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Bruce Mines beef farmer gets provincial accolade

Ron Bonnett inducted into Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame
Ron Bonnett, a beef farmer from Bruce Mines, was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame on June 9.

A Bruce Mines beef farmer has been inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Ron Bonnett, a long-time industry advocate, was entered into the Hall on June 9, during an afternoon ceremony in Elora, north of Guelph, along with five other inductees. Bonnett was nominated by the Algoma Federation of Agriculture.

The Hall of Fame annually selects leaders from the sector based on their lifelong commitments to Ontario agriculture. Since 1980, 262 worthy members have been recognized with the honour.

“To qualify for this prestigious recognition, inductees must have shown visionary leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship and have demonstrated a lasting legacy to Ontario agriculture through their careers,” according to the Hall of Fame website.

Bonnett, who moved to the Algoma District in 1975, operates an 800-acre farm with 200 Angus beef cattle alongside his wife, Cathy. But he’s also worked at the municipal, provincial, federal and global levels for the industry.

He was the founding president of the Algoma Federation of Agriculture, going on to serve in leadership roles with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and, most recently, as founding president and North American board member for the World Farmers’ Organization.

Bonnett’s leadership is described as “integral” during two major crises in the province: the Walkerton water crisis in 2000, and the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in 2003.

“As president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture during the Walkerton crisis, Ron recognized that it was critical for agriculture in Ontario to take a responsible attitude and work together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Environment to find solutions that would make it possible for agriculture to survive and at the same time be responsible to the environment,” notes a synopsis of Bonnett’s work.

“At the federal level during BSE, Ron, as president of OFA, worked closely with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and government to develop national support programs to help the industry through the financial crisis and also travelled to Brussels, Geneva and Washington to reassure trading partners of the safety of Canadian product and steps taken to manage the disease.”

Joining Bonnett in the Hall of Fame this year are Bert Andrews of Halton Hills, Bill Gray of Strathroy, Grant Howes (posthumous), Verner Toews (posthumous), and Tina Widowski of Guelph.

The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame is located in Guelph.