Ernest Miller – Perth Junior Farmer
From the Memoirs of J.R. Ernest Miller, Glen Tay, ON
My father spent many years documenting family genealogy and was using his third computer before he passed away in 1997 . The family managed to convince him to document some of his life story and the following is a chapter from his memoirs.
In 1939, a group of young men in their twenties being no longer eligible for 4H and having grown up together felt that they should have an organization where we could continue to advance our knowledge and maintain the fellowship we had shared in 4H, met and decided to form a Junior Farmers’ Club for Perth area young men. Our Agricultural Representative was very co-operative and contacted his superiors in Toronto for information. The result was the formation of the Perth Junior Farmers Club in September 1939.
In those days the stores in Perth stayed open until midnight on Saturday and the farming community used this as an opportunity to do their weekly shopping and visit. My mother used to take her surplus eggs to the Perth Egg Grading Station to be graded and sold to provide her with grocery money. My friends and I used Saturday evenings to meet and develop a constitution and a program for the formation and conduct of a Junior Farmer Club. At one time in the early 1940’s over one hundred farm youths belonged to our club. However, the call to fight for King and Country took many of them away with some never to return.
Promotion of War Bonds Project
One of our early projects was to purchase an eight-millimeter projector to show educational films at meetings and special events. Meetings to promote the sale of War Bonds to finance the Second World War became a primary project using our projector. We spent many evenings attending meetings promoting the purchase of bonds to help finance the war. Early bonds carried a three or four percent rate of interest.
In an effort to promote the Junior Farmer Organization, a picnic was organized at Malloch’s Landing on the Mississippi and an invitation extended to all rural youth to attend. A sports day was planned and as darkness descended a wiener roast and dance was held on the beach. Annual picnics and sports days became a permanent part of the Junior Farmer program.
Girls’ Club Organized
After several years of successful operation someone had the bright idea that there should be a similar club organized for our sisters. I, as the current President of the Boys’ Club, was given the task of meeting with a group of girls to explain the advantages of them forming a Girls’ Club similar to ours. It met with their approval and they formed a club using our constitution as a guideline. The two clubs met monthly on the same night and often jointly enjoyed evenings of entertainment. In fact, many found their future life partners as a result of joint activities.
This program was so successful that it was felt that it should be expanded to cover the entire county. The newly formed Lanark County Federation of Agriculture offered to arrange a meeting in Almonte town hall for this purpose. Now it seems that politics sooner or later become a factor in any movement. When the date of the meeting arrived, the Federation had invited a member of the U.F.Y.P.O., or their youth group to attend. We had organized with the help of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and wanted to be independent of any senior farm organization but were anxious to work with them while maintaining our independence.
As a result, the meeting was hectic with each side expressing their preference for the type of organization. Eventually sane heads prevailed and a vote of those attending the packed meeting decided to form two clubs using the Perth club’s constitution. One club was to be called Appleton the other Pakenham and each had a separate section for boys and girls.
United Farmers Young People Organization versus Federation of Agriculture Influence
Just previous to this meeting, I had been invited to chair a meeting of the U.F.Y.P.O. in Toronto. I was representing the Perth Junior Farmers on the Board of the Lanark County Federation of Agriculture. I did not realize at the time but this was a setup to woo us into becoming a junior affiliate of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and was orchestrated by R. A. Stewart, President of the Lanark Federation and the Ontario body. This was heady business for a young farm boy from Glen Tay. While I was chairing the Toronto meeting, members of other Junior Farmer Clubs in attendance at the meeting, had been conferring and realizing the strategy that was evolving, called a meeting of all Junior Farmers present to discuss setting up an independent Ontario Junior Farmer Organization that would work with the Federation at both Provincial and County level.
The crux of the situation was that the Federation had a provincial youth organization but little county membership while we had the local clubs but no provincial organization. A resolution was drafted and sent to Thomas Kennedy, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, requesting permission to form the Ontario Junior Farmer’s Association. Now the Honorable Minister upon the advice of his staff handed the matter to the Agricultural Commission of Inquiry which had been established as part of the war effort to eliminate any overlapping in farm services. They called the executive of the U.F.Y.P.O. and representatives of the local Junior Farmers to debate their case. I had the privilege of representing Eastern Ontario Junior Farmers at this meeting. The discussions were rather heated at times but when the meeting was over the Commission supported our request for our own Provincial Organization.
Delegates to Organizational Meeting for Junior Farmers Association of Ontario
A short time later Margaret Bell (Mrs. John Hunter) and I represented the Perth Junior Farmers at a meeting held on the third floor of the parliament buildings in Toronto. Steps were initiated to elect an executive committee charged with the responsibility of organizing an organization meeting at Guelph Ontario Agricultural College for all Junior Farmer Clubs in Ontario. I was elected to that executive as a representative for Eastern Ontario.
In due course the meeting was held. The members of the U.F.Y.P.O. attended and caused the meeting to be aborted as they claimed lack of notice to organize their membership. This made it necessary to call a second annual meeting at a later time to finalize the organization.
As a representative of the Perth Club, I had the opportunity of presenting a proposed program for the new organization. This was developed by the Perth executive and it has always been a great pleasure to see that all twenty-five proposed projects were undertaken by the provincial organization in the first decade of its existence.
Organization of Lanark County Junior Farmer Association
In 1944, with the help of the Perth Boys and Perth Girls clubs a meeting was set up to organize the Lanark County Junior Farmers Association uniting all clubs in the county and providing interclub competition in drama, public speaking, music and sports. As Eastern Ontario director I had the responsibility of chairing the organization meeting and acting as county chairman until the organization of the County Association was completed. Harry Mather was the first full term president elected for the county.
While all this was developing I had been attempting to persuade a certain member of the Girls’ club that I could not live without her. On June ninth 1945, we were married and started to set our own mark on Tayside Farm.
In March of 1946 the second annual meeting of the Ontario Junior Farmers was planned. My father suggested that my responsibilities to my wife and the farm out weighed my responsibilities to the Ontario Junior Farmers so I tendered my resignation to that organization and Allan Poole replaced me on the Provincial Board of directors.
I was later informed that if I had not resigned that there was a strong movement at the meeting to have nominated me as the third President. I have never regretted my decision as farm and family became a full time occupation.