ALUMNI- IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
Interviewed by Ed Brubaker
May 12, 1997
B This is an interview with Dr. Stan Young in Stan’s home, 5 Westminster Avenue, in the City of Guelph. Stan is a ’49 O.A.C graduate and has lived and worked in Guelph for many years. Stan, you came from near Cochrane, which is several hundred miles north of North Bay. What kind of farm did you have there Stan and what was your home life like?
Y Well, our farm was three miles from Cochrane. It was Lot 28, Concession 3, Glackmeyer Township, and we had 187 acres. We had beef cattle and sheep. I went to the farm back around 1934, I think it was, when our family moved from town to the farm. They had the farm before that, but the move was when they really started to farm full-time. Prior to that, my dad had pioneered in that country. He went up there in 1909 and worked with the forestry branch of the government. The government changed and there was a purge of all the people that weren’t of the right stripe. So he ended up leaving the forestry branch and that’s when we moved to the farm. I spent my early years on the farm, right until the time I went on to O.A.C. My three brothers -- one older and two younger -- and I walked to school in town, 3 ½ miles.
We weren’t burdened down with chores, but we still had to work on the farm and in the summers we certainly worked on the farm. My mother went into that country around 1915 as a nurse, met my father up there, and they looked after us and the cattle and the sheep and the farm, and we just had a great time. By having a great time, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t hardships but the hardships didn’t bother us too much. We continued to get along with the old battery radio and the dog, and traveling by car for two or three months in the summer but by horse and cutter in the wintertime. We cut wood by hand from the farm wood lot and used that to heat the house. The house was a big one. It was 20 ft. by 24 ft. total size, one storey, and the six of us lived in that house and it was big enough. Certainly, it was big enough when you had to cut the wood to keep the fires burning and keep the place warm because we didn’t have the benefit of the insulation that we have these days.
So, we lived pretty well and had a great time on the farm and in Cochrane. We went to the Cochrane Public School -- it was built in 1916 and torn down…I think it was 1996 -- and the Cochrane High School. And so we got our primary and secondary education in Cochrane. Cochrane, of course, is 4 miles north of the 49th parallel and so it really isn’t north at all as far as Canada is concerned. The bulk of Canada is north of that, but it is almost 500 miles north of Toronto. And
so, when we came south to go to the Ontario Agricultural College, it was quite a change in the climate, the land, the things that went on and the size of the town. The town of Cochrane was 3300 people! We used to butcher about 75 cattle a year and supply one or two of the grocery stores in Cochrane. In exchange for the meat, we had credit all the time at the stores. We could buy whatever we needed, and as we needed it. We used to stock up with the staples in the fall so we wouldn’t have to take the sleigh to town very often in the wintertime. Any produce that we needed, or any other things we needed, we could bring back in the cutter during the winter.
B Stan, what influenced you to leave the home with all the running water, indoor plumbing and electricity and come to the O.A.C.?
Y Well, the indoor plumbing was out beside the driving shed. And the electricity hadn’t got there yet, nor had the telephone. So, we didn’t have much to leave behind! Actually, when I finished High School I had an opportunity to work for the Hydro or to go into the bank in Cochrane or to do whatever else I wanted, but I had already applied to the Ontario Agricultural College. The reason I applied to the Agricultural College was because we got acquainted with the Agricultural Representative. My older brother Murray and I belonged to the Potato Club. We became acquainted with the fact that there was such a thing as an Ontario Agricultural College. The Agricultural Representative was Dan Pomerleau and his office was in the Court House. Outside the door of his office was a bulletin rack and the bulletin rack had one or two copies of the calendar for the Ontario Agricultural College. We got up enough nerve to ask him if we could borrow one of these and he said yes.
So we took it home and read it from end to end. Several of us in the family did. And we kept on reading and said: “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have a formal education that would allow us to become a person like Dan Pomerleau, the local Agricultural Representative.” And, of course, we knew that there was no possibility of that ever happening. At least, we thought we knew for sure that that couldn’t possibly happen. This was when we were in Public School.
