Inducted: October 27, 1993
George Higgs used determination, a sense of humour and a disarming candour in his untiring efforts on behalf of agriculture.
It was his misfortune to be the Chairman of the Ontario Sugar Beet Growers' Marketing Board in 1967 when the closing of the Chatham processing plant brought the end of a profitable and promising sugar beet industry in the province. Difficult as the situation was, as the Marketing Board explored every possibility to try to keep sugar beet production, Mr. Higgs handled the ongoing crisis frankly and fairly.
He presided over meetings of angry and frustrated growers where the Board was asked unanswerable questions and urged to find impossible solutions. He knew how serious the loss was to farmers and to the area economy, and he was determined that the Board would do everything possible to forestall it. Finally, accepting the unpalatable reality that nothing could be done, Mr. Higgs supervised the last days of the sugar beet industry in Ontario.
The determination that sustained him through that agricultural crisis was evident early in his life. After brief attendance at S.S. No. 8, Chatham Township, he quit school at 13 to help his father, Levi Higgs, on the family farm. It wasn't a course of action that Mr. Higgs recommended to young people later in his life. Older and more mature, he said, "Anyone going into agriculture today has to have a good education. It would be foolish to try to get along without it."
Mr. Higgs compensated for his lack of formal education through reading, and a broadening interest in agriculture. It did not take long for him to realize that orderly marketing was as important as efficient production if farmers were to prosper. In his early twenties, he became involved with the Kent County Vegetable Growers' Association, and the canvass to win support for a marketing board. He later served two terms as a member of the Ontario Vegetable Growers' Marketing Board.
Mr. Higgs was a member of the Kent County Federation of Agriculture, and its President in 1967. He was also a member of the Farm Credit Corporation Board for nine years, three of them as Secretary, and three as Chairman.
In recent years, his work on behalf of agriculture has been recognized. In 1985, he received the Kent Federation of Agriculture Meritorious Award, and in 1990, he was chosen Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce Agriculturist of the Year.
In addition to his work for, and with farmers, Mr. Higgs has been active in community affairs. He was a member of the Chatham Rotary Club, transferring his membership to Dresden Rotary when that club was organized. He was a Director of the Kent County Housing Authority, and a Director of the Kent Children's Treatment Centre. He has two daughters.
A quarter century after the Chatham sugar beet processing closed, one former grower said, "No one could have worked harder than George did to try to keep the sugar beet industry. He was always very frank and open, at a time when growers just didn't want to face the fact that they were losing an important part of agriculture in Kent County."