“Farming is not just a job, it is a way of life.”
John loved life on the farm. From a young age, he knew he was going to be a farmer and enjoyed helping his parents around the farm. Over the years, this passion only grew, as he immersed his children, and then his grandchildren in this lifestyle. These countless memories and stories will now live on in the storytelling of his family and friends for generations to come. Just as the family farm has!
John Martin was born at home, on the family farm, on Lot 6, Concession 5 of Sullivan Township on April 24, 1937. He was the eldest child of Russel and Violet “May” (McNabb) Farrow and was soon joined by younger siblings Gary, Glenn, and Mary Lu. John was the 3rd generation to live and work on the family farm. He attended the Beatty School nearby, before moving onto high school at OSCVI in Owen Sound.
From a young age, it wasn’t hard to tell that John was drawn to life on the farm. In fact, he was born to farm. One of his first big personal achievements occurred in 1955 as a member of the local 4-H Club, when John won Grand Champion Steer at the Royal Winter Fair. However, he was encouraged to go out and explore the world and headed “Down Country” with a group of local lads to get some life experience. He lived it up but also learned many valuable life lessons along the way that he eventually took back to the farm. He began by working at an asphalt plant at Nelson Crushed Stone in Mount Nemo. Then later trained as a welder. It was during this time that he purchased his first car as well, a 1953 Ford Convertible. In 1956, while attending a local dance in Waterdown, John was introduced to a young woman by the name of Eleanor Margaret Powell. Truth be told, John wasn’t a big dancer, but he didn’t fail to impress that evening and the young couple soon began dating. Their courtship continued until August 5, 1961 when John and Eleanor were married at St. George’s Anglican Church in Lowville. In the years spanning 1958 – 1963. John enjoyed building and racing stock cars at the CNE with his friend Roger Schultz. However, though he spent several years away from the farm it kept drawing him back and it was soon decided that he and Eleanor would return to the family farm.
They purchased the family farm in 1964. John soon created a partnership with his father and brother, whereby they established Farrow Farms. They quickly moved away from mixed farming and soon began finishing beef cattle. At one point they operated three feedlots with 1,500 head of cattle. No small accomplishment. The Farrow family soon began to grow with the arrival of Robert in 1967, Michael (1970), and Karin (1973). Sadly, John experienced a setback in 1972 when the barn burnt, however, he was quick to reposition, rebuild, and establish a drainage business partnership with his family. By 1985, the family corporation split into two parts, one focused on farming and the other drainage. John spent the spring, summer, and fall working on the farm, with the winter months often devoted to drainage and machinery repairs.
John loved working with his hands. When not busy on the farm or with the drainage business he was always building something. He never liked throwing anything away, and therefore usually had a lot of material at his disposal. In fact, he built his own front-end loader from scratch, no simple feat. Most evenings John returned to the shop after dinner or once the kids were in bed and continued to work away at a variety of projects.
It was not all work and no play for John though. He enjoyed curling in Desboro and snowmobiling in the winter months with family and friends. He also kept busy by running the kids to a variety of sports over the years. In 1974, he and Eleanor purchased a cottage at Williams Lake. It was here that his children and later grandchildren were able to experience many fun adventures with John, along with playing on and with many of his toys. There are countless stories of boat, seadoo, snowmobile, mini-bike, and 4-wheeling adventures with dad and grandpa throughout the years. In 1989, Eleanor and John purchased a condo in Redington Beach, Florida. However, I am told the limitations of condo life were not for John and they soon purchased the “Florida Cottage” in nearby Redington Shores in the early 1990’s. Each year John and Eleanor headed south for a few months in the winter, always returning for Christmas and Easter. Many times, their neighbours, the children, their spouses, and the grandchildren would come down for a holiday and a visit, whereby countless memories were made. During his time in Florida, John also enjoyed attending a variety of bluegrass festivals. However, by the beginning of April, he was calling home regularly to get weather updates, as by this time he was anxious to get home!
In 2000, the drainage company was dissolved and John took over the corporation and the farm operation. Mike soon joined him, beginning the 4th generation on the family farm. John and Eleanor then moved off the home farm, and settled a couple of miles to the northwest on one of their pasture farms in Derby Township. John came home to sleep and eat, but the remainder of the time was usually found working, building or fixing something at the farm. In his younger years, John enjoyed working with the cattle. However, as he aged he found that he was in his element driving tractor. He was very particular about his machinery too. He was a Case man, so everything was red, and he took great pride in caring for and maintaining his farm machinery.
John was a kind, fair, and calm man who had a great sense of humour. He loved all his family fully, especially the grandkids. They all knew if mom, dad, or maybe even Grandma said “NO” ask Grandpa! All his grandchildren were very special to him and he took them on a variety of memorable adventures. There were the excursions to pick apples, whereby Grandpa often let them ride in the back of the truck, and the times that John let them drive the boat. Who could forget the boat trips to Shell Island, shelling, water skiing, and even McDonalds (yes, you read that right) in Florida. In 1993 he bought a 1990 Chrysler Convertible (his Florida ride) and enjoyed giving the kids rides when they were down for visits. Back at home, most visits to the farm meant a trip outside with the kids to explore. Back inside, Grandpa was known for his fried Bologna and sharing his ice cream and gum (but only half a stick) with his grandchildren. He and Eleanor enjoyed traveling the countryside to take in all of the grandkids sporting events whenever they could. Thankfully, these memories and many more will allow John’s memory and life to live on for years to come.
In May of 2015, John suffered a massive heart attack that would forever change his life. Unfortunately, this setback forced him to step back from farming and Mike took over the Farrow Farms operation. But as the saying goes, “You can take the man off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the man!” and John was no exception. Although limited physically, he continued to pass on his knowledge, expertise, and experiences to those around him. In February of 2019 he experienced another setback that required emergency surgery in Florida. He came home by air ambulance to Wiarton Airport and was transferred to Chesley Hospital. Sadly his physical body began to fail him. The constant love and support of Eleanor, his family and friends allowed him to remain at home, and together they made the most of each day. John died at home, on the farm, surrounded by his loving family, on Monday, December 21, 2020 at the age of 83.
Beloved husband of Eleanor (Powell). Loving father of Rob of Vancouver, Mike (Lisa) of R.R. #3 Chatsworth, and Karin (Mike) McLeod of R.R. #1 Paisley. He will live on in the hearts, minds, and stories of his grandchildren, Alisha, Renee, and Brooke Farrow, Conor, Evan, Rowan, and Quinn McLeod. Brother of Gary, Glenn, and Mary Lu (Al) Albright. John will also be fondly remembered by the entire Farrow and Powell families. He was predeceased by his parents Russel and Violet “May” (McNabb) Farrow.
John took his final tractor ride from the family farm to his final resting place at Keward Cemetery where a service honouring John’s life was held on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. Inurnment followed.
Memorial donations to the Chesley Hospital Foundation or the charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.