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Assiniboine to present Ron Helwer with honorary diploma

Assiniboine to present Ron Helwer with honorary diploma

Written On: 25 May, 2018
Category: Awards North Hill Campus Victoria Avenue East Campus

Assiniboine Community College will be presenting Brandon agricultural entrepreneur Ron Helwer with an honorary diploma in Agribusiness at the college’s upcoming graduation ceremony in Brandon on June 14, 2018.


Mr. Helwer and his family have owned and operated Shur-Gro Farm Services since 1968. They purchased Munro Farm Supplies in 1990 and a majority stake in South East Seeds in 2017. Mr. Helwer is president of all three companies.

“Ron Helwer has been in business for more than 50 years, providing an important service to the farming community and hundreds of high-skilled jobs, many of them filled by Assiniboine grads. We are delighted that Mr. Helwer has agreed to accept this honour,” said Assiniboine President Mark Frison.

“I’m very honoured and pleased to be nominated. Assiniboine Community College has been very important to us for sourcing excellent employees. We have many employees who have been through their agribusiness courses,” said Mr. Helwer.

Shur-Gro offers financial help to employees who wish to further their education and provides scholarships at Assiniboine.

At 85 years of age, Mr. Helwer shows no signs of slowing down. He can’t wait to get to the office every morning.

“Friends say, ‘You should be retired.’ I say, ‘Well, what’s retirement?’ They say, ‘Doing what you want to do.’ I say, ‘That’s what I’m doing.’ I enjoy what I’m doing and the people I work with.”

His wife Vera and their three adult children, Sherry, Reg and Gail, all share in the ownership of the businesses, but are not actively involved.

Ron Helwer started Shur-Gro in 1968 when farmers were decreasing their use of fertilizer because of low farm prices, causing some fertilizer dealers to look for an opportunity to sell out.

“Why would I want in when things were going downhill? Well, my philosophy has always been to look forward with optimism. And it turned out well, because I could pick up those businesses for a reasonable cost,” Mr. Helwer recalled.

A large Russian grain order in 1973 drove up grain prices and fertilizer usage increased. Other dealers entered the market. But a credit crunch in the early 1980s left some of them strapped for cash and open to acquisition.

“We picked up some dealerships at that time. There was an opportunity to grow again. You could call it good luck or good management or good timing. The timing had to be right for some of those things to happen,” he said. “There are always survivors. We were one of them.”

Mr. Helwer’s advice to Assiniboine grads is never to rest on one’s laurels.

“It would be nice if you could get to a level in business where you say, ‘I’m going to stay at that level.’ But that doesn’t happen in business. My theory is, if we’re not going ahead, we’re going back. So we need to progress. We need to be forward-thinking and looking for opportunities,” he said.

In 1978, Mr. Helwer played a key role in establishing the Western Fertilizer and Chemical Dealers Association and served as its President from 1979 to 1980. He also served with the National Fertilizer Solution Association in the U.S. from 1977 to 1991. Mr. Helwer has been a long-time supporter and advocate of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers (CAAR). He received the Chairman’s Award in 1981 and Retailer Hall of Fame Award in 2007, and Shur-Gro was recognized with the Chairman’s Award in 2012. Mr. Helwer was inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2014.

Assiniboine awards honorary diplomas to those who demonstrate excellence in their personal and professional accomplishments. A list of recipients is included below.

Mr. Helwer will address Assiniboine graduates from the Victoria Avenue East and North Hill campuses at the graduation ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m., Thursday, June 14, 2018 at the Keystone Centre’s main arena in Brandon.