Inducted: November 16, 2010
Al Fisher helped thousands of farmers understand the financial realities of their work, in a career that was devoted to taking much of the guess work out of agriculture. A quiet and modest man, he was recognized as a top economist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.
Mr. Fisher was brought up on the family farm near Morpeth, a farm that dated back to 1829. He was the only child of George and Lulu (McDiarmid) Fisher.
Al graduated in 1952 from the Ontario Agricultural College (later University of Guelph) after his elementary and secondary education at Ochtiel School and Ridgetown District Secondary School. He first farmed on the family farm near Morpeth before joining the staff of the Chatham office of the Ontario Department of Agriculture.
There, as a farm economist, he made a name for himself as a shrewd advisor to farmers, not only in Kent, but eventually across the Province. In that job, he was involved with Marketing Boards and Commodity groups, and many facets of farming. As a practical farmer himself, he knew the challenges and demands of farming.
Al specialized in the analysis of the cost of production; the difference between success and failure for farmers. He did these complex studies for the provincial marketing boards that needed accurate figures to replace what were often rough estimates. Because of his reputation, in 1973, he was seconded by the Federal Government to work with the Tariff Board.
Len Davies, who worked with him from 1971 – 1975, remembers Al with affection. He was, he said, essentially family man, deeply devoted to his wife and four daughters. Sunday was a special day for the Fishers; but Al always found time to be an elder at Morpeth United Church; and later to work with the cluster of three churches at Morpeth, Highgate and Turin. When the Morpeth Church closed, he went to New Scotland United Church.
Len said everything that Al did was characterized by a strong work ethic. His interest in his family spread out to a wholesome and supportive interest in the lives and families of fellow workers. Len said, “You could always count on him to be there when you needed him.”
Gary Paling, who worked with Al as an economic research technician from 1977 to 1982, said Al was highly respected within the Ministry. He was the first to institute custom land rental rate surveys across Ontario. These surveys would show the high and low rates being paid, and encouraged realistic rates. He also calculated accurate rates for the rental of farm machinery.
Al’s cost-of-production studies for the provincial marketing boards were models, showing as they did the break-even cost for all commodities. Gary said, “Al wrote many cost of production studies; he was a leader in that area.” He spoke to meetings to carry cost messages to farmers.
Gary said, “His work was outstanding because it was so thorough, and so unbiased.” He was a member of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists.
Al continued to work for his community when he retired after 36 years with the Ministry. He was a volunteer canvasser and driver with the Cancer Society, and a driver with Meals on Wheels, and he was also a volunteer for Heart and Stroke. He was a member of the Board of Morpeth Community Centre, and of Morpeth Cemetery. Always interested in local history, he was a member of the Genealogy Society.
He helped bring the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame into existence, as a member of the original steering committee. For many years, he was the Committee’s conscientious Treasurer, always striving to find the best ways to invest funds.
His wife, Margaret, predeceased in 1996. His daughters are: Jane (Andrew) Taylor, of Oro Station; Karen (Martin) Brunklaus, of Springford; Lisa (Rob) Fisher-Nooyen, and Diane (Wayne) Yeck, both of Ridgetown. There are 11 grandchildren: Dylan, Jenna and Katie Taylor; Holly, Keenan and Nicholas Brunklaus; Kyle and Spencer Nooyen; and Lindsay and Sydney Yeck.
An associate and friend said, “You could rely on Al in all that he did. He was conscientious and caring, anxious to do his best in everything he tackled.”