By the time we graduated from High School, the idea had grown to the point where we actually made an application, on the encouragement of our mother of course, to the O.A.C. and when we were accepted we had the opportunity to put that up against the potential bank job and the potential Hydro job. And dad said, “If you go to O.A.C. you’re going to have to pay to get an education. If you go to the bank, they will pay you while you’re getting an education.” We decided that we would take the risk and go to the O.A.C. and see if we couldn’t get an education and pay for it too.
Seventy-seven dollars and 60 cents was the amount on the cheque that I carried with me when I came to O.A.C. in the fall of 1945. I came in the caboose on the train as the attendant for two carloads of cattle for Toronto. The cattle went to
the stockyards and were sold. I went on to Guelph by bus and started my career at the O.A.C. The cheque for $77.60 covered my room, my board, my tuition, and other fees at the O.A.C. for the first term, from September until December of that year. So, that’s how I got started at the Ontario Agricultural College. It was based on the idea that if a person could get a proper education and maybe get a job something like the Agricultural Representative had, that would be a pretty good career to get into.
B You came to the O.A.C. right at the end of the war, when there were a very large number of returning veterans coming in, joining you in first year, some of them much older than you were at that time. Stan, did you feel that you benefited, or that there was too much of a load for you with all these older fellows with a lot of worldwide experience?
Y It was a great experience for me to get acquainted with, live with, and learn from all these older people that were there that I knew had experiences that I would never be a party to in my lifetime, or hoped I would never be a party to, and to learn from them. And I really enjoyed being with the boys that came back to the O.A.C. after the war. And there were a few of us, of course, that had not been involved in the war and I certainly enjoyed them too. I was one of the youngest of the group.
B Can you recall any specific stories of situations that maybe helped you?
Y Well, just the very fact of the daily goings on, the kinds of things that we got into discussions about, which helped me to experience things that were far broader than anything that I’d ever been exposed to at home and during my schooling at Cochrane. It was, in general, the whole rubbing of shoulders with these people who had experiences around the world. Good experiences and bad. And learning from them when it came time to study, the way they studied. They were interested in getting the job done, getting out of there and getting back into the real world of work. And that didn’t hurt anybody, especially like someone in my boots. It helped me to keep bearing down and continue to work towards achieving the education that I received from the O.A.C.
B Stan, I think you specialized in Crop Science, or Field Husbandry as it was then known? Can you recall any professors that had a lot of influence on you?
Y Oh yes. There were all kinds of faculty members that had an influence on me and that I appreciated. Sometimes, they were not appreciated by other people. I’ve had a good laugh about some of them, and other ones, I knew, had really contributed, like Hugh Branion, Animal Nutrition. It was tough for me, but I learned a lot about Animal Nutrition from people like him. Oswald McConkie had been over in China and understood conservation and the need for it. Don Huntley, who came into the picture later on, was a real influence as far as I was concerned. Bob Weir got me interested in forage crops. McCrostie, who had a
pretty wide experience, and I found out about that through the publications that he produced. And, so all these people had an influence on me. Of course, I was more distant from people like Bergey and Graham in the Poultry Department and people of that nature. I was more closely allied to people in the Crop Section than I was in some of the other areas. I wasn’t particularly interested in getting into Physics and those kinds of things but the crops area was a good one for me. They even hired me as student labour at 25 cents an hour to clean out the sample bags for the next year. So whenever I had an opportunity to put in a few hours, I could clean bags at 25 cents an hour.
Then I found out that there were other things that a fellow might be able to do. One was cleaning out the dairy barn at 5 o’clock in the morning at 25 cents an hour. But I kept my eye’s open, and it wasn’t too long before I found out that there was a film library -- a movie film service -- and there were jobs there at 25 cents an hour. This seemed to be quite a bit cleaner and I didn’t have to put my overalls outside the room when I came home from doing some work. So I decided to go into the film library and work there and that’s where I spent a fair amount of time. In fact, I missed the big water fight because I was working that night in the film library. I heard a lot of ruckus out there but didn’t know that they’d got the fire hoses down and were spraying water all over the other wing because the film library was in the basement of the North Wing of the old Admin. Building.
