A local man has been honoured for his work and dedication in the department of agriculture.
The Canadian Seed Grower’s Association awarded Doug Stirling the Honorary Life Award Recipient of 2021.
Nearing 50 years of experience, Stirling still keeps busy and often finds himself doing inspections.
Stirling’s journey in agriculture began in 1973 when he began working for the Department of Agriculture as a summer student sampling seed, fertilizer, and crop inspection of hybrid corn, winter wheat, oats, barley, and more than 1,000 acres of birdsfoot trefoil.
It should be no surprise that Stirling chose a career in seeds and agriculture. Doug’s grandfather and father hold a 35-year certificates as seed growers. They had grown hybrid corn for the Dekalb seed company Chatham in the late forties and early fifties and were seed growers of wheat and white beans.
After graduating from the University of Guelph OAC 76, Stirling obtained an inspector/officer position with Agriculture Canada in Chatham. He held the position for 34 years and 354 days.
“I was inspector, plus, I did auditing, I did accreditation when the private inspectors came in, I gave the exams, and I did the training,” he said.
Through that time, Stirling said, much has changed in the industry. He highlighted the hybrid seed corn industry, growing to more than 43,000 acres.
Throughout the years, as technology began to advance, new procedures were developed for the advent of Genetically Modified crops or biotech inspections for both seed and safety protocols.
Stirling said that even when the economy struggled, the export of seed corn and soybeans grew. In fact, he said it grew to the equivalent of one million units using the international OECD blue tag. This seed was sampled and inspected by the Chatham staff. Stirling was the only officer left for the last ten years during this period.
Since 1973, he has worked for Agriculture Canada, Agri and Agrifood Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and now the Private Inspection Agency Quality Seeds.
Stirling said a lot has changed over the years.
“As far as the seed production side of it, it grew, grew, grew. Currently, there are fewer companies, and the acreage is down significantly. In 2008, with the economy’s downturn, just the Chatham office exported over a million units of seed corn and soybeans with export tags on them. There’s none of that being done now. It was a $100 million business leaving the Tri-County area,” he said.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News