Before I take over as Director LUARS on May 1, 2018, I would like to thank the TBARA for giving me an opportunity to serve its member farmers; especially those who volunteered countless hours to be on the Board of Directors (BOD). My special thanks are due to the BOD that hired me in 2004; namely:
- Ben Kamphof – Founder President (it was very nice of Ben to come to James St with his better half Donna Kamphof to deliver my first pay cheque and relocation expenses)
- Allan Mol – the then VP
- Bruce Forrest – the then Secretary Treasurer, who handled the communication extremely well during the recruitment process including my email in which I had asked him nearly 24 questions.
- Peter Aalbers – Director
- Howard Hancock – Director (also for taking care of winterizing and opening the research station till date!)
- Fred Breukelman – Director
There are many others who deserve special mention, but I will mention only the two for the sake of brevity:
- Rudy Buitenhuis (Past ADA OMAFRA): He was my first contact in Thunder Bay. I was allowed by the BOD to come a day earlier for the interview to look at the facilities/and the farming area in December 2003. Rudy took me to TBARS, Slate River Valley, Chippewa Park and for lunch (on December 8). Among other things, we discussed pros and cons of wood ash and lime. Rudy has been like a farmer sitting next door and was a big help when the BOD were not accessible to me all the time. He has been very supportive of TBARS and spent countless hours going through my drafts of funding proposals and other technical documents and presentations. Rudy also drove me to Thunder Bay Co-op for my pay cheques till I got a Driving License. Our cordial professional relationship grew to a point where I could consider him as a ‘Big Brother’ to me!
- Margaret Schep: Rudy took me to Thunder Bay Oak Cheese where I met Margaret. I picked up a piece of cheese to take home for family and when I offered to pay, Margaret refused to take money from me. She said, ‘Take it as a gift from us!’. Margaret proved what I talked about with Rudy at lunch; the famous Dutch Hospitality! I found that our farmers with other backgrounds were equally hospitable; Bruce Forrest, Howard Hancock, and John Hanna are some of the examples. I was always welcome by farm families at their door steps and was treated very well.
Looking back: I immigrated to Canada with my wife and three sons and landed in Toronto on 4th October, 2003. My oldest son and my daughter were already in Canada studying in the U of T and U of W, respectively. It was good to be together. I had told my employers in India (my old country) to wait for three months to find my replacement, because I had decided that if I didn’t get a job in Canada in my line of profession within three months, I would go back to India. As God willed, I was offered the position at TBARS within three months. Exactly on completion of three months, my Supervisor and MD of the organization that I was serving in India called me to ask if I would like to come back. I thanked him for the three months wait and told him that I had a job offer and I would like to stay and work in Canada. It wasn’t an easy decision though. Because my oldest son wasn’t in favour of my moving to Thunder Bay (none of us had heard the name before I applied for the position at TBARS); he and his siblings were very close to each other and my movement to Thunder Bay would split the family and my children would loose the fun of being together/close. The following helped me to take a decision to move to Thunder Bay in January 2004:
- I contacted a Director in OMAFRA and made queries about Thunder Bay. He had a great appreciation for Ben Kamphof and told me that Ben was a Provincial Leader (this was before I came for interview). God has blessed me with some Leadership qualities and I had always enjoyed working with Leaders!
- I found the BOD at my recruitment time a mature lot; with every one older than me.
- The treatment I got from Rudy and Margaret during the recruitment process.
- And, of course my farming background (I am an agriculturist by birth and education) and I had an opportunity to work with/and serve farmers. Development Oriented Research and Extension is where my heart is!
Together, we had achieved several milestones for which we can all take pride. These may be noticed from the two articles at:
All this wouldn’t be possible without funding from NOHFC, OMAFRA, collaborative projects, Agrium Inc./and other organizations, cooperation and participation from you all and without the hard work put in by all who worked at TBARS (our Technicians – Karen Davies, Blaine Tomeck, Scott Wiebe, Harjit Dhillon, Stacey Pawluk, Limin Luan and Muhammad Usman, our Interns – Christina Mol, Emesse Boyko and Muhammad Usman, Summer Students and casual workers – Mieke Bolt who has been very dependable needs a special mention). Both Thunder Bay Co-op and Thunder Bay Feeds helped us in transfer of technology from TBARS to the farmers. Without Thunder Bay Feeds importing Galega seed, we wouldn’t be able to introduce a new perennial forage crop Province wide!
The sad part of my movement to Thunder Bay is that three of my sons who moved to Thunder Bay with me (and who contributed a lot of volunteer hours to TBARS), left me one by one for Toronto/Waterloo where their brother and sister were as soon as they completed their high school (the youngest one left while he was still in high school) leaving me alone. That didn’t deter me from continue working at TBARS!
Sustainability of TBARS was an issue right from the recruitment process and I was committed to it. Initiation of long term experiments (highest number in Ontario among any agricultural research facilities) in 2004 (when there was no long term funding) and purchasing a house in Thunder Bay in the first year itself could be proof of my commitment to it. There were times when the TBARA BOD appeared to give up and the local politicians had said no to further funding to TBARS, but I didn’t give up! At times, I almost seemed to be alone fighting for the continuity of TBARS. When in 2014 the TBARA BOD decided to close the station, I looked at TBARS Building at the time of closure for the winter and addressed to The Lord, “This research station has done such a good work for farmers and it should continue!”. With the help of Dr. Gautam Das I approached Dr. Andrew Dean and had quite a few meetings with him in 2015 for takeover of TBARS by LU. This then lead to a dialogue between TBARA BOD and the LU during the next two years for transition of TBARS to LUARS for which the TBARA BOD (during these years) and Drs. Andrew Dean and Brian Stevenson deserve a lot of appreciation. I guess it wasn’t easy and required a tremendous amount of time (all volunteer by the TBARA BOD and a lot of over time for Dr. Dean). I may also say here that if someone felt that I was doing it for my job, s/he would be mistaken. As I said before, I was committed to the continuity of TBARS from day 1 and in one of my notes published by the Chronicle Journal Thunder Bay I mentioned that as a northerner I ought to think and try for something that was good for northern Ontario. It was very thoughtful of Dr. Dean to retain TBARS employees for LUARS. I Thank God he made me to contribute a bit towards continuity of TBARS. I am indebted to Dryden SCIA, farmers and farm organizations in Thunder Bay, a lot of Thunder Bay Residents and the media in and outside Thunder Bay who wrote letters to Jeff Leal Minister OMAFRA/or supported us in many other ways for continuity of TBARS. Despite all these efforts, TBARS to LUARS would not be possible without the support and hard work done by our local MPPs/Ministers, Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle; especially Bill Mauro. Thank you to them too!
I shouldn’t forget to thank Andrea Schute, Katherine Zandstra and Carol Maki for writing the TBARS Staff pay cheques timely. Both Kathy and Carol often helped me in preparing budgets as well.
Thank you for having me working with/for you for over 14 years. TBARS is the only organization that I served for more than 6 years!
I am looking forward to keep serving you as Director LUARS. Fortunately for me/us, Dr. Andrew Dean whom I will be reporting to is very supportive of the farming community! I am sure together we will cover many more milestones.
Tarlok Singh Sahota
Tel: 807-473-5707 & 807-475-8404