B Johnston Hall, you mean. And that was a pretty big water fight that night?
Y It was quite a water fight. They tell me that there was a lot of water thrown down the stairwells and even into President Reeks’ apartment. He grabbed a couple of people and put them with brooms outside his door so they’d keep the water running past his door and not letting it get into his apartment.
B But he didn’t take part in the water fight?
Y I don’t think he was particularly joyful over the water fight at all. I got that impression. Especially when our year had to spend so much money to replace the battleship linoleum in the hall. In Rugby Alley I guess it was. We had to replace the linoleum for about $500, and $500 was a lot of money at that time.
B Stan, this cheque that you came with, $77, paid your tuition, which would have been $50 for the first four months, and some room and board, and then you paid for the balance of the room and board and books and so on, with the money that you earned working at various jobs around the campus?
Y Yes, by the time I finished I was about $500 in debt for the four years at the Agricultural College. The rest of it I picked up in jobs at the College and also in the North because when I finished my first year -- I believe that was when they started -- they were looking for a District Weed Inspector for Cochrane District.
So I got hired on as a District Weed Inspector and, you know, I just have to be thankful that weeds were there because they helped to pay my way through the Ontario Agricultural College. Not only me, but also my two brothers were put through because of the Weed Control Act of Ontario.
B How much did they pay you for that summer job, Stan?
Y Oh, I don’t remember what it was. It wasn’t very much but it all helped.
B And you lived at home and helped on the farm?
Y For the first few years I helped on the farm and then during the time that I was at College -- I think it was 1947 -- my dad became Manager of the Cochrane Farmers Co-op. and they moved into town. We didn’t live on the farm for the rest of my time in Cochrane.
B Stan, can you recall any specific subject matter, material, or influences here that helped you in your working career?
Y All kinds of material that I was exposed to here helped me. First of all, in potatoes, I became at one time in my career, an inspector for bacterial ring rot in potatoes, and so I used to go around the country sampling the potato fields and searching for bacterial ring rot and then trying to get rid of it. I learned about that here at the college. I learned a lot about forage crops, about field crops in general, weed control, and weed identification. All these things became a part of my career. As I mentioned before, animal nutrition has been a part of it. Field crops are grown largely for livestock in this country and so I took the approach that there was a system here and that we had to learn about not only the crops but what they were used for, and how they were used, and how best to use them. So, all these things came together as a result of my study at the Ontario Agricultural College in Field Husbandry.
B And then after graduation, what type of work did you do?
Y Right after graduation, I was taken on by the Crops, Seeds and Weeds Branch of the Ontario Department of Agriculture and was given a territory from Toronto west to and including Elgin County, and all of the Niagara peninsula. I had ten counties where I was to be a District Weed Inspector and a Crops Fieldman. And so I had two roles. As a District Weed Inspector in the North and a Weed Inspector here, it wasn’t long before I came to the conclusion that if I was going to make any headway anywhere as far as weed control was concerned, it was going to be through education and not the laws and passing out tickets for destroying weeds. So my whole emphasis moved towards extension education, educating the people around the country so that they recognized the weeds and the damage they did and then how to control weeds. A lot of my effort was spent in the education area.
And of course my crops fieldman work was to help the County Soil and Crop Associations with their educational programs for the producers across Southern Ontario. That was a pretty new area for me, coming from Cochrane, where I had never been exposed to corn before. Winter wheat of course was new to me. The only winter wheat I ever knew in Northern Ontario was one field where the person planted winter wheat and the next year’s crop of winter wheat had to be planted before this year’s crop was harvested. That was at Clute, about 15 miles north of Cochrane. But I got down into this part of the country and learned about all kinds of different crops -- the fruit crops in the Niagara Peninsula, corn throughout the whole area, winter wheat and how they grow it here. That was just a tremendous learning experience for me.
