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Soil conservationist, senator Herb Sparrow, 82

Funeral services will be held Friday (Sept. 14) in North Battleford, Sask. for a Prairie farmer who became one of Canada’s preeminent soil conservation advocates.

Herbert Sparrow, a North Battleford-area farmer and businessman who was appointed to Canada’s Senate in 1968 by then-Prime Minister Lester Pearson, died Sept. 6 at age 82, reportedly of complications following a stroke.

"True to his roots as a farmer and businessman, he made significant contributions to Canadian agriculture, particularly through his work in the Senate," interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae said Sept. 7. "A leading advocate of soil conservation, he became the first president of Soil Conservation Canada in 1987, after devoting much of his life’s work to raising awareness of the dangers of soil degradation."

"Few people have made a greater personal commitment in their life to maintaining the quality of Canadian soils and water than Senator Herb Sparrow," Don McCabe, current president of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada, said in March when Sparrow was inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame in Ottawa.

Sparrow served on a number of the Senate’s standing committees and chaired its agriculture committee (1980-84), spearheading a report on the state of Canada’s soils titled Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future which in turn led to the formation of the SCCC and the Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre.

"This highly influential report led to significant changes in farming practices in Canada and abroad, and serves as a model for sustainable agriculture," the Governor General’s office said in 2008, when Sparrow was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada.

The report also spawned the Save our Soils program, including grassing of waterways, seeding marginal and saline land to forages, and reduced tillage, according to the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 2000.

Sparrow, who retired from the Senate in 2005, was also known for his roles in projects battling hunger and poverty and helping persons with disabilities, founding a school for children with special needs and a successful school lunch program, the Governor General’s office said.

Sparrow, who before entering the Senate served as a city alderman in North Battleford, was also an honorary life member of the Agricultural Institute of Canada and an honorary member of the Soil Science Society of Canada. SCCC also noted Sparrow as a recipient of the United Nations Environment Program Leadership Medal, and of the L.B. Thompson Conservation Award from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Sparrow’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Don Ross Centre Auditorium at 891-99th St. in North Battleford. Donations in his memory may be made to the Battlefords Boys and Girls Club, the Lend-A-Paw Animal Rescue Heartstrings program, or the charity of one’s choice.

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