History | Fruit Guru "Jim" Johnson | Back
A transcription of an article from the 5 Jan 1911 Simcoe Reformer

What "Jim" Johnson did to Norfolk
Revival of Fruit Growing and Marketing
(Toronto Globe)

To find a young pioneer in old Ontario would seem almost an impossibility in the year 1910. There are many of them, however, and one of the most prominent is Mr. James E. Johnson, of Simcoe, Ontario, better known amongst the farmers of Norfolk as "Jim" Johnson.

He, in his county, as a number of others like him in theirs, is the pioneer of a movement in Ontario which is gradually transforming the older sections of the Province into new fields of agriculture. Districts where were been abandoned for richer soil in the west are being redeemed under a form of tillage best suited to meet new economic conditions in Canada, and old Ontario is on her way to doubling, within a few years, the value of her natural products.

The hundred-acre farm can no longer compete with the quarter section of new, fertile prairie land. The older land must be used for dairying, horticulture, gardening, or for the raising of live stock.

In Norfolk county fruit-growing is the industry that has proved most successful in the past five years and the story of this half decade is linked inseparately with the name of "Jim" Johnson.

Story of his pioneering

Mr. Johnson was born and reared in Norfolk, and when a very young man went to Chicago, where he started a commission business, dealing abundantly in fruit. He travelled extensively in the States, became acquainted with the art of growing apples and how to market them, and then, because of poor health, returned to his native county to carry on a fruit trade there.

It was 1[2] years ago that Mr. Johnson took up his second abode in Norfolk, and for four years he endeavored to get the farmers around him to take proper care of their orchards. "I knew," said Mr. Johnson to the writer, "that this county was as fit for growing apples as any district in America." 

The only thing to do was to demonstrate the possibilities of a scientifically trained fruit farm, and in 1903 he purchased twelve acres near the town of Simcoe. There were some 300 trees on the land, which was not in the most desirable location, and previous to Mr. Johnson's ownership no more than seventy-five dollars' worth of apples had been taken from the orchard.

A co-operative society

It was from the cultivation of those 300 trees that Norfolk county was taught its lesson. In the first year the owner spent $100 in cultivating the soil, in pruning and spraying, and as a result he received over $1,200 for the first real harvest of apples. That was enough. In 1906 Mr. Johnson succeeded in organizing a co-operative society which undertook to market the fruit of its members. The initial membership of this association was only seventeen, and during the first season of its existence these seventeen farmers sold 4,000 barrels of No. 1 apples.

In 1907 there were fifty-two members, who sold 10,000 barrels; in 1908 the membership increased to 152, and the output for that year was 15,000 barrels, and in 1909 the list of members numbered 188 and 19,000 barrels were shipped that season.

Since last year, however, the expansion has been most marked. for 1910 the membership of the Norfolk Co-operative Society was 333, and during the past season 36,000 barrels of choice apples were sold, giving returns amounting to $103,484.46.

Besides this amount over $25,000 was received for "peckers" which went to the canning industry. All this money was in the bank at Simcoe at the end of "November, awaiting the farmers' demands for shipments of Norfolk fruit are made only on the basis of "f.o.b.  Simcoe."

Tribute to science

Such marvelous development in five years, due mainly to the efforts of one man, for he has been Secretary-Treasurer of the Norfolk Fruit Growers' Association since its inception, and has marketed its fruit every season, is a tribute both to scientific farming and to the system of co-operation in production and distribution.

[Balance of article not transcribed.]

"Jim" Johnson

More about "Jim"