Inducted: October 30, 1991
George E. Phillips was just 19 when he first publicly advocated cooperative marketing of farm products as the champion public speaker in a Kent Union Farm Young Peoples' competition at Harrison Hall.
It was at the depth of the great Depression, and most Canadian farmers were looking for ways to hang on to their property and to make a bare subsistence living. Mr. Phillips' prize-winning address looked beyond bare subsistence to a better future for agriculture. It would come, he said, if farmers got together and cooperated in buying and in marketing their products, "to eliminate the excessive profits of the middleman."
Taking cognizance of the situation in 1933, Mr. Phillips acknowledged that many farmers were not quite ready for that type of united action. "The farmer evidently must be starved into cooperative marketing," he added.
The forward-looking topic of the address was "Building in the Future from the Lessons Learned during the Depression," and its content was to be his inspiration in the years ahead.
Mr. Phillips was born in Orford Township, and attended S.S. No. 7, Muirkirk and the Ridgetown Agricultural Vocational School before starting to work on the family farm. As a young man, he was active in the Duart Farm Young Peoples' and the Highgate Junior Farmers' Club.
In the ensuing years, Mr. Phillips was true to his earlier-stated conviction that farm organization was all-important, and served at county, provincial and federal levels. He was President of the Ontario Sheep Association for two years; and during his five-year term as Executive Director of the Canadian Sheep Marketing Council, he travelled across the country working for the good of the industry.
Mr. Phillips was active in the organization of the Ontario Soya-Bean Growers' Marketing Board, and served as a provisional director and later as the Board Chairman from 1953-1955. The following year, he became President of the Kent Federation of Agriculture.
Mr. Phillips was also a provisional director of the Burley Tobacco Marketing Association of Ontario. The perennial problem of recruiting enough seasonal farm labour led to his service as Chairman of the Southwestern Ontario Employers' Association, where he helped frame the policy for bringing in off-shore harvest workers.
In his community, Mr. Phillips served as Director of the Orford Farmers' Co-operative; and was a member of the Muirkirk School Board.
His son, Paul, is on the home farm and is also a transport owner-operator. A daughter, Cathy, lives in San Diego, California; and a brother, Edward, in London.
His contributions to agriculture were summed up in this tribute: Mr. Phillips' time and energy were given toward improving the farm community for well over half a century."