Arthur G. Bennett
Year of birth: 1924
Inducted in 2013
Nominated by: Junior Farmers Association of Ontario
Specialty: Government, Organizations
Art Bennett’s lasting legacy in rural Ontario was centered in two areas: in leadership training and development, and in farm management training.
He began his career as assistant/associate Agricultural Representative in Waterloo, Halton and Peel Counties. He was promoted to Supervisor of Junior Extension, becoming Secretary/Treasurer of the Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario, and for eight years he ran the Provincial Junior Farmers’ Leadership Camp, held in Geneva Park each September. In 1966, he was made Director of Extension for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.
Throughout this leadership training component of his career, Art developed the leadership skills of hundreds of Junior Farmers, and this Youth Extension Team became the Ministry’s “Leadership Training Specialists”. These young people would then return to their rural communities and organizations to pass on their new leadership skills. Among the Junior Farmer Campers trained by Art were Lyle Vanclief, Noble Villeneuve and Murray Gaunt.
As Supervisor of Junior Extension, Art also encouraged the growth of the numbers of volunteer 4-H leaders, and established training programs for them, as well as providing effective teaching materials to facilitate their jobs. As a result, the 4-H Agricultural Club Program in Ontario expanded significantly. Art promoted Agricultural Engineers as Provincial Specialists in specific subject areas and ensured their skill levels were compensated fairly. Art Bennett recognized the valuable work being done by the secretaries in each of the 54 District Agricultural Extension Offices and so he changed their titles to Office Managers, increased their active involvement in the development of Extension programs and policies, and adequately rewarded them for their roles in maintaining effective, efficient extension offices. Art was also responsible for recruiting the first female Assistant Agricultural Representatives, and for appointing the first female Agricultural Representatives.
As the Director of Extension, Art made important recommendations to a report commissioned by Everett Biggs, Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the mid 1960’s, called the “Challenge of Abundance”. This report was meant to review the future of agriculture in Ontario and to examine the future roles and programs in Farm Management which would be needed by Ontario farmers. Art Bennett recommended that Farm Management should remain a priority program for the Extension Branch of the Ministry and should include financial management, farm business management, and farm family business agreements such as partnerships and corporations. Subsequent to the Report, Art played a key role in ensuring that Ag Reps received specialized training in these areas and that farm financial management short courses and farm family business agreement mentoring were organized for Ontario farmers in every district. He was the mentor to the staff as these programs were established, as well as the liaison with the Ministry and he made sure the resources existed to do the training well.
In 1997, Ontario closed all 54 Extension Offices and eliminated Agricultural Extension throughout Ontario. However, farmers continued to recognize the need for farm management expertise and training in a sector constantly challenged by new technologies, opportunities and competition. Recently, the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI) was established under Growing Forward, and this will go some way to help maintain Art Bennett’s important legacy in Farm Management Extension.
The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame welcomes Mr. Art Bennett.