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Farm leaders inducted in Norfolk Agriculture Hall of Fame

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

The Norfolk County Agricultural Hall of Fame held its latest induction on Sunday afternoon at Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum. Inductee Larry Chanda and Tom Landon, grandson of inductee Monroe Landon, were on hand for the ceremony. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

The Norfolk County Agricultural Hall of Fame held its latest induction on Sunday afternoon at Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum. Inductee Larry Chanda and Tom Landon, grandson of inductee Monroe Landon, were on hand for the ceremony. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

WATERFORD - 

Norfolk County's Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 are far more than simply farmers.

Conservationists, volunteers, authors and deal brokers – the group of Harry B. Barrett, Larry Chanda, Monroe Landon and Andrew Zei made up a deserving cast honoured at the Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum (WHAM) on Sunday afternoon. The foursome is the second group inducted after Norfolk County debuted the initiative last year. They were honoured by the selection committee and local dignitaries – MP Diane Finley, MPP Toby Barrett, and Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke.

“I'm kind of lost for words,” said Zei. “I'm really proud and humbled to be here. Being that I'm in my 91st year this is quite an occasion for myself.”

The same could be said for Chanda.

“I was humbled, shocked a bit and honoured to be able to accept such an award,” he said. “My feelings were, I'm sure there's lots of other people that are just as deserving or more so but I'm certainly pleased I was chosen.”

Born in Hungary in 1925, Zei moved to Canada with his family at age three. He was involved in the tobacco industry for more than six decades, taking over the family farm from his father. He became a heavy hitter with the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board.

During a mission to Egypt, Zei helped negotiate a contract for 10 million pounds of tobacco. Back at home he advocated between local farmers and politicians, was a political adviser and volunteered for various causes.

Zei said he was surprised a nomination with his name was accepted but gave kudos to Norfolk County for developing the hall of recognition.

“I was happy that they (made) something like that because there are a lot of people who do volunteer work, good work, for agriculture and other things,” he said. “(Now) they have something to recognize those people.”

Chanda's agriculture career wasn't his original plan. He was serving with the RCMP in western Canada in the late 1960s when his brother passed away. Chanda returned home to help his father man the family farm.

“Dad asked me if I would help him through a difficult time,” Chanda recalled. “We chose to come home and I wasn't home too long and a friend of mine asked me to come out to a Charlotteville Federation of Agriculture meeting. I didn't realize it was the annual meeting and you know how things go.”

Soon Chanda was the organization's secretary. He sat on many other farm-related boards, including an involvement with the Long Point Region Conservation Authority. He's accumulated many awards, including Norfolk's Volunteer of the Year in 2000, and the Environmental Stewardship Award of Ontario.

“I just got involved in lots of other meetings, seminars, committees – things that I enjoyed and related to my operation of farming,” he said. “It was a learning lesson and it was also an enjoyable time.”

Monroe Landon was inducted posthumously. He was the first president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and was always encouraging his fellow residents to plant trees. In the 1930s, he organized a yearly Norfolk Naturalist outing (which still take place today) where experts toured the area. Thanks to his lobbying, Norfolk was the first county in Ontario to pass Tree Cutting By-Law #86 to restrain and regulate the cutting of forest trees. In 1937, he purchased 132 acres of forest in Norfolk, which was acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2008.

Tom Landon represented his grandfather at Sunday's event.

Harry Barrett, who was one of Landon's understudies, served in the Second World War then attended Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph. He began teaching both science and agriculture at Hagersville High School before becoming head of the agriculture department at Simcoe Composite School and principal at the Norfolk School of Agriculture at Simcoe's Fanshawe College campus. He established a two-week student exchange scholarship with the school of the same name in the U.K.

Barrett is a published author of 16 books and was a founding member of the Long Point Foundation of Conservation. He helped establish the Long Point World Biosphere and is also responsible for drafting a motion that led to special management of the Backus woodlot.

Chanda felt the hall was a tremendous addition to Norfolk long before he got in.

“I thought it was wonderful,” he said. “Norfolk County is a great county. We have so many diverse things happening here and so many people who really get involved – that's the big thing. Never ever thinking I would someday be here.”

Displays for each inductee will stay at the WHAM until next year.

jrobinson@postmedia.com