Inducted: October 26, 2006
It concerned him back in the 1980s when he realized that the hard work, the courage and tenacity of the farmers who have made Kent a prime agricultural area, were often forgotten. With the same determination that has marked everything he has done, he drafted the framework for an Agricultural Hall of Fame that would provide a permanent record of the accomplishments of those who have made outstanding contributions to farming and their respective communities.
Mr. Fraser has done so much for Kent, and has been so closely identified with agriculture here, that it is easy to forget that he is not a native of Ontario or of Kent. Barry was born on March 10th, 1947, the eldest of five children of Alma and Albert Fraser. His parents operated a 100-acre dairy farm on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. The family was deeply involved in the church and the community.
Barry’s father died when he was 14, and Barry, along with his mother assumed the responsibility for the operation of the farm. His mother died eight years later, leaving Barry with the challenge of helping to see that his four promising siblings got an education. By that time, the two eldest were in University, but post-secondary education was still ahead for the two youngest. Barry had graduated from University and was working, but took on the responsibility of seeing that all were relocated with adoptive families and educated. His youngest brother, Hugh, remembers those as good years, in spite of the privations the Fraser family faced. “He grew up in a hurry,” he says of Barry.
All of the young Frasers got a university education. They include Jessie Kear, a dietitian in Toronto; David, a civil engineer in Vancouver; Janice Harder, a teacher in New Hamburg; and Hugh, an agricultural engineer in St. Catharines. The challenges of those years made the Frasers a close-knit family, with a wonderful kinship that has carried over with the 15 grandchildren, all University educated.
Barry, through those years of challenge, also got an education; his elementary schooling at Dundee, Quebec; his secondary education at Huntingdon, Quebec. He had just turned 21 when he received a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) Degree from Macdonald College at McGill University in 1968. He worked a year in Coppercliff with the International Nickel Company of Canada and their “Rye on the Rocks” Project. While there, he became the treasurer of the Sudbury Boy Scouts. Then he came to Chatham as an Assistant Agricultural Representative with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Barry made an immediate and lasting favourable impression on the farm community of Kent County as a people-oriented extension/change agent. They liked the way he threw himself into his work with enthusiasm, determined to learn everything he could about the county, its people and various common communities of interest.
Barry became Kent Agricultural Representative in 1978. His appointment came just in time for the International Plowing Match and Farm Machinery Show, which Kent hosted in 1979. He took on the jobs of Secretary-Manager and Coordinator of what proved to be a very successful event.
In the heyday of the Chatham Ministry of Agriculture and Food Office, he was backed by Assistants like Ken Linington, the late Amber Gibbons Underwood, Heather Richardson Linington, Elaine Maerz, Peter Brown, Peter Mantel, Carl Fletcher and office administration staff who shared his determination to keep Kent in a preeminent position. In spite of long working hours, he read farm and other publications, anxious to provide the farmers of Kent with the best possible advice and information on soil, crops, livestock and financial management.
His radio crop and ag information reports, and his news column, “Jots and Thots”, allowed him to keep farmers abreast of developments in a rapidly changing farm industry. In addition, he helped organize annual area Farm Tax Seminars, Farm Lenders’ Seminars for lawyers, bankers, accountants, tax planners and business leaders, and the annual Farmer’s Week at the Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology. He was the founding Chair of the Kent Agricultural Opportunities Commission, the parent of Agri-Development Kent and currently Southwest Ag Development.
In 1993, Barry took on the job of Manager of Field Services for the Ministry in Kent, Essex and Lambton Counties, providing him with a wider circle of farm clients, and a broader knowledge of farm conditions. He chaired a provincial committee of ag and commodity organizations to develop an electronic communications network that led quickly to individual websites cross-linked, including that Ministry. In 1998, he was appointed Provincial Manager of Rural Business Enterprise Centre Development, placing electronic services through the province on a basis geared to a new millennium.
He was part of the introduction of a merged electronic common service centre network for over 60 self-help business centres in Ontario.
In 1998, Barry was the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculturist of the Year, in recognition of a long list of accomplishments. He is a member of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, former President of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists, and Chair of its Provincial Board of Examiners.
While President of O.I.A. in 2002-2003, the O.I.A. began work on a proposal that culminated in the September 11th, 2006 provincial government announcement of the first professional registration program for internationally-educated Agrologists, opening the door of opportunity in Ontario for Agrologists from around the world. It is also while he was President of O.I.A. that the move began towards having the Institute operate under the Right to Practice Legislation.
Barry is a Certified Agricultural Consultant and a Certified Agricultural Farm Advisor, a Board member of the Southwest Agricultural Development, the Farm Mutual Financial Services Group 1 Board Chair 2004-2006, and the Board Chair of the Chatham-Kent Community Foundation 2006-2007. He was recently named to the Board of St. Andrew’s Residence in Chatham. He was the recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.
Barry still owns the family farm on the St. Lawrence, renting it. He and his brother, Hugh, have become involved in research into family history; and in 2005, organized a family reunion in Dundee, Quebec, that attracted close to 200 Fraser cousins from all over the world. One of them was cousin, Sheila Fraser, Canada’s Auditor-General, and economic watchdog.
Barry has been active in community and church. He is Past President of the Rotary Club of Chatham, a Paul Harris Sustaining Fellow and Chair of the annual Mustang Fundraising Committee. He is a Past Chair of the Chatham-Kent United Way Campaign. He is an active member of St. Paul’s United Church, Kent Centre, and is the current Clerk of the Session.
Occasionally, Barry had wonderful luck, as when he married Carolyn McLean, daughter of Alden and Isobelle McLean, of Duart. The Frasers have three children; Colleen Potts (Ian), a graduate of Trent and Queen’s Universities, who teaches school in Bowmanville; Heather, of Toronto, a graduate of the University of Guelph in Environmental Sciences, who has taken on a new job of working with refugees. Her ability to speak Spanish is a great asset, particularly when working with people from Central America; and Kent, who has a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Agricultural Business from the University of Guelph, and is now part of a farm venture near London, managing for niche ethnic markets in Toronto and in the human and animal health sectors.
Since 1999, Barry has been President of Fraser Consulting and Associates, “Managing Change in Agriculture and Rural Business”. From 2004–2006, he has been Ontario Development Coordinator for the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors, from 2000-2003, Campaign Coordinator for the Ridgetown College Agri-Food Foundation, and since 2000, a provincial team participant on a ground current/pollution/transient voltage strategy committee.
Barry has worked on a Project Team in 2000 and 2001 to develop a Nutrient Management By-Law Study for Chatham-Kent; and from 2001-2003, as a member of a Project Consulting Team for the development of a Chatham-Kent Official Plan and Zoning By-Law.
His friends and associates are unstinting in their praise. “Integrity” is the word used most often to describe him. One friend said: “Barry is the consummate political lobbyist. He drives and drives until he gets what he sees as best, usually for someone else.”
Another: “Barry has worked with integrity, courage and determination, always looking to support and improve the agricultural and rural community.” Still another, “I have benefited from his friendship more than it would be possible to say. I am as close to him as I would be to a brother. It was a wonderful day for Kent County when he came!”