Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Sixty years of farm excellence recognized

Essex County grower Sigmund Nickels

January 5, 2009  By Hugh McElhone


An award reception was held to honour Essex County grower Sigmund
Nickels for a lifetime devoted to not only farming but helping to
improve agriculture overall for his fellow growers in Southwestern
Ontario.

picture_6 
Keith Wright (left) with the Essex County Associated Growers’ Association presents local grower Sigmund Nickels (right) with the organization’s 2008 Award of Merit. Photo by Hugh McElhone


 

An award reception was held to honour Essex County grower Sigmund Nickels for a lifetime devoted to not only farming but helping to improve agriculture overall for his fellow growers in Southwestern Ontario.

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Nickels was presented with the Essex County Associated Growers’ Association 2008 Award of Merit during a gala event during the 58th annual Bounty of the County Convention and Trade Show, held in Leamington, Ont. Numerous letters of congratulations from members of federal and provincial parliament and agriculture ministries were presented, as well as a certificate presented by John Adams, mayor of Leamington.

Along with cash crop farming, Nickels has been growing numerous tree fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums for some 60 years. He is also a member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

As one of the founding directors of the Western Ontario Fruit Testing Association (WOFTA), the association has pursued new research in developing new nectarine, peach and pear varieties at the research station in Harrow. Under the direction of WOFTA, new varieties such as Harrow Diamond, Harrow Fair, Harcrest Peaches and Harrow Sweet Pears have been developed.

“This is certainly a big honour,” said Nickels, who thanked his wife of 47 years, his three children and four grandchildren for their support. “All of my family helps on the farm, which is why it’s been
successful.

“I remember when we arrived (in Canada) and we had nothing. Now we have a farm that everyone can enjoy,” Nickels reflected.

Nickels was born in the Warsaw Valley in the German Mennonite village of Kasun. He had a rough start in life. In the dying days of the Second World War, his family left their farm and fled the invading Russian army in the winter of 1944. By horse-drawn wagon, the family trudged through the snow to Germany, where they fought starvation for four years before arriving at the port of Quebec City.

From there, they made their way by train to Windsor, where they were hired by A. Grant Fox, who owned and operated a peach farm near the hamlet of Olinda.

As a young man, Nickels worked on the Fox farms in Normandale, Delhi and Port Burwell, as well as in the sale barns at Shakespeare.

In 1958, he purchased the Alvin Stockwell farm. In 1961, Nickels bought the adjacent Fox property in Olinda, along with the Shakespeare sale barns, which are known locally as the “Peach Plant.”

While farming both properties during the summer months, Nickels was also involved in the trucking and selling of retail produce at the Peach Plant. He also worked as a foreman at the Hodge Tobacco Factory in Kingsville during the fall and winter months until the factory was closed in 1972. ❦


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