Jerome Bechard has been called the father of the air seeder, but that is only one of his many accomplishments.
Bechard’s parents came to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1905 and Jerome was born in the Lajord area in 1911. He farmed with a bachelor brother until the brother died at the age of 33. His other brothers were a doctor and a priest.
“He was always figuring something out. He had no formal mechanical education, he was all self taught,” said Come Bechard, one of Jerome’s sons.
“He made his own snow machine, with skis on the front and a big propeller on the back. It was wooden and enclosed.”
Come said that while his father was a farmer all his life, growing crops was not his greatest pleasure.
“He didn’t care what the crop looked like. He just wanted to do something different. He’d work all winter in the shop, then pull the pieces out of the shop in the spring, hook them together and hopefully everything would work,” Come said.
“All his neighbours, who were his first cousins, thought he was crazy. But that air seeder, they did admit it was a keeper. The idea came a bit from Europe. He was sent information with some kind of an idea, then he just developed it.”
The Bechards farmed southeast of Regina.
“We’re in heavy, wet, gumboish land. When it was so wet with the discers, he would prework with the cultivator. He could cultivate, so he thought, ‘why do I cultivate, why don’t I seed?’ So he put discer boxes on top of his 40 foot cultivator. That’s what the idea was. He was doing the work to dry up the land. Why not seed?,” Come said.
“People around here said, ‘you can’t seed with a cultivator.’ Now everybody is seeding with cultivators.”
The idea of moving from gravity boxes to air delivery came in part from the European information.
“We made our own air seeders and seeded with them, but we were experimenting with them. We made a lot of mistakes. They weren’t pressurized or anything.”
Early names in the business that Bechard worked with included Prasco, Fibro and Aerovator.
“They all went broke, but Frank Bourgault came by, they worked together and that’s how it started. They gave us royalties for 14 years.”
Along with pioneering the air seeder, Bechard also patented a unique windmill with large scoops that he used to generate electricity for many years. He also built a unique home on the flat Regina plains.
“He’d wake up in the old 13 room home with snow on his blanket. He said to my mom in 1960, ‘I’ll build something that nothing will go though.’ So it’s all cement Ð a D7 Cat can run over it. He put dirt over and across it, with the front and the back open,” Come said.
“It’s cool in the summer, but in the wintertime, you’re warm because you’re covered with dirt. My oldest son is living in that house now.”
Come said Jerome’s farm was a popular stop for dignitaries.
“We had the Russian agriculture minister stay in our house overnight. The premier of Saskatchewan was here many times. There was always action here.”
The Bechard family has farmed in Saskatchewan for generations. Jerome and Germaine had three sons and a daughter. One son died at 55, two other sons – Come and Clem – farm in the area and the daughter lives in Regina.
Clem and Come also have three sons farming with them.
Come said Jerome seeded until he was 75, when he had a stroke. He didn’t farm for his last five years and died in 1991 at the age of 80.
Bechard is a member of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame.