The Hobby that fed Millions

By Willa Wick in Community, Food, People

Partially hidden from view in rural West-Grey is one of the largest private antique tractor and equipment collections in Ontario, yet until a few years ago not many had ever seen it.
John and Eunice Bosomworth started farming in 1966 with a John Deere AR and later with a JD 520.
Their second property, a 100 acre pasture farm, had an old bank barn set well back from the road. On it they erected a couple of sheds, and in 1996 sold the home farm, built a new house, and moved.
A lazy Sunday afternoon drive and an old-fashioned drop-in on friends introduced a hobby that would take the couple from Alberta to Nova Scotia. As they began the visit there was no idea they would be shown a few old John Deere tractors. The seed was planted and it ballooned.
The initial concept was just to acquire a few old tractors and restore them. The attraction was to the John Deere 2-cylinder (the putt putt) tractors. Eunice encouraged this sideline because most farmers don’t take time for a hobby or an outlet for relaxation from their daily long hard work. Evening was a good time for John to “play” with his restorations.
Collector journals and farming magazines were very informative and provided an opportunity to check out classified ads from across the country as well as insert requests for specific items. With truck and trailer the couple toured many parts of Canada following leads.
The shed walls were bare… so the collection expanded… service station gas and oil signs, large coke signs, stop signs – anything big and beautiful. Shelves were added for an assortment of weigh scales and cash registers. Multiple cream separators sit on the floor while stationary gas engines are on wheeled carts for portability. Lofts were added for century old McLaughlin carriages, horse drawn sleighs, one furrow plows, and other oddities such as one tine hay forks. His appetite was insatiable – but he was having fun. John Bosomworth thoroughly enjoyed preserving history.
Then came the desire to have a team of horses! As a kid he had driven and worked with his dad’s horses but there was no idea what type would be preferred now.
One day after searching out an old JD tractor John came home empty-handed, but he had found the breed of horse he wanted. That was the first time he had ever seen a Fjord horse. (fee-your-d)
At that point there were very few Norwegian Fjords in Ontario so much research was required.
Studying magazines and horse journals produced ads describing Fjords and eventually the couple travelled to Sundridge to acquire stock from Peter Kurtze. The pair consisted of a yearling filly and a two-year-old gelding – just a team, no thought given to future expansion.
Later Kurtze phoned to say he had a pair of 3 ½ year-old mares for sale. While picking up the horses the Bosomworths decided that if they were going to have mares they might as well start raising foals, so they also came home with a yearling Fjord stud from another blood line.
Peter Kurtze was a German/English translator and all his horses had difficult names to pronounce, so the original pair was dubbed Pete and Deb after their former owners. The stallion pronunciation sounded like turbo to them – so Turbo he became.
Two little fillies were the first born on the farm in 1997 and Bess (in foal) is still there. Another stallion was purchased….and things blossomed. They raised and sold many over the years both in Canada and the U.S. Eunice became very fond of the horses and enjoyed working and playing with the new “babies”.
Fjords are an incredible breed. They’re strong but they’re gentle; very sociable and obedient. They make a good ‘first’ horse and are friendly. Some refer to them as the little horse with the big heart. Norwegian Fjords are an outside horse. The Bosomworth’s house them in an open barn which is more natural than being in box stalls. Even this spring when the weather was cold a mare delivered her foal way out on the hill rather than under cover.
The babies are white blond and curly while the mature horse is a beautiful golden with a light and dark striped mane. Usually the mane is trimmed short to stand upright. It’s dark in the middle with lighter hair on each side. Some groomers cut the lighter hair a half inch shorter than the stand-up dark middle strip. A shadow marking continues down the length of the centre back to the mixed colored tail.
Winter was when the young horses were trained. Line driving was not John’s way. His theory was “why should I walk when I could be riding?” A 1½ year old is harnessed and hitched with an older trained horse to a bob sleigh. After the juvenile ones have each done this 4 or 5 times, two young Fjords are put together and then driven as a team. For cutter training a single Fjord is hitched with a person walking beside it the first time or two for a little guidance.
