- With the passing of 4-H Pioneer Bert Stewart, we revisit our interview with him that appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Cowsmopolitan Dairy Magazine.
As the Royal Winter Fair celebrated it’s 95th year, we sat down with industry legend Bertram “Bert” Stewart, who has been influential in the success of the Ontario 4-H dairy program, 4-H Classic Show and dairy judging program.
Bertram grew up in the Bolton, ON, area, and was the 7th child of Ernie and Jennie Stewart. The family had a mixed farm of Percheron horses and Ayrshire cattle. Being the fifth son, Bertram was exposed to lots of help and knowledge and soon learned to be very competitive. He became a member of the Bolton Calf Club and Grain Club and later was a member of the Swine and Sheep clubs. These clubs eventually called themselves 4-H Clubs. He also played softball competitively.
In 1955, he was married to Hazel and they raised four children: Paul, Lynne, Donna and Kelly. Today, he enjoys spending time with his seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, several of which are involved in 4-H.
Q: What is your greatest memory of the Royal?
The Royal has always been a big part of my life. My greatest memory was winning the 1951 Intercounty Judging Competition for Peel County. This award allowed me to attend the Ontario Agriculture College (OAC) with the Morrow Scholarship. Secondly, preparing and leading 16 Grand Champion cows & bulls! And most recently, the Royal presenting me with the Honorary Life Governor recognition.
Q: As an avid showman, you’ve led a record 16 Grand Champions (including numerous bulls) at the Royal Winter Fair. Who are some of the favorite animals you’ve worked with?
As a young student, I took off from OAC to help farms like Spring Farm, Romandale and in later years Oak Ridges, Frank Tedesco, Doug Wingrove, Argo Bros., and several others as time permitted.
Some of the most memorable champions: Sonwill Reflection Bee (EX), truly a great cow to work with. We showed Bee 25 times and she won 21 times. Another great was Duncan Belle, twice Grand Champion at the Royal. She is one of the great breeding cows of the Jersey breed. Thank you to Lorne Ella, my neighbor, for allowing me to be a part of her story!
Several more champions:
- Oak Ridges Royal Linda (EX)
- Barivue Pabst Lana (EX)
- Quality BC Frantisco (EX-96)
- Some of the Grand Champion bulls that I led or assisted with:
- Briarwood Chieftain
- Zeldenrust Fond Memory
- Spring Hedge Phoenix
- Spring Farm Astronomer
- Nipponia Need Furry
Q: How did the idea for the Inter-Club 4-H Dairy Judging Competition come about?
When I was a young 4-Her, we had the opportunity to compete as a 2-man team in dairy-grain-swine, etc. I liked the idea and got it started from there! I was asked by Holstein Canada to raise funds for our annual meeting, but I wanted to make sure the money was directed to a specific purpose. The 25 years of coaching were exciting and many of the team members have gone on to do great things as judges or successful dairymen or industry leaders.
Q: You were also influential in starting what is now known as the TD 4-H Dairy Classic. How was that event established?
We had a good committee involved, and four are still involved today. We wanted to have a show to compete against the Queen’s Guineas 4-H competition for 4-H beef club members. The first three years were at Hays Farms, then two years at Markham Fairgrounds. My brother, Andy Stewart, was the manager of the Royal and said he would get us a sponsor if we moved it to the Royal. Scotia Bank then sponsored it for 23 years and now TD Bank, Holstein Canada and Semex are sponsors. Thank you to all the committee members for making it be a great 4-H show!
Q: When and why did you establish the Bertram & Hazel Stewart Award?
The Bertram & Hazel Stewart Award was established to encourage 4-Hers ages 12-13-14 to stay in 4-H and I think we are winning.
Q: You have been a mentor to Ontario youth for decades. Are there any individuals that you looked up to as a young man and that helped influence your future?
When I was a young 4-Her, I was blessed to have assistant ag reps in each county. They were 4th year OAC students and assisted the 4-H club leaders and some were leaders themselves. They also helped coach us. I always thought I owed that to the youth and I proud to have served and mentored so many 4-Hers over the years.
Q: How special is it for you to see your grandchildren involved in the 4-H programs that you helped establish and make successful?
All of my children and grandchildren have competed successfully at the Royal. This has been very special to me and their parents. We couldn’t be prouder of their achievements!
Q: What advice would you give young people today to help them excel in the dairy industry?
Don’t be afraid to take advice from somebody that you respect and look up to. Good advice from various people along the way has helped me in many different ways.
“Bertram Stewart is extremely passionate about all aspects of 4-H. His dream of
offering all 4-H dairy kids especially our senior members an arena to compete in at the highest level of competition resulted in the creation of the TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic and the Ontario Inter-County 4-H Judging Competiton. Both of these events
have benefited enormously from Bert’s passion and guidance. Giving back to our
future generations of agricultural leaders is further emphasized by
his generous sponsorship of the “Bertram & Hazel Stewart” Award.
Truly, 4-H is in his blood …… can we ever thank him enough?” Murray Reissner.