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In 1988, the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame was created to honour those that demonstrated unselfish achievement within the realm of agriculture and service to the rural community.
Photo image of William H. Gordon Shanks

Shanks, William H. Gordon

- 1991

Inducted: October 30, 1991

William H. (Bill) Shanks has won recognition across Canada for pedigreed seed because of a total commitment to quality that has distinguished five generations of the Shanks family since they settled in Romney in 1851.

This recognition has come in the form of membership in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Robertson Associate Award in 1973 for outstanding service to agriculture and to pedigreed seed, the Ontario Agricultural College Centennial Award in 1974 and the Chatham Chamber of Commerce "Agriculturalist of the Year" Award in 1988.

Mr. Shanks attended a one-room Romney Township school, and went on to the Chatham Collegiate Institute and then to the Ontario Agricultural College. He was active in Junior Farmers, as President of the Romney Club and later of the Kent County Junior Farmers.

Mr. Shanks was the Kent delegate to the 4-H Club Congress in Chicago in 1946, and later became a 4-H leader.

His start in farming was with his father, Archie, and his brother, Bob, in a mixed farming operation that was gradually devoted, more and more, to pedigreed seed production. A small seed cleaning operation was used as the farm produced a wide range of crops, including soybeans, winter wheat, oats, barley, orchard grass, double-cut red clover, tall fescue and birdsfoot trefoil.

Seed from the Shanks farm was exhibited at the Chicago Exhibition, the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, and the Western Fair Farm Show in London. Soybeans from the Shanks farm won World Championships at the Royal Winter Fair in 1965, 1966 and 1967.

Mr. Shanks was President of the Kent County Seed Growers' Association in 1951, President of the Ontario Pedigreed Seed Growers' Association in 1971 and 1972 and President of the Canadian Seed Growers' Association from 1975-1977. As a pedigreed seed grower, Mr. Shanks was a member of international trade missions to Japan and to Russia; and he and his wife, the former Audrey Hodgson, have entertained foreign delegations and missions.

Mr. Shanks was a Founding Member of the SeCan Association and its President from 1981-1983. He has served on many committees of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (A.O.S.C.A.) which has representation from the Canadian Seed Growers' Association and the Certifying Agencies of seed-growing states. In 1981, he received the A.O.S.C.A. Special Service Award, an honour given annually to only one member of the Association.

Mr. Shanks has served as an officer of the Pedigreed Seed Section of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

Early in his career, he worked in the Chatham agricultural extension office with Ken Lantz, for one winter. He has served as an Inspector for the Canadian Department of Agriculture for 12 years; and has judged grain and seed competitions, nationally at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and locally at 4-H competitions and fall fairs.

Mr. Shanks was President of the Tilbury East and Romney Plowing Club, and has plowed at international competitions beginning in the 1940s on the Hepburn farm in Elgin County. He is a member of Talbot Street United Church, and a Past Steward and Elder of the church.

The Shanks have three children: Diane, a registered nurse, wife and mother in Oakville; Neil, a graduate of O.A.C., and Jim, both married with children and farming in Romney.

It has been said of him: "Bill Shanks is a giant as far as the seed industry is concerned, in Canada and the world, in his foresight, and in being able to steer the seed industry in the right direction."