I took the approach, when I came on the job, that I would find out as much as I could from those farmers that were growing the best crops that I could find in the area. So when I worked with the Soil and Crop Associations in Peel and Oxford Counties, I learned from those people. I learned from Doug Hart, from Charles Munro and Fred Cohoe. I learned from all kinds of these people. Because I learned and showed that I was interested in learning, they helped me. This was tremendous to see how those people would help a young fellow coming out of college with the little background that I had, and helped me along in my career just tremendously.
B They were pretty prominent farmers in Southern Ontario.
Y Yes. The Agricultural Representatives in the various counties helped too. Vic Langton in Elgin, Bob Bell in Woodstock and Don Graham in Brant County. It was just tremendous working with those people. If you were prepared to learn, they were prepared to help you learn. Once you learned you could turn the thing around and provide them with additional benefits too, and so it was a two-way street. I learned and because I learned, I was able to help them, as producers, do a better job. We used to talk about 50 bushel wheat clubs and 50 bushels is nothing these days. We like to think that maybe we had a small part in helping the producers to expand their production of wheat and get better yields. We used to talk about 80 to 100 bushels of corn. One hundred bushels of corn was just a fantastic yield. And we all worked hard at it and look at where we are now. One hundred and fifty bushels an acre is not uncommon at all. It was the science and the application of science that became important.
B Stan, you eventually left the Crops Branch. I’m not sure how many years you worked there. Then went and got some further education?
Y Yes. In 1953, I’d heard that there was a job available at Cornell University which would pay me on a half-time basis about the same as I was getting on a full-time basis here.
B Which was how much?
Y Oh, about $1500 a year, or maybe it was $1900 a year, that’s it. They would pay me that amount to work half-time. The other half of the time I could take graduate work. So I moved to Ithaca, New York and enrolled in the plant breeding program. I took plant breeding, agronomy, and extension. For a year I worked with the New York Certified Seed Growers and at the same time finished off my Master’s degree at Cornell University. I had told them back in Ontario I would come back for at least a year. By the way, I was on my own. The Department of Agriculture was not paying me at all. They had given me a leave of absence for that year. I came back here and they said: “We don’t know what we’re going to do with you.”
Y “Down at Ridgetown they’re looking for somebody to teach in the Crops Division. We could second you to the Ridgetown College for the year.” So I said ok. So I went to Ridgetown and spent the year. Well, I had two weeks to prepare for four courses, and I presented four courses to the students that year. The next September I decided that I had better continue my educational development and so I enrolled back at Cornell University in the PhD program and was there until 1959. When I finished the program there, I came back to the Ontario Agricultural College as an Extension Agronomist in the Field Husbandry Department under Don Huntley. Bill Tossell worked there, as did George Jones and Bob Fulkerson. This was another fantastic learning experience for me.
B How long did you stay in that department?
Y I stayed in that department until 1969 and then I became the Director of the two-year Diploma Program and the O.A.C. Extension Coordinator. For five years I held both those jobs and worked at both of them but found conflict between the two, in that many of the times when I was needed for the diploma program I was also needed for the extension work. So I had to make a decision and decide which direction I was going to go. So I decided to carry on with the extension and let the diploma program be carried by others. So that was five years after that, in 1974. So in 1974, I became half-time coordinator of extension for the college and the other half time was in the Department of Crop Science, and that’s where I continued to work until I retired in 1992.
B And, since retirement of course, you are just sitting home idly all the time!
Y Pretty well. Got my feet up most of the time. Oh, I do a little bit of secretarial work for the Forage Council and also for the Ontario Hay Producers. Pick up the odd consulting job that gives me a little bit of entertainment for a while. So, it’s been enjoyable.
B Enjoyable. You’ve no intention of quitting yet?
Y I’m not planning on it. I’m planning on continuing on for a day or two.
B Stan, you have four children, married to Audrey? Where’d you meet Audrey?
