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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 John E. Smith

Smith, John E.

- 1996

Inducted: October 30, 1996

John E. Smith has used a good mind, exceptional management skills and an eagerness to try new ideas to improve the production, handling and marketing of fruits and vegetables. This has not only benefited Kent County agriculture, but has enhanced opportunities in other Ontario counties.

Those who have been associated with him agree that Mr. Smith is essentially a problem solver; an idea man. "He is very bright, very intelligent, with mathematical and organizational skills."

Mr. Smith is a methodologist, who is determined to make every moment count. When a farm accident cost him his left hand, his first thought, enroute to hospital, was that he would have to adapt his management style to his new limitation. Instead, he learned to adapt to the new problem without sacrificing his management capability.

A fellow fruit grower recalled attending two- or three-day meetings of peach growers in the 1950s. While others spent their spare time socially, Mr. Smith would drive around Niagara, and return home with an abundant crop of new ideas. His inspiration for cherry processing was just one of them.

Mr. Smith was born in Blenheim and received his education at S.S. No.3, Harwich-Raleigh Union School and at Blenheim District High School. He demonstrated an early and keen interest in organizations geared to improving the lot of farmers. When there was no organization, he worked to found one.

Mr. Smith was a Director and later President of the Kent-Elgin Potato Growers' Co-operative, and was one of the first large-scale potato growers and shippers in this area. His misfortune gave him a keen interest in farm safety, and he was a Director and later President of the Kent County Farm Safety Association. He was also a Director of the Ontario Burley Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board.

It was, however, in fruit production, handling and marketing that Mr. Smith made his greatest contribution. He was a founding member and later the President of the Cedar Springs Cherry Growers' Co-operative, and was influential in the establishment of the sour cherry processing industry. Cedar Springs is the only Canadian plant still processing Individual Quick Frozen cherries, which Mr. Smith worked to develop and market in England.

Mr. Smith was a founding member and a Director of the Ontario Peach Growers' Marketing Board, and a Director of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers' Marketing Board.

Mr. Smith worked with growers and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food to research mechanical strawberry harvesting. He was in the vanguard too, in finding markets for Ontario processed strawberries, travelling to Mexico, Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden. This aspect of strawberry processing did not prove practical in Kent County, but an industry was established and thrived in Norfolk County.

Mr. Smith shipped several carloads of peaches to England, to see if such a venture was commercially viable. He was one of the first to build a large farm cold storage for tender fruit and apples; and one of the first to employ off-shore labour.

In his community, he has served as a Council member and Reeve of Raleigh Township; as a Scout leader and as a leader of a Canadian Boys in Training Group at Cedar Springs United Church; and a member of the St. Luke's United Church A.O.T.S. As a member of Cedar Springs United Church, he was active in building a new church.

Mr. Smith married the former Flossie Russell and they have seven children: Russell (Rusty), Sally, Randy, Doug, George, Sherry and Paul.

One associate said, "John Smith has had a genius for innovation and for trying new things, even when it involved a lot of hard work and uncertainty. It has taken men like him to develop the agriculture we have in Kent County today"!