When Harold Rudy joined the soil conservation movement, he says he got the job not because of his University of Guelph degrees in agriculture economics and business, or his background growing up on his family’s farm, but because of his burgeoning computer skills.
Being hired as part of a group of 20 soil conservation advisors in the 1980s, however, set the course of Rudy’s career, which was honoured as he was inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame this week in Guelph.
Farmers, industry and academics involved in conservation and soil health were in Guelph for the Soil Conservation Council of Canada’s Summit on Canadian Soil Health.
Rudy may have started his career because he could understand the DOS operating system and data entry, but he moved from OMAFRA to manage the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association in 1987 as it morphed into the agriculture services and funding provider it is today.
OSCIA now provides farmers funding for several government programs, especially the major federal-provincial programs like Growing Forward2 that is wrapping up before the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership comes into effect. OSCIA and Rudy were originators of the Environmental Farm Plan, a long-time Ontario program that has been adopted across the country, a program which provided incentives, but also brought farmers on board to invest in and adopt soil-friendly practices on their farms.
Rudy has turned the management of OSCIA over to Andrew Graham, but continues to be involved in the organization.
In his remarks at the induction ceremony, Rudy lauded the 11 regional coordinators of OSCIA, who work on the ground, with farmers and provincial extension staff to deliver information and programs.
“We must fiercely protect and support our unique grass roots system,” he says.
Rudy still lives on his family’s farm near New Hamburg, Ont. and is working on a book, called The Soil Fixers, which documents contributions to Ontario agriculture by members of the OSCIA.