Y Audrey was working in the Crop, Seeds and Weeds Branch of the Ontario Department of Agriculture in Toronto when I was brought into Toronto to work with that same branch, even though my territory was 20 miles outside of Toronto. So, that’s where I met Audrey. That was a pretty important part of my life, meeting Audrey and marrying her and living and working with her over the years. It’s just been a tremendous opportunity, and that’s one of those things that fortune has brought my way. I find that going through life I didn’t have any big master plan that I followed but, when decisions came along, I weighed the alternatives and picked the one that I could visualize with my limited vision as having the most potential. So this is how come Audrey and I got married on October 3, 1953, and this was about the time I started my graduate work at Cornell University. She was the one that got the PhT – “putting hubby through” degree -- because she worked in the rural sociology department at Cornell University for all the years that I was involved in graduate work. This kept the things going, kept food on the table, and so on. So, it’s been tremendous.
We’ve been blessed with four children, and all four of them ended up graduating from the University of Guelph. Barbara graduated in Horticulture and went on to take her Master’s degree at Virginia Polytech and from there became involved with the American Red Cross. She is now working in the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross. She is married to Ken and they have one child, Kate. She is just about a year and half old right now. Doug, our first boy, finished Guelph in Soils, and then took his Master’s degree in Soils. He then went on to work at Ridgetown College in the Soils Department and is still there. He married Sheila and they have a youngster who is eight months old now. Our third is Bruce. Bruce has set up his own business with another chap and they’re in the food brokerage business, working out of Mississauga. He’s living in Guelph, married to Karen and they have a youngster. He’s the youngest grandchild, at the moment, and he’s the first male grandchild. Then, there is Laura, who graduated from the Crops Department at the O.A.C. and went to work with Cargill, in Western Ontario. She is married to Ted and they have a daughter. That’s our children and grandchildren, at the moment. They are all doing well. We are proud of them.
B Very well, and you should be proud of them. It’s wonderful to have grandchildren come along like this, isn’t it?
Y It doesn’t hurt at all. It gives a person a chance to pay a little bit of attention to them, more attention than to our own sons and daughters, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, when they were growing up we were at that stage of life when we
had to be extremely busy and to be away from home too much. That’s the way life seems to go these days, so we’re enjoying the grandchildren anyway.
B Stan, can you recall any major changes that were implemented in extension work during your career, or in the diploma course?
Y Yes. We were involved in helping to get industry more involved in extension, and on a co-operative basis with farm organizations, with the government and with the university. We spent a lot of time encouraging co-operative efforts amongst these groups. Because we could see that you could do an awful lot more having all the stakeholders on side than in having part of the stakeholders going in one direction and another part of them going in another direction. So, we co-operated a lot with numerous stakeholders in the business. And while we did not start the recommendations publication, we spent a lot of time improving the recommendations publications and making sure that they were up-to-date and making sure that all the stakeholders were on side as far as the recommendation publications were concerned. So, I think this part that we helped to play in extension and in crops in Ontario has paid off. And that work is continuing now because I am working with the Hay Producers Association and again we’re trying to get the different segments of the industry together, so that they’re all moving in the same direction and all benefiting from it, and the Forage Council too. So, that has been the kind of theme that I’ve had through the years.
B Can you give us some specific examples of pulling the people together?
Y Sure. We have organized a number of field days, such as Conservation ’88, and Forage Field Days over the years. We brought 25 to 35 organizations together to pull those off and get all of them working in the same direction at the same time, and that’s worked very, very well. The Conservation Farm Day in ’88, I wasn’t the only one involved in it, there were a lot of people involved in organizing that, but I certainly pushed towards having numerous organizations involved. Originally, it came to us to be a Department of Agriculture Program for a half a day. It turned out that something like 37 organizations were involved in making this day work and people are still talking about the things that went on in Conservation ’88.That is just one of the examples of how we tackled this kind of problem.
Back in days when the field crop recommendation publication was in its infancy, some people came to me and said “This publication is published and printed and the first distribution of it comes in the middle of April.” They said: “That’s absolutely useless. It’s not helping anybody until next year. Isn’t there something that we can do to get this thing off the ground and do better than that?” Well, I said, “I haven’t had anything to do with it up to now but certainly, I’ll help with it.” So, I worked with the people involved to get their recommendations completed and to then get them edited into a format that could be published.
