At the annual general meeting on the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia held at Riverview Room, Jenkins Hall, NSAC in Bible Hill on January 23, 2010, Dale McIsaac of Amherst, Cumberland County was inducted into the Nova Scotia Maple Hall of Fame.
Dale grew up on a potato and beef farm in Florenceville, New Brunswick in the Saint John River valley. The oldest of the four children of Bill and Lois McIsaac, Dale spent his youth working on the farm or playing sports. In particular he excelled at basketball, soccer and track and field.
After high school Dale headed for NSAC and enrolled in the degree program, majoring in plant science, Dale spent three years in Truro, as much of it in the gym as in the classroom. At that time, the degree program was 5 years, and the final 2 had to be completed out of province. With many of his “swampie” friends, Dale moved to MacDonald College on the west island of Montreal. Perhaps it was a prediction of things to come as Dale and two buddies from NSAC lived in an apartment on Maple Avenue in St Anne de Bellevue.
One Saturday night in the fall of his graduation year, a friend came to
Dale’s door, looking for a ride home for a member of the John Abbot College basketball team the friend was coaching. The player needing a ride was Susan Priebe. And thus began the chain of events that brought Dale to Nova Scotia and his work with the maple producers of Nova Scotia.
After graduation Dale returned to New Brunswick and started work as a production extension specialist in the potato industry. One of the perks of that position was annual trips to Florida in the winter to monitor the seed potato trials. The next year Susan enrolled at NSAC. While visiting Susan, Dale stopped in to see Gordon Kinsman of the Horticulture and Biology Branch of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing. There wasn’t anything available in Dale’s specialty areas, potatoes and plant pathology. Walter Humphries, the Maple Specialist, was going back to Ontario and Mr. Kinsman suggested that if Dale was interested in learning about a new industry there was a job for him in Truro. Dale and Sue married in April 1977 and Dale started as Maple Extension Specialist with the Department of Agriculture in May.
Maple was an entirely new commodity for Dale and the only people who knew much about it were the producers so Dale spent the early years on the road and in the woods, walking, talking, listening and learning. There aren’t too many maple operations in Nova Scotia that Dale has not visited and very few Maple Festival dinners he has not enjoyed first hand. And, although a Nova Scotia maple woods in January are not quite as warm as the seed potato fields in Homestead, Florida were, given a choice, Dale would be in the woods! In the almost 33 years since Dale started working with the Nova Scotia Industry, it has grown from less than 70,000 taps and a farm gate value of about $75,000 to consistently over 350,00 taps with a farm gate value of over $1,250,000.
Dale stayed with the Department of Agriculture, eventually becoming a senior specialist for the maple and blueberry industries. Shortly after the birth of their first son (Ben), Dale’s office was transferred from Truro to Nappan in Cumberland and the family moved to Amherst in 1981. Their second son, Zac, was born in 1983. Both boys can be seen in old brochures promoting the Maple Festivals!
Dale’s office was transferred back to Truro in 1995, but Dale and Sue were settled in Amherst and chose not to move. Dale instead made the long daily commute through the Wentworth Valley, and after it was built, through the Cobequid Pass. In 1999, the province decided it
would no longer offer extension services to producers and eliminated the extension branch. Dale moved on to industry, working for a blueberry processor in PEI, and then joining AgraPoint in Truro. Dale is now semi-retired, and continues to provide extension to the maple and blueberry industries as an associate of AgraPoint. He also does volunteer administration work for MPANS and is currently treasurer.
Members of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia are very pleased to induct Dale McIsaac into the Nova Scotia Maple Industry Hall of Fame.