Back in the 1950s and 60s when Dale Dewar was showing her calf on 4-H achievement days little did she know it would be the beginning of a long and notable career in the agriculture industry on PEI that would lead to another historical achievement.
On Thursday, October 15, the former Deputy Minister of Agriculture will become the first Prince Edward Island woman inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The New Perth resident was nominated by the group, PEI Women in Agriculture, and though she is the first, she considers herself one of many.
“There have been a lot of significant women over the years that have contributed mightily to agriculture in this province.
“It’s something that should be noted that it took us until 2015 to recognize that women have been an important part of agriculture in this province and it’s certainly nice to have received that recognition, but I suspect from now on there will probably be more,” she said.
Since the time she grew up on a fifth generation family farm, Ms Dewar said she knew agriculture would continue to be important in her adult life and her 4-H involvement didn’t end when she stopped showing calves.
In 1967 when she graduated with a degree in Home Economics, she took on the position of 4-H worker in the extension staff of the PEI Department of Agriculture.
“My territory was all across PEI and I met a lot of wonderful members and leaders during my career,” she said.
In the ensuing years she was director of 4-H and eventually the department of rural development.
In the 1970s there was a crisis in PEI farming when many family farms were disappearing because their owners couldn’t make a living, she said
It was the Comprehensive Development Plan, designed to address the need for economic growth in the province, set out by Premier Alex Campbell in 1966 which gave Ms Dewar the opportunity to dive right into the field of agriculture.
In both director positions Ms Dewar spent many years working on programs aimed at enhancing and improving the leadership skills of rural people at that time.
The transformation of priorities in the industry was quite evident from those years until she became deputy minister in 1986.
“The emphasis was on sustainable agriculture practises,” she said explaining that type of thinking was new at that time.
Still, it was exciting to be part of the biggest industry on the Island she said.
“When I think back, to me there is no particular highlight or program.
“It was just the continuation of providing programs to the farming public that were important to meet the economic needs of the time,” she said.
While Ms Dewar is the first woman inductee from PEI, she isn’t the first family member.
In 1972, her father, J Lincoln Dewar, was posthumously inducted.
He was the secretary-manager of the Federation of Agriculture and had contributed significantly to agriculture and farming over his career, which started in the 1950s.
“My mother and I went to Truro in 1972 for his induction and it was very touching for both of us that he had received this honour and of course in our opinion rightly deserved,” she said.
Ms Dewar is retired now, but the spirit of community instilled in her during all her years of being involved with Island farming families is now directed to volunteer work.
On the board of Three Rivers Roma Inc, Ms Dewar said it is important to be a part of the community and support the history of our province.
The Atlantic Agriculture Hall of Fame, established in 1968, honours individuals in Atlantic Canada for their contribution to the development of all segments of the agriculture community.
The three other inductees for 2015 are Richard (Dick) Huggard, Nova Scotia; Stephen Moffett, New Brunswick and Mervin Wiseman of Newfoundland and Labrador.