Then we worked with the publishers to get them printed, so that they would be available, not in April, but by January 4, the time when many of the farm organizations were having their meetings throughout the winter. They had them available, 55,000 copies, so that they could actually be used for making decisions about the cropping programs for that year. I spent time doing that kind of thing. So, I was a help, but lots of other people helped too. I even made a deal with the printers that I would go down as soon as one section of the print shop was finished with their part of the publication. If they would call me, I would come down and move it from one desk to another in the same building if they were having difficulty getting it moved. Apparently it worked because we ended up by shortening the period so that we could get that thing published in one month’s time. Whereas previously it had taken about four months. So that’s another example. If I got a call at 8 o’clock at night, I told them I’d be there in an hour and half. And I was there to help move those things along. So, once they got to understand that we were serious about this, they co-operated and just did a tremendous job.
B You said, be there in an hour and half. You were living in Guelph and it was being printed in Toronto? So, in the evening you would drive to Toronto and come home that night?
Y Yes. Oh, one year I can remember, on Christmas Eve, and the guy that was working on it said: “I’d like to get this done but I have no way of getting home if we work late.” I said: “There’s no problem. You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll take you home.” So, I stayed around. We finished the job. We did it and I took him home. So, there was no time lost there.
B What time did you get home Christmas Eve?
Y Oh, I got home about 9 o’clock that night. It wasn’t too late that night.
B The Diploma course, can you recall any outstanding students, or students that have done well in agriculture here in Ontario? Any changes you might have influenced in the Diploma courses?
Y Yes. Before I was involved with the diploma program they had trips where the students would be taken out for a two-day trip. And, of course, as all young people will do, they like to get into a little bit of mischief and the mischief apparently got out of hand. I was hearing these stories about how they got into too much mischief in some of the motels. They maybe took away some of the forks and knives and maybe even broke some door latches. Anyway, there was an awful lot of concern about that. I said: “Well, okay, we just won’t have that kind of thing. If you want, we will arrange a program that will get them out to farms so that they can see and feel and smell and hear about the kinds of things that occur on farms and in farm organizations around the country.” As far as I was
concerned, that was an essential part of the program. Some people didn’t feel that it was as essential as I felt so I said: “We’ll make arrangements to do this.”
And we started up a program that would take the students out for an afternoon, and that turned out to be a good program. We, at one time, had three buses going out every Thursday afternoon. Out to farms where they were getting an opportunity to talk with the farmers and learn about how the farmer was actually doing things. Their learning came from more than just books. Those people that had no farm experience got an opportunity to get some kind of farm experience. Those people that had farm experience would get experience in different areas. Everybody had to take this program that took them to different kinds of farm businesses each time. So, if they’re a pig farmer they learned about beef, dairy and sheep. If they were a sheep farmer they learned about dairy, pigs and beef. So each one of them had an opportunity. Now, some of those people that were only interested in golf courses were unhappy because they had to go and visit some of the animal farms. But anyway, it was a learning experience for them.
So this carried on for a number of years and I was proud of the way it developed. But we also developed another program that involved people who hadn’t come to Guelph yet. We gave them an opportunity, by paying extra, to come in and take a field trip for three or four days out around the province. This gave them an opportunity to get this one course off their backs, before they registered officially for the program. That was looked at askance by a number of people but the thing is, it worked. Each year we got one bus load to come in for this program. This took some of the pressure off the number of buses we had to operate during the semester but it gave them the same first-hand experiences on farms and in agricultural businesses around the country. I think that was a real step forward and I’m proud of that aspect.
People? Yes, there are all kinds of people, of course, and I don’t know where they are now. But a good example is Doug Wagner, one person who is contributing to farm organizations, particularly the Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Doug is Secretary/Treasurer of that organization. I’m proud to say that he came through the two-year diploma program while I was there. I think we might have had some influence on helping him to get a broader perspective and to be able to contribute in the way he does. Most of it was himself, but we like to think that we had some contribution to it, and we could go on to talk about other people too that we have been involved with. We tried to get many of the people who were graduates to be involved in our training programs when we were taking tours out to farms. Then the people that we were talking to, or that were talking to us, would have some kind of an idea of what the diploma program was all about. This always helped to make a better connection for the students than if it wasn’t possible to do that. So, that’s another area that we found very interesting. I was the one who learned the most from these programs and I appreciated it.
