Interviewed by Ruby Stevenson and Dorthea Calverley
INTERVIEWER: On this 24th day of April 1973, I have the privilege of introducing to you John R. Harrod, and I’m holding a certificate that says:
“The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association Incorporated. This is to certify that John R. Harrod had been elected a Robertson Associate Member of the Association in recognition of services to the Association and contribution to Canadian Agriculture. Date in Ottawa the 6th day of July, 1966.”
This beautiful certificate is signed by E.R. Irwin and Secretary, E. McLaughlin.
Jack, when did you first become interested in seed growing?
JACK HARROD: In 1947.
INTERVIEWER: Who was instrumental in getting you started and would you tell us about it?
JACK HARROD: The late George Goodman of South Dawson was the one who told me I should grow good grain. I started by buying good oats, and I had my first crop inspected in 1946. From then on I put in three years at registered crops, on probation until I was accepted as a foundation grower. After that, I was able to get better seed from the Department of Agriculture in small amounts and grow foundation crops. I followed up, selling my seed everywhere. Then my son took an interest in it and is now carrying out my work as I did it.
INTERVIEWER: Would you please tell us about 1946 the V46-Sport Timothy that you grew?
JACK HARROD: This Timothy was produced in France, and it was sent to Ontario seed cleaners and dealers. We produced it for them in a 20-acre field. It was returned to the Ontario dealers and they shipped it back to France. It was the only field in the whole world outside of France.
INTERVIEWER: Would you tell us about your contract growing and the companies you grew for?
JACK HARROD: Clover for Ontario Seed Growers for Norway, Sweden and Denmark and I do believe one lot came from Finland. It was all returned to Ontario Seed Dealers, and we had nothing to do with it after it was produced. It was an unlicensed variety, and could not be sold in Canada.
INTERVIEWER: Did your son, Bert, visit all of the places these grains came from on his world tour?
JACK HARROD: Yes, he visited all these places and the people who grew it first before it came to us.
INTERVIEWER: Did your seed growing have anything to do with your organizing Dawson Creek’s Winter Fair?
JACK HARROD: In a way. Don Leach of the Chamber of Commerce asked me what I could do to help the Dawson District and I said, “Let’s start a winter fair — a seed fair.” The one at Fort St. John seemed to be winding up, so some of us got together and started a show in Dawson Creek. It was very successful for two years.
INTERVIEWER: Will you tell us about your coming to the Peace River Block.
JACK HARROD: I came on November 11, 1925. I landed in Pouce Coupe and stayed for a short time — then to the main town, Rolla, and then to Rose Prairie and homesteaded, took on a Soldier (Settlement) Grant, canceled it out and never returned. Three years later I homesteaded at Progress, proved up, sold it and started farming in 1933 in the Dawson area.
INTERVIEWER: I understand you brought the first (power) shovel to Dawson Creek.
JACK HARROD: Yes, in 1930. We unloaded it on the 20th of May in Hythe and walked it all the way to the Cutbank at Neilson’s stopping place. [ “Walking” is traveling it on the road at three-quarters of a mile per hour.]
INTERVIEWER: What was your primary purpose? Was it for the Department of Public Works?
JACK HARROD: Yes. I worked for D.P.W. and built the hills at Coal Creek, Cut Bank and the Peace River Hill on both sides.
INTERVIEWER: Please tell us how you got through the “Dirty Thirties”. What sort of memories do you have of this time?
JACK HARROD: Well, Mrs. Stevenson, I would like to forget ‘em, but they can’t be forgotten — they were very tough years, when we grew wheat for twenty cents a bushel and oats for less — so cheap I can’t remember the price. Cattle were very cheap. I sold five cows in 1939, and got less than $100.
INTERVIEWER: I think that everybody suffered the same way, but personally I was very happy during that time. Were you?
JACK HARROD: Yes, we were very happy. We had lots of time to go everywhere and we had no car- – we just had horses but we were very happy.
