Inducted: November 15, 2016
Henry Neutens was a man of character, impeccable honesty, and had an incredible work ethic in his roles as a researcher, businessman, and innovator with a passion for agriculture. He was also an excellent ambassador for the agricultural fertilizer industry and forged a closer liaison between the provincial ministry and the fertilizer industry.
Henry was born on October 13th, 1938 in Ridgetown to Maurice J. Neutens and his wife, Mary. He married Peggy Eadinger in 1963 and they had three children – Mary Margaret (Meg); Jonathan, married to Kimberly, and Michael. Henry and Peggy have 6 Grandchildren. After graduating from Ridgetown High School, Henry attended Ryerson College in Toronto, taking Business Administration. Henry then returned home to work in the family business.
In 1981, Henry purchased his father’s (Maurice) shares in Kent County Fertilizers and became manager of the Ridgetown Branch.
Rick Youlton says, “Henry was an individual that you could not overlook. His passion for agriculture was second only to his commitment to serving his local farm customers. His Ridgetown Branch was a leading provider of crop input products and services, but more importantly, it was recognized for the standard of agronomic information it offered. To some degree, this was a function of Kent County Fertilizers advanced bulk blending plant, and its ability to store and blend more than your standard N-P-K fertilizers, but to a large degree, it was Henry’s desire to study and practice advanced agronomy and apply that knowledge to advancing yields and maximizing the economic opportunity of his customers’ fields.”
“Henry was unique as a business owner and manager. He was the centre of operations and front-line with his customers, interpreting soil tests and formulating customized blends that addressed the extremely variable soils for the Ridgetown and surrounding areas. He put in as many hours as his hardworking staff, and walked fields with his customers long after hours. Many of Henry’s customers will tell you that Henry’s approach to work, helped forge the very close relationship that they had with Henry. He was a friend as much as he was a supplier to their farm enterprise.”
“In the later 80’s, Henry started his Maximum Economic Yield Club at the Ridgetown Branch. Farmers could enter a field of corn and/or soybeans into the club with the objective of gaining a deeper insight into the impacts of their farm practices on yield and economics (cost per bushel). Production costs and field data were collected and benchmarked, helping farmers see what factors correlated to yield and profits, and what changes they could make to their system to improve. Each year, the learning was applied and further researched to benefit the members of the club and the entire customer base of Kent County Fertilizers.”
“Henry’s legacy however, lies as much in the work he did with Ontario and Canadian agriculture organizations as it does in his local work with Kent County Fertilizers and local customers. His foresight and his desire to constantly improve and professionalize the agronomy profession is validated by the existence of programs that ag retailers work under today, including the Environmental Farm Plan, the Certified Crop Advisory Program and the Fertilizer Quality Assurance Program. Henry was pivotal in laying the groundwork for all of these programs through his work with the TFIO and CFI in the early to the mid 1990’s. Henry’s vision and hard work helped bring these programs to fruition and they are benefitting Kent County farmers today and into the future.”
“I remember Henry as a passionate, gregarious leader that enjoyed his work and life. He would do anything for his farm customers and it was not uncommon to see the Ridgetown plant lights burning ‘til the wee hours of the morning every spring as he serviced their every need. When he was not working with his customers, he was working for them, in the background, provincially and nationally, to improve the industry that served them and helped them grow better crops.”
Richard N. McLellan, Senior Vice President of the Mosaic Company wrote, “We have known and admired Henry for decades. Ontario agriculture today is far more productive because of Henry’s years of dedication to helping farmers improve their yields. Henry was a joint venture partner of the Mosaic Company, and was one of the early leaders in bulk fertilizer blending in Ontario. His business brought balanced crop nutrition to a great many Eastern Canadian farmers, advancing both the fertilizer industry and Canadian agricultural production.
Some of the highlights that Henry achieved are as follows:
- In addition to founding the Maximum Economic Yield Club in Ridgetown, Henry was named the first Chairman of the Environmental Affairs Committee of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute (now Fertilizers Canada)
- Under Henry’s leadership, the CFI Environmental Affairs Committee produced a paper entitled “The Role of Fertilizers in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production”. The paper would become a model for environmental stewardship, and would give rise to the industry’s widely accepted 4R Nutrient Stewardship Framework.
- Henry also led efforts to ensure fertilizer product quality. He established a quality assurance program and, a retail ammonia safety program; both led to improved industry standards.
Henry has been very active on various TFIO committees over the years and joined The Fertilizer Institute of Ontario Board of Directors in 1977-78 holding the office of President in 1980-81. He worked very closely with Dr. Clare Rennie of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food to establish Maximum Yield Research plots at Chatham with PPI, OMAF and TFIO as partners. Henry hosted yearly visits to these plots by researchers from Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue Universities.
In his consistent commitment to the fertilizer industry in Ontario, Henry has also been a strong supporter of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute. He led the position of Chair of the CVI Committee responsible for writing the position paper, “The Role of Fertilizer in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production”. In 1992, Henry, along with Ken Johnstone of IMC and Roger Larson of CFL, began their unwavering goal of bringing the certified Crop Advisory Program to Canada. The first Ontario CCA Board ws established in August, 1995, on which Henry was a director.
The Fertilizer Institute of Ontario Honourary Award was presented to Henry on September 9th, 1999.
Hugh Loomans, President and CEO of Sylvite, said that Henry was instrumental in establishing many protocols and programs which are the basis of our professional standards for the industry. His contributions to almost every aspect of the organization, and then becoming its President, allowed him to lead the group into many areas such as environmental responsible care initiatives and efficient use of fertilizers across the province. These programs saved the farm community countless dollars both for efficiencies and environmentally.
Henry befriended the Deputy Minister of Agriculture at the time of Claire Rennie, and between them they forged a bond which brought OMAF and the fertilizer industry together. This legacy is the basis of our continued strong relationship with our provincial Agriculture Ministry and our educational institutions.
Henry took this enthusiasm and applied it to our national organization, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute (CFI). He tirelessly worked to insure there was an understanding of the farm issues both in the halls of parliament, and in the boardrooms of the corporate world. His involvement with the directors of the Potash and Phosphate Institute, brought their international insights and technical expertise to dealers across the country.
Henry was a man of character, impeccable honesty and had an incredible work ethic. There are so many things that he did for the betterment of the agriculture community of Kent County. He is an honourary member of both the TFIO and the CFI, and is remembered with respect and admiration.
In addition to his achievements in the fertilizer industry, Henry has also many community projects in which he has been involved. He was a member of the Kent County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Kent County Health Alliance, the Doctors for Ridgetown Committee, Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Ridgetown and spent 25 years coaching minor hockey in Ridgetown.
Diane Parks said “Henry provided lots of support to our efforts to establish our blueberry field back in the early ‘80’s. His expertise in the fertilizer industry plus his desire to give the best customer service meant a world of difference to establishing our blueberry field. I remember my visits to Kent County Fertilizers when Bill first suggested I could discuss our needs with Henry. Henry welcomed me as a good/potential customer; listened to our requirements and then proceeded to further research what exactly I needed and how he could help us.
As a new female farmer, I had been nervous to enter the male bastion of Kent County Fertilizers; Henry made my first and every trip there, not only productive, but lots of fun. Henry was Kent County Fertilizers to all of us! Always respectful and helpful, Henry’s partnering in our fledgling blueberry operation played an important role in establishing our business – Parks Blueberries.”