B Can you recall some of the farms that you went to, Stan?
Y Yes. We went to farms of all kinds. For example, we took the students to a farm near Lake Erie, Smith Farms, where they had planted and grown trees to produce the fuel for his boiler, which he salvaged from a ship that went down in Lake Erie. This was used to make steam to heat the greenhouses in which he was growing tomatoes and lettuce in hydroponic situations. Just a fantastic systems approach right there and the students learned from that. I can think of the Underwood boys near Wingham, George Underwood and his two sons. George has been involved in a whole series of different agricultural organizations over the years and his two sons were working with him. They just had a great system there. They were people that worked hard and were successful in farming with a whole series of different enterprises -- white beans, corn, soy beans, beef, turkeys. They also had an elevator. Then they went from that to pressing soybeans and producing soybean oil and soybean oil meal. So that was the latest enterprise. They were also in the feed mill business – just a fantastic organization. Of course, there was Walter Renwick who was in the sheep business, had four hundred sheep. Imported them from New Zealand, and he just wowed the students with his footwork in handling his sheep, and his work with sheep dogs. Just a tremendous experience for the students. Then we took students to the Pioneer Hybrid seed corn processing plant. We took them into fertilizer plants. We took them into all kinds of different businesses such as wineries.
B They would remember those things and that would reinforce what you were trying to teach them. Stan, as a young boy you made that decision to come to the O.A.C. rather than going to the bank and other work opportunities that might have existed in Cochrane. Looking back is there anything that you would do differently now if you were starting over again, if you could go back forty odd years, and would you still come to the O.A.C.?
Y It is pretty hard to say whether a person would make the same decisions. Actually, as you go on you learn more things and that’s one of the benefits of going to a place like the Ontario Agricultural College. You not only learned about arithmetic and spelling and English. You learned about all kinds of other things, and the application of these things. It is so important that people are able to relate to the application of the things they’re learning about in their educational program. I keep telling people you really don’t know what you want to do at this point. I used to tell my classes: “Most of you have no idea what you’re going to be doing two years from now and particularly two years after graduation because the opportunities will come to you in a format different than you ever thought of before.”
I encourage people to think as broadly as they can, to stay away from specialization as long as they can, so that they have a base and then can make some changes later on. If they ever get into the situation where they have to make changes, then they have something to fall back on. I think of the chap that was in the pig business and he ran into a problem with his knees and he could no longer
carry on. What was he going to do? He had to change. Well, he went into the seed business because he’d got a background in crop production, as well as in livestock production. So he was able to change into the seed business. Actually he’d made one more change before that. He started out and got his training in electronics but ended up in the seed business in Arthur.
So this business of looking and continually keeping your alternatives open as long as you possibly can is a thing that I encourage people to do. Not only that but look at a number of different things. Keep your alternatives open. Learn about it anyway. You don’t know where it’s going to be useful to you. I was involved in plant breeding, and agronomy, and in extension all at the same time at Cornell University and that was good because when I graduated it gave me a good opportunity to pick up a job for which nobody else was trained. I wasn’t trained a 100% for it either but at least I had some background and I could swing into the job. If there was a need for some reason or other to change, I could have taken on many different kinds of jobs. This helped. I had to learn about the livestock business in order to make the crop business work fit.
I can remember the time when I went to a conference down in Indiana and I came back with some information. It was a pig conference. Why in the name of saints would anybody in the crops department go to a pig conference? I said just because I wanted to find out a little bit more about some other things besides what we talked about every day. While I was at the conference I learned about haylage or hay crop silage. When I came back I wrote that up as a note to myself. This is what it is. This is how it’s done. This is how they fed it. And these are the results from feeding it that way. So, I wrote that up, and then lo and behold -- within two months -- I have a call.