John’s father farmed with an International Farmall M. John decided to veer away from JD’s and acquire a tractor like his dad’s. He found one all painted up, and eventually managed to restore five different Farmall models. Now there’s red among the green and yellow. In 1998 he found his father’s original McCormick Deering 1020 – sunk in the ground up to the front axle. It too was hauled home, restored, and then put back on steel.
Very little was purchased at auctions. Word of mouth is the best guide plus subscriptions to distant newspapers. Oddly enough, it was an Ontario ad, seen by a man from New Brunswick, which took the Bosomworths east.
A son relocating to Calgary was the catalyst for trucking a half dozen classic vehicles home from the west. John put ads in the western papers indicating the year and model he wanted. People are more receptive to selling when they know it’s for a “private museum” or collection.
From travelling with the truck and trailer to check out, sell, and buy horses or tractors the Bosomworths met many fine people both in Canada and the U.S. Many cross-border Fjord horse sales were made just by emails and pictures.
Then heartbreak struck.
At different times both John and his sister-in-law Mary Lou Holliday were diagnosed with cancer.
Mary Lou had worked tirelessly for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects which included potatoes and sweet corn for farm gate sales. She was a strong and enthusiastic advocate for the CFGB.
John and Mary Lou were flying to Nova Scotia to seek alternative treatment for cancer when she had a fantastic idea – that John could host an open house/antique extravaganza to showcase his collections and horses. There could be food booths – and all proceeds would go to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. This had never been tried before, and as John put it, “In a moment of weakness I said yes”.
The organizers from area churches, five different denominations, met where most farmers do – around the kitchen table. No one knew what to expect. How closely can you plan for an unknown quantity?
On that perfect July Saturday in 2006 the unknown swelled to 1400 attendees. $13,000 was raised for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. People were very respectful of private property and nothing but a wayward napkin, caught by the wind, littered the ground.
The committee aimed for a repeat in 2009 but unfortunately Mary Lou was no longer here to witness its success. That year about the same number attended and the proceeds increased to $21,000.
John died in August 2012. His four children want to hold the Extravaganza one last time as a memorial and tribute to their dad.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Foodgrains Program. Head Office is in Winnipeg. The Ontario coordinators, David and Kathryn Mayberry, are organizing an Anniversary Service and Supper on Sunday August 4th extending the Extravaganza to a two-day event. Since its’ founding in 1983 the CFGB has become one of the leading food assistance organizations, providing aid to millions of people in 36 countries.
There’s a challenge for the 30th anniversary called “30 for 30” ($30 a month, 30 acres, 30 tons etc.). Charitable receipts will be issued for donations and all goes to the Foodgrains Bank. This is one of the main celebrations for Ontario, and the Extravaganza Committee has set a goal of $30,000 to go with the 30 for 30 challenge. Money is matched 4:1 by the Canadian International Development Agency.
Plan to attend the Antique Extravaganza and Fjord Horse fundraiser and family outing on Saturday, August 3rd (10a.m. – 5 p.m.) or Sunday August 4th (noon till 5 p.m.) at 102081 Conc. 6 West Grey
(R.R. 2, Ayton). This may be your last chance to view the amazing Bosomworth collections.
Websites for information and directions: www.antiqueextravaganza.com or www.foodgrainsbank.ca

 

Several of the Bosomworth Fjord horses

Several of the Bosomworth Fjord horses

Eunice Bosomworth  stands with a friendly pair of Fjords

Eunice Bosomworth stands with a friendly pair of Fjords

Partly restored Seven Window 1950 Chev Truck

Partly restored Seven Window 1950 Chev Truck

His father's restored McCormick-Deering back on steel

His father’s restored McCormick-Deering back on steel

a shelf of old fashioned cash registers

a shelf of old fashioned cash registers

Eunice Bosomworth stands beside a JD Hi-Crop

Eunice Bosomworth stands beside a JD Hi-Crop

Tractors are lined up on both sides of the sheds and service station signs adorn the walls

Tractors are lined up on both sides of the sheds and service station signs adorn the walls