John M. Smith – 2016 Robertson Associate Award Recipient
In 1978, John Smith graduated from the tiny high school in Pilot Mound, Manitoba. He would spend the rest of his life living within a handful of miles from Pilot Mound; beginning with a mixed grain and cattle farm, and moving to mostly growing seed on the family farm (est. 1879). He married his wife Sheila in 1984, and four children soon followed.
He began growing seed in the early 1990s and found it challenging and interesting. Most of all he appreciated the people that he met in the seed industry. He learned a great deal from his mentors – who patiently helped him along the way. His friendship with Wally Smith, of Smith Seeds in Crystal City, grew his understanding and love for the seed industry far beyond what he expected. His commitment to respect, friendship and honesty were the foundation of his business and emerged out of his own character.
John started Seed Depot in 2001, a seed distribution company, which provided him with continued business opportunities, personal growth and many excellent friendships that he built within the seed industry. Conlon barley became almost an instant success and provides to this day one of the most successful barley varieties in Manitoba history.
John was passionate about bringing the best varieties to Canadian farmers. Souris oats, Cardale wheat, and Faller wheat are all examples of excellent varieties that came to Canadian farmers through John’s vision. The epitome of John’s vision and hard work was seen in the introduction of the CWIW wheat class and later the CNHR wheat class in Canada, allowing Canadian farmers to grow profitable varieties and make them available to new markets.
John was a person who believed that success resulted from hard work, good character, good friends and attention to detail. On that note we, his family, wish to acknowledge all of those people who worked alongside Dad in some capacity, whether it was friendship, mentorship, business relationships or as a customer. He often mentioned that his favourite part of the seed business was all the excellent people that he could meet. He lived this out, taking the time to spend hours on the phone with people all over Canada and making sure that the seed they planted in their fields was the best fit for their farm.
In September 2015, John succumbed to an aggressive form of brain cancer. He is survived by his wife Sheila, and his children Ryan (Adrienne), Walter (Terri), Julia (Dave) and Reilly and grandchildren. He was blessed to be able to leave Seed Depot and the family farm in the capable hands of his son Walter and son-in-law Dave.