A nod to making fresh ideas a reality

Time to think is often a luxury, but without it, where do big ideas come from?

A former publisher of mine used to get big ideas during half-day hikes along railway lines. Sometimes, he'd invite senior staff to join him. He did most of the talking, but at least staffers had time to think about the direction he was headed — literally and figuratively.

A nod to thinking about big ideas in agriculture was unveiled last week as a tribute to the late Ginty Jocius, at Canada's Outdoor Farm Show near Woodstock. Jocius, who passed away in January at 63, started the show 15 years ago.

The tribute is what's being called a Think Pad, a Ducks Unlimited-sponsored platform that overlooks the waterfall built at the show in his memory, and a Thinking Bench, created by Rockwood sculptor Andreas Drenters.

A pamphlet about the tribute invites visitors to "have a seat, listen to the water, admire the view and think about turning fresh ideas into reality."

Jocius was a big thinker. He had a knack for turning ideas into reality.

He was one of Canada's first agricultural communications professionals, drawing on his CBC Radio background to bridge journalism and public relations. He was way ahead of the curve when the dot.com revolution hit. And he always seemed tuned into farmers' needs, or desires.

The farm show illustrates how his radar worked.

The agricultural sector had long said it wanted a Canadian show on a permanent site. Exhibitors such as seed companies wanted to show potential customers a mature crop, rather than showing them a bag of seed and photos of the resulting crop. Others simply wanted a steady show-site address where farmers knew they could find them every year.

So, Jocius got together with the University of Guelph, from which he graduated in 1970, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, for whose minister he once worked in communications, and established a show in the Woodstock area. After a launch at the Shur-Gain research farm in Burford, the event settled on the province's former crop research site on the edge of town.

The show grew to the point where it now attracts some 30,000 visitors over three days.

Some of those visitors are Ontario Agricultural College students from Guelph's four campuses — Alfred, Guelph, Kemptville and Ridgetown — young people who are destined to be tomorrow's agricultural sector leaders.

Jocius knew how much students gained by getting out of the classroom and engaging in professional development, so often he'd offset costs they'd incur to attend the Outdoor Farm Show or professional development opportunities elsewhere, such as marketing courses, field trips, seminars, trade shows and competitions.

For some students, there's no question it made a difference in their ability to participate.

Recognizing his support of students, a travel scholarship called the Ginty Jocius Journey of Growth Fund was started in the spring at the University Guelph. It's a complement to a general fund the university set up to help students in need, and it's already raised more than $50,000.

Now, a new drive is underway in conjunction with the Outdoor Farm Show to double that sum, and endow it.

Guelph agri-marketer Len Kahn, who knew Jocius well, says the program fits the individual it honours.

"Ginty always took a special interest in supporting young people's aspirations, whether they were university students or those of us just starting our careers," Kahn says. "The communications travel fund is another way of continuing this outstanding legacy."

The agri-food community misses Jocius, his wise counsel and generous encouragement, and all the knowledge he graciously shared.

Hopefully the fund set up in his name will open the doors for new, big thinkers, and inspire them to turn their ideas into reality, like he did.

About The Author

Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Headshot of Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts is a faculty member in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications program at the University of Illinois. As an agricultural journalist, he is the past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and a lifetime achievement award recipient from the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation. His programs and research papers have been recognized nationally and internationally through awards from the Journal of Applied Communications, the National Agri-Marketing Association, the Association for Communications Excellence, and others.