By David Willberg/Estevan Mercury
Agriculture has been a big part of Clarence Hookenson’s life since he was a baby.
He loves to farm, and agriculture has created opportunities for him that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.
Now the 98-year-old Kisbey resident is going to be inducted into the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made earlier this month.
Hookenson grew up on the family farm near Kisbey, and has farmed on that parcel of land his entire life. They had horses at one time, and Hookenson was skilled with the animals.
He was starting to farm on his own when he joined the Canadian Army for the Second World War. When he returned from the war in 1945, he started farming again.
“It was a mixed farm. We had cattle and grain,” Hookenson told Lifestyles. “At one time I had 400 cows, and we farmed about 4,000 acres, but eventually we cut the cow herd down.”
He still has around 25 pure-bread cattle in different locations. Most of the farm was sold in 2004 after his son had a heart attack, but Hookenson still has around 700 acres.
“I just love farming. I love the outdoors,” said Hookenson, who experiences a lot of freedom when he’s out on the farm.
After the war, the family started using tractors, and the first combine he purchased was a Massey Ferguson for $2,813. The price of fuel back then was $0.18 per gallon, not per litre, he points out.
In the 1960s, Hookeson started showing cattle at the Toronto Royal Winter Fair, including singles, groups of five and groups of 12. He won numerous awards at the event.
The Hookenson farm competed at the Royal cattle show in Toronto many times, starting in the 1960s.
Hookenson paid tribute to those who were on his crew at the Royal for the success he enjoyed.
“A lot of them were just guys who came to the farm and wanted a trip to the Royal,” said Hookenson. “Some of them went just the one year, but most of them went several years.”
And he became active in public life. In the 1950s, he became a councillor for the Rural Municipality of Brock, and became reeve in 1962.
“I spent 49 years in elected public office,” said Hookenson. “I was a member of the Saskatchewan Federation of Agriculture and the Saskatchewan Municipal Hail Board for 27 years. I spent 11 years on the board of directors of the Veterinary College at Saskatoon (at the University of Saskatchewan). I was elected in 1978 as a (Canadian) Wheat Board advisor, and then elected again in 1982, and in 1986 I retired from that.”
He has been to meetings in every province, except Newfound-Labrador, and attended a World Agricultural Conference in Finlnd in 1979 and Norway in 1990. He was also part of a trade mission to Japan in 1990.
“We were fortunate over there, the hotel where we were staying in was advertising that the bread and buns came from No. 1 Canadian wheat, and then on the other table, all their salad dressings came from Canadian canola. About six years before that, I sold 25 pure-bread … heifers, and they went to Japan, so we had a chance to go on the mountainsides and have a look at their cattle.”
Hookenson said he is excited to be going into the Agriculture Hall of Fame. He was a founding member of the hall’s board, as it was secretary manager Gary Carlson who thought of starting a hall to recognize pioneers who came to the country in the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s.
“They didn’t have anything to work with then,” said Hookenson. “So the first group that was honoured was mostly from the 1800s.”
Five or six farmers have been inducted each year since then. Hookenson knows many of those who have gone into the hall of fame already, and he believes he nominated six or seven of them.
And there are a lot of farmers, particularly the old-time farmers, who he believes would be worthy of the recognition.
Jack Wilson, a long-time friend of Hookenson’s, was the one who nominated Hookenson for the hall. In the nomination, he pointed out Hookenson’s many avenues of service, ranging from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan to his work as a member of the rural municipality council.
“I remember Clarence achieved as reeve to allow all the ratepayers a voice in decision-making,” Wilson wrote in his nomination. “He started the first ratepayers’ supper in the area.”
He also pointed out that Hookenson worked with the forest industry at Indian Head, which allowed many farmers to get trees from there to start a lot of yard sites in the area.
Hookenson always kept up with the latest technology and equipment, and went all over the area to raise funds to build a community rink.
Even at the age of 98, Wilson pointed out that Hookenson volunteers his time and machinery to cut grass around his community.
“He works hard at keeping the area growing with good ideas to motivate people to move into the area,” said Wilson.
And Hookenson was always taking many young and aspiring cattlemen under his wing to teach them showmanship skills, and even took some of them to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair. Wilson was among those who attended the fair. “These young adults saw what a world class show was like and went on to showing their own cattle. Many of them have careers in the cattle industry.”
Hookenson also judged all breeds of cattle, bull sales, and market cattle across Western Canada, at 4H achievement days and at the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina. He became an accomplished judge and evaluator of cattle.
“Clarence is an honest fair individual,” wrote Wilson. “He will always listen to both sides of the story.”
The SAHF held its first induction ceremony in 1972. Each year, the organization formally An induction ceremony will happen April 27 in Saskatoon.