Rodney Dingwell became the 50th Islander to be inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony held October 17 at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture.
The long time Marie potato producer shared the honour with Gilbert Allen of Nova Scotia, Hector Williams from Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick's Maarten van Oord.
Rodney Dingwell was born in 1948, and grew up working on his family’s small, mixed farm in Marie. He graduated from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1967, becoming a 7th generation farmer when he returned home to farm with his parents Walter and Phyllis Dingwell. In 1970, the family expanded their dairy operation to include a farrow to finish hog farm, adding grain and turnip production. Three years later, Rodney and his father incorporated under the name Mo Dhaicdh, which in Gaelic means ‘my home.’
In 1987, Mo Dhaicdh became one of the first farms in PEI to invest in computerized record keeping systems to better manage farm recourses. In 1995, the farm further diversified by including potatoes, and after eight years, Rodney increased this crop’s acreage. This came shortly after the passing of his younger brother Brian, and the subsequent sale of the dairy component.
Rodney passed on the hog operation to his son Scott in 2008, and then purchased a cow/calf operation and custom baling service. The farm is now operated by Rodney, brother Blois, and son Craig, and comprises potatoes, mixed grains, soybeans, a cow/calf operation, and baling service.
Rodney is a leader in sustainable practices, and his farm has been well recognized for its environmental stewardship. Among the distinctions are the Hon. Gilbert Clements Award of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture, the Island Nature Trust’s Hon. Angus J. MacLean Award, and a PEI Environmental Award. The awards are a credit to Rodney’s willingness to try new crops and varieties, and implement best manage practices.
In addition to his tireless on-farm initiatives, Rodney has provided immense leadership across the province’s agriculture industry. He was instrumental in the establishment of new, producer-focused organizations, including the PEI Vegetable Growers Co-Operative in 1968, which provides collective marketing, storage, grading, and packaging for Island root crops. He provided leadership in the formation of the first PEI Chapter of the National Farmers Unions in 1969, and was one of the founders of PEI Pork Plus, which became a model for value added food production.
He acted as Chairman and a four-term Director of the PEI Hog Board, as a three-term Director and Chair of the PEI Potato Board, and as the first President of Garden Province Meats. Rodney also served as Director of PEI Quality Swine, Souris District Soil and Crop Association, and the PEI Marketing Council.
Rodney has also provided leadership as a volunteer with the Morell Minor Hockey Association, the North Shore Funeral Home Co-Operative, and over 45 years on the Midgell-Marie Cemetery Committee. In 2001 he participated in a development project with Farmers Helping Farmers, traveling to Kenya to work with fellow producers. As a lifelong farmer, Rodney exhibits a passion for agriculture in all his work, on and off the farm. His wife Patsy and children Scott, Randy, Craig, and Jeffrey can attest to his love of agriculture. He was nominated by the PEI Potato Board.
Gilbert W. Allen was born in Queens County, Nova Scotia in 1935. Upon completion of the Advanced Farming Diploma from Nova Scotia Agriculture College in 1956, Gilbert began work with Agriculture Canada. Based in Kentville, he spent seven years conducting crop research at experimental project stations throughout western Nova Scotia.
In 1959, Gilbert and his wife Dorothy purchased their first farm in Kentville. Four years later, they bought their current farm in Billtown where they raised their three children Janice, Jeffrey, and Joel. In 1964, Gilbert left his position with Agriculture Canada to pursue his childhood dream of farming full time. G. W. Allen nursery began as a mixed operation of beef and apples, but Gilbert’s true passion was certified strawberry plants and raspberry canes.In 1975, Gilbert grew the first crop of strawberry plants in Canada for export to the state of Florida for the winter strawberry industry.
His leadership was honoured by the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists in 1999, when Gilbert and Dorothy received the Distinguished Farm Award. Gilbert is now retired, and G. W. Allen Nursey is operated by his son Jeffrey.
Born in 1956, Maarten van Oord grew up in the Netherlands and studied agriculture and mechanical engineering before immigrating to Canada. Upon arriving in New Brunswick in 1979, he purchased a dairy farm in Springfield, north of Fredericton. Maarten and his wife Caroline raised their five children on the farm, growing it to 785 acres and a 60 cow milk herd.
After thirty years of operation, Maarten transitioned ownership of the dairy farm to his son Joas and wife Lisa in 2009.
In 2015, Maarten applied his interest in permaculture principles to the orchard beside his home, growing apple, cherry, peach, and plum trees.
Maarten’s passion for agriculture has been well implemented off the farm as well, where he has been recognized as a provincial farm leader for decades. He made a lasting contribution to agriculture during his tenure as President of the New Brunswick Federation of Agriculture (NBFA) from 1996-1998. His most notable achievement was the establishment of the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick. Bringing together the anglophone and francophone agricultural associations as one united organization provides one strong voice for farmers.
In 1999, he was recognized by the New Brunswick Institute of Agrologists with an Environmental Stewardship Award.. He has also been Chair of the Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre, now the CCNB-INNOV Advisory Board.
Hector Williams was born in 1945, and would become the third generation to work the family farm in Goulds, NL. Through diligent management and progressive planning, Hector and his brother Eric expanded the farm from 30 head of cattle and 75 acres to 300 head of cattle and 450 acres. The brothers operated H & E Williams Dairy Farm together until Eric’s death in 2000. Today, the farm is operating under the fourth generation of Williams farmers, Hector’s son Terry.
Hector was one of the founding farmers who established the Milk Marketing Board, now the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador (DFNL). This marked the beginning of milk supply management in the province. From 1967-1983 he served in a variety of roles within the Newfoundland and Labrador Dairymen’s Association, including as Chair, board member, and other executive positions.
For 34 years, Hector was a board member of the Eastern Farmers Co-op, including 12 years as President. From 1999-2016 he was the Director of DFNL, and served as the organization’s representative on the Federation of Agriculture and Agri-Adapt Council. Hector was also on the Farm Debt Review Board for ten years.