“ Do you ever hear of this stuff called haylage?”
“Yes. What do you want to know about it? I wrote a little story up about it for myself and I’ll give you a copy.”
So, I gave out about half a dozen copies of that and then somebody came along and said “How come the Soils and Crops Branch people haven’t got this information that you’ve been putting out?” I said. “I didn’t know they wanted it. If they want it they can have it.” So, I put it out to them too. Pretty soon that information became a publication of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and all because I took an interest in something outside the lines.
You know, it’s like the business of teaching kids. We take these young kids and we get them a colouring book. We say: “Now, we want you to be creative. You go ahead and colour in this book.” So, the kids do a great job of colouring and along the way the crayon slipped outside the lines and all this kind of stuff and they bring it back to mom and dad.
Mom or dad look at it and say “Oh, that’s a tremendous job, sonny, but you went outside the lines!” Well, that’s what you gave it to them for so they’d go outside the lines and be creative. You try to break down that creativity that those kids have got early on. It’s the wrong thing to do.
Say: “Tremendous, tremendous, tell me about that story.” Don’t even bother worrying about whether it’s outside the lines because you’ve got to think outside the lines to make any progress! That’s why I’m working on hay driers right at the moment. Trying to figure out whether or not we can make microwave field hay driers for hay work in Ontario. And we’re having a lot of fun doing it. We fully expect that we’ll have something come out of it. It may not be what we originally visualized but we’re working on it.
Another experience I had one time is with a half a dozen wheat people from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the University of Guelph and some farmers. We were talking one day about what was happening in the grain drying business and we said: “Well we read an article in ‘Successful Farming’ or one of the other American magazines about people who are doing this kind of thing or that kind of thing with the grain drying business. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if we could go and have a look and talk with those people and see exactly what it was they were doing, to understand their situation better.”
“Oh, we couldn’t that,” somebody else says.
“Because we can’t get permission to take a Department of Agriculture car outside of the country to do a thing like that.”
“Oh,” I said: “That’s no problem. If that’s your only problem, we’re going to go.”
“How are we going go?”
I said: “I’ll find a car, and we’ll go. If you can’t get permission to take a car out of the province, I got one that I can get permission to take any day of the week. I can take holidays if nothing else and we can go and find out about this.”
They finally did some checking around and found out that, by golly, they could, and when they asked the question, they could get a department car to go. So they arranged it and half a dozen of us jumped in the car and we went down to Indiana. We took a tape recorder along and we taped about half a dozen farmers and other operators -- their experiences in grain drying.
On the way back, one of the fellows said: “You know, it would be tremendous if we could just get that information published so we could make it useful to a bunch more people in Ontario.”
So the question was asked: “Can’t you get it published?”
“ No, you would not be able to get it published for two years.”
“Well, how’s that.”
“Because we have a committee system and they make the decisions.”
I said: “Don’t worry about that. Let’s go ahead and I’ll guarantee that you’ll get the thing published. I don’t know how, but I’ll guarantee that you’ll get the thing published. So, let’s work on it. Get the information together, write it up, put it into a format that’ll be useful for publication, and we’ll get it published.”
Well, we had the thing published in about three month’s time. No problem. We just had to think outside the lines. We had to bend the rules just a little bit, but not too far. It’s amazing what you can get permission to do when the thing is recognized as being important and useful, and more useful and more important than something else that’s already on the books. So this is the way we did it. We needed to persuade the powers that be that it was more important and more useful than something that was already on the books and the thing gets published within the system. It just shows that you got to take the initiative and push a bit.
B And people are often willing to go along with it. They’re often sitting there waiting for ideas.
Y Right on.
B This has been a wonderful interview and this is a good, positive place to close. This has been an interview with Dr. Stan Young, in Stan’s home in Guelph. Stan is a graduate of O.A.C. year ’49, and also of Cornell University. This interview was conducted by Ed Brubaker on May 12, 1997. Thank you very much, Stan.
Y You’re very welcome.