Inducted November 13th, 2018
Robert Kerr has been a forward thinking pioneer of new agricultural practices to produce healthy food. He is a learner and innovator, developing organic crop production methods, and ways to farm sustainably.
Robert Lawrence Kerr was born on June 10th, 1945 in London, Ontario to Lawrence Kerr and Mary Wilson. On July 10th, 1967, he married Moira Fleming Logan, daughter of Robert Logan and Janet Weir. They have three children – Donaghy, Robert Andrew and Ian, and they have five grandchildren.
Bob graduated from the University of Guelph, BSc(Agr) in 1968. He was accepted for MBA at the Harvard Business School and graduated in 1970. He was elected President of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association in 1993.
Bob began organic crop production in 2000. He's been a pioneer in producing and marketing grass fed beef and beef raised without hormones and antibiotics. He was also an early user of cover crops. He was the first international member of the Organic Valley Co-op (Wisconsin), marketing asparagus.
Kerr Farms has been a significant employer of local people since 1971, and before that during his father, Lawrence's tenure. In 2018, they employed 10 fulltime, 15 local seasonal, 9 college students, 8 high school students and 7 workers from Trinidad.
Bob Kerr is the Principal Owner and Co-Manager of Kerr Farms Limited and Wolfe Creek Organic Farms Limited. In 2018, Kerr Farms is growing 724 acres of conventional crops, including tomatoes, sugar beets, seed corn, snap beans, red kidney beans and wheat, while Wolfe Creek Organic Farms grows 783 acres of Organic crops, including asparagus, tomatoes, seed corn, grain corn, sweet corn, soybeans and wheat.
Bob's future plans include (i) improving farm methods to protect the soil and increase soil organic matter, (ii) farming to produce premium nutrient dense food as a foundation for human health, reducing health care costs over time, (iii) developing a niche market for organic open pollinated purple corn, as grown originally in Ontario by First Nation farmers, and (iv) to be a visible advocate for sustainable farming methods which support microbial life in the soil, increase soil organic matter by removing carbon from the atmosphere, reduce soil erosion, and reduce the levels of phosphorous in farm runoff.
Bob Kerr has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Guelph from 1977 to 1986. He was a Provincial Director for District 1, Ontario Asparagus Growers. He was a Director, President and Provincial Director of the Kent County Cattlemen's Association. He served on the Executive and as President of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association; as Director of the Beef Information Centre (National), and as Director of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. He served as a Director of the Kent Processing Vegetable Growers. He also served on the Tomato Negotiation Team for the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers and served as Director of the Kent Agri Food Opportunities Commission (Transition to Agri Development Kent). Bob was a member of the initiating Team for the George Morris Centre in Guelph, and served as a Director in 1991 and 1992.
Kerr Farms Sales received the Premier's Award for Agri-
Food Innovation Excellent in 2007 for their efforts to market beef that met consumer's demands for healthy, local food. Bob sought a way to bring more stability to the market for high quality beef by product differentiation. No hormones, no antibiotics, no feed with animal by-products, and a team of beef producers, who were willing to meet those criteria and became part of a vertically integrated supply chain created by Kerr Farms Sales. This business was developed with 3 other partners. The business did not attain profitability and closed in 2008. The market for beef with these specifications has developed since then.
In September 2014, Kerr Farms hosted the annual CK Table Event that featured a five-course gourmet meal that came from local farms, accompanied by wine from local wineries. Bob stated that "we should be a food basket and we should be producing food that is worth eating, tastes great, is fresh….. and nutritionally superior.
In 2015 Bob made a TEDx presentation on "The Health Benefits of Eating Organic Food."
Bob is a Sponsor and Advisor to a new Professorship in Soil Health at the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph.
Bob has farmed in Chatham-Kent for the past 48 years and continues.