Grant Ketcheson – 1971

I think I still hold the record of being the only scholar that had to win the award twice before going.  I had been preparing to head to the UK in Feb 1970.  Six weeks before the date, our dairy barn burned along with our entire milking herd.  Needless to say, I had to contact Nuffield Lodge and cancel.  Howard Cornwell went on very short notice in my place and the Nuffield Foundation said that if I wished to reapply they would probably look at my application with favor”.  So, one dairy barn and one new herd later, I went on Feb 28, 1971, along with the late Woody Lambe.  My wife had gone back to teaching to help keep the home fires burning (or at least partly pay for the fuel).  We had a 1 yr old and as I look back, Gayle was long-suffering and more than supportive, as were my parents. No one ever told me that I should just forget the whole Nuffield dream.

I was there from Feb 1971 until August of that year. I drove some 16,000 miles in a Ford Escort that the MMB kindly provided for my use.  I visited over 100 dairy farms, made friends that are still on our mailing list and count my time in the UK as one of the highlights of my life. I took some good advice and when I returned home took almost two weeks before returning to the rigours of dairy farming to complete my report and submit it to Nuffield Lodge. After my return, I did something over twenty speaking engagements that winter.  I think I spoke to almost all the annual meetings of farm organizations in East-Central Ontario!

When I returned to the farm in August ’71, we proceeded to continue the job of helping my father rebuild the business. I am proud to say that two years from the time of the fire, we had doubled the output of milk from our farm with the same labour force and the same acreage.

We subsequently had two more children (1973 and 1975) and I got head over heels into community organizations.  Local Fair board President, Board of Governors of Community College, local Co-op board, church board, Chamber of Commerce, acting as local fire chief, 4-H leader, etc….  The same sort of drill as most scholars have gone through in their communities.

In 1992 with all our children off to University and not on the farm, we sold the dairy herd and two years later the home farm.  I then became a director/adjuster with a local farm mutual insurance company. In late 1992, my wife’s widowed mother, who had been operating a family campground business on a lake near home, wanted to retire so we morphed into campground operators.  We expanded the small operation a bit and now still operate with a few cottages and 55 seasonal camp sites.  We move 6 miles south each spring, live on the lake until Thanksgiving and then move home for the winter, except for two months that we spend in South Carolina playing at golf.  I am still actively involved with the insurance business and act as secretary to the local lake association.  My advice to those approaching retirement age…don’t retire.., reinvent yourself.  There are lots of opportunities out there for recycled farmers!  Many of us old folks haven’t decided what we want to be when we grow up.

While the Nuffield program has changed immeasurably, it is most rewarding to see the enthusiasm, the spirit and the quality of scholars that we still send abroad. We still keep in touch with friends that we made in my travels throughout the UK. I sometimes think that if the program had been more widely advertised and we had the quality of candidates then that we have now, I would never have even been in the running.  While retired from farming and in other lines of business now, at 70 years of age I still count my term as a Nuffield Scholar as the most rewarding experience of my life and one of my proudest accomplishments. Almost up there with the fact that Gayle and I have been happily married for 47 years, have three fine kids, each with at least two university degrees, each with an outstanding spouse and we have four of the cutest grandkids in the world