Brian Bell announces retirement as local agricultural development advisor

Brian Bell, local agriculture representative with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, retired earlier this week after 30 years with the ministry, and 21 years on Manitoulin Island.

GORE BAY – Spending his whole career working in the agricultural sector has offered a working life that Brian Bell has certainly enjoyed.

“My whole career has been spent working with those in the agricultural sector. Absolutely, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” stated Mr. Bell, the local agriculture development advisor, who earlier this week officially retired after 30 years with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “The work has been varied and very much related to the agricultural development in the region.”

“I’ve dealt with people in primary agriculture, food processors, developing sectors like poultry, and I’ve seen some great developments in the aquaculture sector over the years,” said Mr. Bell.

Mr. Bell is originally from New Liskeard and officially retired as of June 11. “I first spent eight years in the agri-supply business, feed, seed and other crop inputs in Northern and central Ontario (with OMAFRA),” he pointed out, noting he started his career in Sault Ste. Marie.

“For the past 21 years I’ve been working on the Island (as agriculture development advisor for OMAFRA). It’s hard to believe it’s been that long; the years have gone by fast,” said Mr. Bell.

“We have wonderful, very good, dedicated producers in the region who are resilient, having come through things like BSE (commonly referred to as mad cow disease) over the years,” stated Mr. Bell. “I am very humbled to have been able to work with such dedicated producers and I’ve seen a growing interest from communities in food, food security and the whole local food initiative.”

“I can also say I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. There has been interest in Northern Ontario properties and our region from the Anabaptist community, and interest from people wanting to invest in cropping in the North and expanding their beef herds. And I’ve seen adaptations in technology, from processor crop planning to robotic milkers.” And, he said, “very meaningful to the development of the agriculture sector has been the partnerships that have been developed with Northern Development and Mines, the Northern Heritage Fund, FedNor and the local CFDC (Community Future Development Corporations) like Lambac and Waubetek.”

“Every day has been different and I will miss the members of the community I’ve worked with over the years, but I hope our paths will cross in the future,” said Mr. Bell. “I have been very pleased and humbled to work in this community and wish everyone who I’ve met over the years my best. In this job you definitely get to know families, people, communities and learn more about agriculture.”

Mr. Bell noted, “I can proudly say myself and six of my other colleagues were the last agricultural reps in Ontario, until they (OMAFRA) changed our job titles to agriculture development advisor.”

He said he and his wife Mary will remain living in the community of Gore Bay. As for retirement, “we have some projects planned and we hope to travel a bit, and to pursue some of our hobbies.”