INTERVIEWER: When did you first become interested in Shorthorn cattle, and what prizewinners did you have in this effort?
JACK HARROD: In 1947, I bought my first five heifers.
INTERVIEWER: I notice you have a whole wall covered with trophies and ribbons. Was this a hobby or something that you were basically interested in?
JACK HARROD: It was more than a hobby. I just don’t know how to explain it, but I never did anything purely as a hobby. I wanted to do it — and was well paid for it.
INTERVIEWER: And the very best it could be done! Your ribbons tell that story! Would you say you were extremely successful with your cattle?
JACK HARROD: Yes! I sold some very high-priced cattle. Some I didn’t get so much for on account of market conditions, but I don’t think I ever lost any money on them.
INTERVIEWER: Jack, did you buy calves for the local 4H at Kamloops?
JACK HARROD: No, I bought those in the Fort St. John area.
INTERVIEWER: You went to Kamloops for something.
JACK HARROD: That’s where we used to sell our bulls.
INTERVIEWER: I recollect that you took some cattle to the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.
JACK HARROD: I sent four heifers there with Mary and Bert as herdsman (his young son and daughter) and they all won Reserve Champion prizes in their class.
INTERVIEWER: I gather, then, those four animals won eight prizes.
JACK HARROD: That’s right.
INTERVIEWER: Was Bert a good showman?
JACK HARROD: Very good, he won several times for showmanship. But the time I like best to remember is the time he was showing Herb McGibben’s black bull at the P.N.E. when he (the bull) threw his halter. He had presence of mind just to flop on his (the bull’s) neck and pulled it back on. We saw all this on television.
INTERVIEWER: Jessie (Mrs. Harrod), did you go with the children?
MRS HARROD: No, I didn’t. We were too busy rogueing grain at that time.
INTERVIEWER: Please explain “rogueing”.
JACK HARROD: That is taking the off-plants out of registered crops. You have to rogue them several times a year. Not only off-plants but weeds and other plants that shouldn’t be there.
INTERVIEWER: You must pace those fields time after time after time watching for an odd plant.
JACK HARROD: This is true. We go through some plots five or six times a year, and besides, in some plots we throw away a lot of plants.
INTERVIEWER: Jessie was pretty good at that?
JACK HARROD: She and her sister were my mainstay in the early years. She also drove tractors. In the first years we were married she drove horses.
INTERVIEWER: Did it take a great deal of study to know which plants to rogue?
MRS HARROD: Oh, Jack can explain more about that than I can.
JACK HARROD: Yes, she had to do a lot of studying. She had to know the type, and what had to come out. They soon got the knack and knew what I wanted.
INTERVIEWER: I have a picture here dated 1953. There is a beautiful purple ribbon underneath the glass. It says “Grand Champion, Dawson Creek Association.” There is a picture of a fine looking steer, and behind it a broadly smiling boy. I’d say he was about twelve years of age. Now, if my memory serves me correctly, that was Grand Champion of the first agricultural fair that was held here.
JACK HARROD: That is correct. That steer was raised off a roan Shorthorn cow that I had. He was eleven months old to the day when he was shown in Dawson Creek. He weighed 900 pounds, and Dave Spittal bought him for 50 cents a pound and he held that record for many years.
INTERVIEWER: That was a good incentive for the boy to go on with his cattle raising and eventually take his cattle to the P.N.E. Would you say there is still that opportunity for young boys, or is that day gone?
JACK HARROD: No. They are doing this today in 4H. There are just as young children raising just as good cattle, and showing them.
INTERVIEWER: How did you get the boy interested or did he just grow into it through having a mother and father who were interested in perfection.
JACK HARROD: You just give a boy something and tell him it’s his to look after. If he knows he’s going to get that little green dollar, he’ll look after it.
INTERVIEWER: Doesn’t it take a little more than the green dollar?
JACK HARROD: Oh, yes. It needs a little instruction and a little supervising, but the green dollar means a lot!