Inducted: November 29, 1989
W.G. Thompson left a bank managership in 1924 to buy into a farm produce company, a business that 65 years later was established in 12 Southwestern Ontario communities.
Mr. Thompson was born near Harriston, Ontario, of Irish parentage. Like many young men of that era, he went to Detroit, where he became a banker; returning to Canada to continue in banking in Glencoe and West Lorne.
His first business venture was when he acquired The Kent Farmers' Produce Co. Ltd. in partnership with John A. and Duncan A. McKillop. Two years later, he became the sole owner of a business that consisted of a dry bean plant and chopping mill; receiving and shipping cereal grains, cleaning and supplying seeds and selling Portland cement.
Mr. Thompson undertook to expand the market for dry beans, a most important crop in Kent at the time. Beans were "picked" by women who were paid for the quantity of "culls" removed.
Mechanical pickers came into use, and eventually the electric-eye sorting machines to provide a perfect sample for canners and other users. Mr. Thompson found markets for Kent County beans all over the world.
With Blenheim contractor Sam Scoyne, he pioneered in 1938 in the "continuous flow" poured concrete silo for grain storage. He had the first sheller and dryer for commercial corn.
Mr. Thompson had expanded in his first decade in business into Rodney (1928), Mull (1930), Kent Bridge (1931) and Hensall (1932). In 1939, he bought the landmark Wilson farm at Trinity, east of Morpeth, and eventually added to it for a total of 1,400 acres. It became one of the most popular showcase farms in Ontario, producing cattle, hogs, beans, potatoes, tobacco, wheat and corn.
Mr. Thompson was elected to represent East Kent in the Ontario Legislature in 1943, and he became Minister of Lands and Forests in George Drew's Conservative government. He was re-elected in 1945 and retired in 1947.
His close friend, Col. Thomas Kennedy, was Minister of Agriculture and the two worked closely in modernizing the government's place in Ontario agriculture.
Mr. Thompson's influence is credited with introducing "practicality" in marketing board legislation; and into changes in the Grain Storage Act, grading systems, discounts for moisture and quality. He "lived" white beans--they were more than just a business with him. Everyone who knew him attested to his honesty, integrity, determination and humour.
He was succeeded in business by his two sons, Wesley Jr. and John; and the total enterprise is covered by two private family corporations, W.G. Thompson and Sons Limited and Hyland Farms Limited.