Ritz among five named to ag hall of fame

A former federal agriculture minister is one of five new inductees in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Gerry Ritz, who served in the portfolio from 2007-15, joins Ted Bilyea, Peter Dhillon, Wilf Keller and Larry Martin.

During his time as agriculture minister, Ritz ended the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly, worked on expanding market access and dealt with such challenges as BSE and country-of-origin labelling in the United States.

Bilyea is recognized for his 34 years with Maple Leaf Foods and his work as a consultant. He is credited with helping establish Canadian pork as a preferred protein in Japan and orchestrating the first shipment of Ontario food grade soybeans to Japan.

Dhillon, a farmer, philanthropist and businessperson, has played a major role in Canada’s growing cranberry industry from his early years in the bog beside his parents. He owns the largest cranberry farm in Canada and is one of the largest shareholders of the 700 grower-owned Ocean Spray co-operative.  

Keller has spent his 45-year career in agricultural research as an industry champion for the use of biotechnology to genetically modify crops. The plant scientist helped bring together diverse organizations to establish the Protein Industries Canada Supercluster.  Keller worked with Agriculture Canada, the National Research Council and Genome Prairie and is now president of Ag-West Bio Inc.  

Martin, an agricultural economist, spent 18 years at the University of Guelph, including four years as chair of the department of agricultural economics and business, and was the founding executive director and later chief executive officer of the George Morris Centre, a think-tank for the farm and food sector. He was the principal architect of CTEAM, a long-standing business management course for farmers.

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