Ferdinand Larose

Ottawa and Countryside

A graduate of the Institut agricole d’Oka in 1918, Larose was recruited to become the first French-speaking agronomist hired by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, to serve the farmers in the counties of Prescott and Russell. With the opening of an agriculture office in Plantagenet in 1919, the French-speaking farmers of Prescott and Russell had finally access to technical support in agronomy. While taking an inventory of the lands in the region, Larose found that soil erosion due to logging and forest fires had turned a vast area into a desert of sand known as the “Bourget Desert”. The erosion of those lands had caused a major landslide near Lemieux in 1920. In order to address the situation, he suggested reforestation in the Bourget, Casselman and Limoges area, as well as transplanting new timber stands in order to protect the arable land in the region. His efforts bore fruit and, in 1928, the regional and government authorities agreed to manage this forest and plant 6,000 pines.

Today, with 18 million trees planted over nearly 11 000 hectares, it is the largest man-made forest in Canada. Mostly known as the initiator of the restoration of the forest that bears his name, Ferdinand Larose also played a prominent role in the development of new crops such as hops, flax and red clover in order to get through the difficult time of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. He promoted the development of the dairy industry by replacing the dairy herds with purebred Holstein, Aryshire and Jersey cattle, which today have become the symbol of excellence of the dairy farms in Prescott and Russell. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the participation of rural schools and a few leaders, he set up agricultural clubs for young girls and boys. Through these clubs, he shared new knowledge with future farmers, teaching the importance of using new seeds and higher-quality products in order to enhance yields.

In 1932, he founded the Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association, and in 1934, the Association des laboureurs des comtés de Prescott et de Russell. In 1943, thanks to sharing his passion with farmers’ young sons, 19 youths attended the Institut agricole d’Oka. A tireless worker, generous with his time, he often provided agricultural advice on Sundays after the mass. During World War II, all the farmers turned to him to demonstrate that their sons were essential farm workers and thus be exempted from military service. Imagine the kind of pressure! This agronomist of outstanding merit provided the community with a beautiful forest of red and white pine offering many recreational opportunities and a remarkable environment for the region’s wildlife and flora. Few men leave such a long-lasting, immortalizing legacy, such as the one he left to the community.