February Spotlight: Extraordinary Tree Planter – Bob Dobson  1962 Grad

In the 1950s when Bob Dobson was a boy, the Ministry of Agriculture was encouraging farmers to cut down trees to increase the efficient use of lands. At that time, Bob remembers walking down a shady, cool lane to fetch the cows at milking time. It was so much cooler than the surrounding open fields. On hot summer days it was a pleasant task to walk in the shade of the trees.

After graduating from Kemptville Agricultural college in 1962, Bob lived in Toronto for a few years. Maybe trees, grass and shade were in the back of his mind when he bought the family farm in 1967. Since that time, Bob has planted over 40,000 trees. He remembers his first purchase of trees when he bought three thousand trees for $30.00 – one cent a tree!

Very early he noticed the water quality in the streams on the farm where he had planted tree buffers was much cleaner. This has lead to more squirrels, birds, muskrats and the odd beaver. Bob’s sense of humour is very evident when he mentions,“ The squirrels are helping with the planting now since oak trees are now appearing where he didn’t plant them!”

Bob’s stewardship efforts have been widely recognized. In 1995 he won the first Environmental Stewardship Award from the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. The award recognized outstanding projects on the Dobson farm that enhance and protect waterways, create bird and wildlife habitat and provide shade and protection for both cattle and grassland. In 1996, Bob was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in the Ontario Institute of Agrologists and he was inducted into the Renfrew County Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003. Over the years, Bob has provided hundreds of tours to farmers, students, agrology professors and others interested in learning about his innovative environmental stewardship initiatives. Delegations from as far away as China, Korea and Mexico have visited the farm to learn and be inspired.

Taking care of the land and enhancing biodiversity have been long-term goals on the Dobson farm. Bob believes we must be good stewards of the land in order for our way of life to be sustainable well into the future. He strongly feels that human health is directly related to the environmental health of the farms that feed us.

As well as taking care of the land, Bob values his friendship with his 1962 fellow grads. Each year they get together at a yearly reunion. The picture above shows the grads who were able to attend in 2022. Fifty-one years of planting trees and sixty-one years of keeping friendships with fellow grads shows us that Bob is certainly a grad that is proud to foster sustainable ecosystems and friendships!