Robert William Ball
1929 – 2008
Robert Ball was born in Dearborn, Michigan. Bob went to school in Detroit and Florida. After he graduated from high school, he moved to his uncle’s farm near Straffordville. A few years later he bought his own farm. In October 1956, Bob married Elizabeth Simmons from Tillsonburg. They had two children, Bonnie and Bill.
Due to French language requirements in Canada, Bob was restricted from pursuing the higher education he desired. He was self-taught through extensive attendance at meetings and conferences, reading books and research publications. He also conducted on-farm trials that tested fertility, plant varieties, pest control and management practices. He managed several farms, including feedlot beef, and cow/calf operations.
Robert began marketing fertilizer in the 1950’s and worked with the Delhi Research Station and Dr. Ray Lockman, helping tobacco growers increase yields. In the early 1970’s, he purchased a state-of-the art blender and introduced bulk fertilizer blending to the region. With this system, growers could tailor their fertilizer purchases to crop and soil requirements, increasing nutrient use efficiency. In the mid 1970’s, he mentored dealers across Ontario and Quebec on how to set up and operate blenders as it became the way of the industry. He also introduced custom application and anhydrous ammonia. Many areas of the province have yet to catch up on the efficient and environmentally friendly practices of banding phosphates and side dressing nitrogen that he introduced and were adopted many years ago in Elgin County. He was a strong proponent of soil testing to determine crop needs and was constantly conducting trials and hosting field days and meetings to educate others. He also introduced aerial infra-red photography to pin-point and help diagnose crop problems and ammonia injection of corn silage to improve feed value.
Fertilizer Institute of Ontario (TFIO)
– Long time member,
– Chair of Insurance Committee,
– Instrumental in obtaining insurance coverage for fertilizer dealers of Ontario,
– Awarded Honorary Member in 1994
Director of Eastern Canada Certified Crop Care Association
Director of the National Certified Crop Care Association
President of Ball Farm Services Limited 1970 – 2007
Director of Agrico Canada Ltd. and contributed to the company becoming 100% Canadian owned.
Donated to Food Grains Bank – seed, fertilizer and loads of grain
Supporter and donor to Straffordville United Church
Supporter and donor to Aylmer Community Centre
Supporter and donor to Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital
Supporter and donor to Parkinson’s Society of Ontario
Co-sponsored a graduate student scholarship and major sponsor of “The Science of Life and Art of Living” campaign for the University of Guelph.
Lead tenor in Barber Shop quartet for 25 years.
Robert was an active outdoorsman and conservationist, involved in hunting, fishing and woodlot management.
He was an accomplished musician – sang at weddings, played piano, trumpet, guitar and= mouth organ.
Robert was nominated for the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame by R. L. Whitelaw of Agrico Canada in 2008.
Robert’s life greatly influenced his children. Bill is still on the farm, tripling its size and has been part of the Ball Farm Services since it began. Bonnie studied soil sciences, has her Ph.D. from the University of Saskatchewan, and now works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).