By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Hard work and a willingness to diversify are the keys to Bob and Diane Devolder’s success.
Their persistence in growing their business, Devolder Farms, has led to the company being recognized as Agriculture Innovator of the Year.
The Dover Centre area couple received the award at the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce’s 77th annual Rural Urban Awards celebration in Chatham Nov. 22.
The couple, married for 44 years, started out on Bob’s family farm with Bob being the third generation to work the land. Diane, whose maiden name is Martin, also comes from a Dover area farm family that made a name for itself growing corn.
The duo started out in the 1980s raising livestock, tobacco and cash crops. They saw a need for seed cleaning and established a small seed cleaning plant, establishing Devolder Farms in 1988.
Decades later, the operation has many facets. The company has a busy seed processing facility, offers grain storage and drying; provides agronomic advice; offers liquid fertilizer options; build, sells and services Sukup grain bins; custom farms some 1,150 acres; and retrofits older planters, tractors and sprayers with precision planting equipment.
In order to do so, the Devolders have had to fight the naysayers and embrace technology.
In 1996, the business was the first in Canada to introduce Roundup Ready soybeans, something Bob said wasn’t popular at the time.
“There were people that were skeptical about it,” Bob acknowledged.
They pressed on and today Devolder Farms is a pedigreed seed dealer for DeKalb Seeds for soybeans, owned by Bayer Crop Science Canada, and C&M Seeds for wheat.
The company employs 35 people, including some who fill a niche with their specialized technology skills, Diane said.
It looks like Devolder Farms will be staying in the family. Two of the couple’s three daughters and their husbands work on the farm making it a true family affair.
“It makes us feel good knowing we can keep it going,” Bob noted.
Diane said Devolder Farms’ success can be attributed to the fact that all of the operations fit together.
“It’s been fulfilling,” she explained. “It all ties together. Everything we do.”
The pair also credits their staff for the company’s achievements.
“Certainly, we have a lot of great employees to make all this happen,” she said.
Neither said they ever dreamed they’d be where they are at today, with their business being recognized by the chamber.
“When you work a lifetime in agriculture, it feels pretty good,” Bob said.
Three other awards were also given out at the ceremony. Ridgetown’s Hanna Reid was named Youth Agriculturist of the Year; Jim Campbell of Blenheim received the Agriculturist of the Year award, and Anne Verhallen of Thamesville was named Friend of Agriculture.