to build their legacy by assembling a team of like-minded specialists that are all driven by one goal; helping Ontario grain farmers and businesses produce and maintain a high-performing and marketable crop by using tools and equipment that will maximize the profits per acre achieved.
Currently, daughters Lisa and Christine and son-in-law Aaron Babula work with Diane and Bob running the day-to-day operations of the business. Bob and Diane credit the immense support of family members and their talented group of employees for their success over the years, stating that it has been incredibly moving to have the Devolder Farms team share the same passion for excellence and enthusiasm for helping others.
Jason Fox of Fox Farms says: "The seed production side of their business has given us value-added opportunities to bring more value out of crops we grow."
Rick Anderson says: "They share their knowledge, talents, and keen eye and expertise with others…They are very gracious employers, always willing to listen and learn from their employees and customers."