Remembering Jack Hagarty
By Website Administrator

Feb 22, 2024 | General


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Jack Hagarty examining crops.

John “Jack” Hagarty

John “Jack” James Hagarty peacefully passed away at Guelph General Hospital on Monday, February 5, 2024 in his 86th year.

Jack Hagarty
Jack Hagarty

A legacy of leadership, service and inspiration

serving others

Among his many contributions to communities, Jack is remembered for his inspiring leadership as director at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for which he served over 30 years, and as founding Executive Director of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP).

Founding Director of AALP

Established in 1984, AALP is an experiential executive leadership program for those wanting to help shape the future of the agriculture and food industry and make a positive difference in rural communities across Ontario. As the first executive director of the AALP program, Jack’s leadership and guidance marked the beginning of an incredible journey for over 500 AALP alumni today who serve their communities and lead the future of agriculture. His early direction of the AALP program set the stage as a premier agricultural leadership program just as relevant 40 years later as it was in its inception.

“True leaders exhibit commitment, passion, and conviction for their fields of work.”

They also inspire others and are inspired through others. This was Jack to a ‘T’.  For me, I think of him when I read the last lines of the poem “I Went on A Search to Become a Leader”. It reads…

I lead best when I forget about myself as leader and focus on my group, their needs, and their goals. To lead is to serve, to give, to achieve TOGETHER.”

This, in my mind was the essence of Jack Hagarty. Thank you for inspiring me, Jack!

Hon. Rob Black
Senator (Ontario)

I lost a friend recently

“Years ago, Jack Hagarty was my Branch Director, early in my career with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I remember buying a ‘package’ at a Branch staff conference once, for the opportunity to spend the ‘day with the Director’. We set the day and I arrived in Guelph to see and experience ‘what a director does’. Jack ensured I got a taste of it from a variety of perspectives. We travelled to a couple of outside meetings. I got to use his ‘car phone’! We met with head office staff, and I learned about things that I didn’t know about as a staff member of the Rural Organizations and Services Branch. It was a good day, and I came away with a new and better understanding of who Jack Hagarty was, what he did and how he did it.”

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Hon. Rob Black

Senator (Ontario)

“We knew he was not well. His death should not have come as a shock. But still, his passing caught us off guard and leaves a void in our hearts.”

In the early 1980s Jack was seconded from his position in OMAF to travel across the U.S. learning about the most successful of their agricultural leadership programs. Back home in Guelph he and Doug Pletsch put together a curriculum to meet the needs of leaders in Ontario agriculture. In 1984 the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP) was announced and recruiting for the first class began. Class One of this innovative new program ran from 1985 to 1987 with Jack as Executive Director and Doug as Curriculum Coordinator.

Part way through Class One Jack had an opportunity to return to a new position in OMAF. He would remain as Executive Director until the completion of Class One, but he needed an assistant. That’s where I came in. Then, at the beginning of Class Two, I was appointed Executive Director. Doug remained as Curriculum Coordinator.

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Pat Mighton

Ontario Agriculture Hall of Fame Inductee

Early History of AALP

AALP was modelled on the sucesses of many international rural and agricultural leadership programs funded by the Kellogg Foundation in the United States. In the early 1980’s the Kellogg Foundation expressed interests to expand thier impact to other countries, a move that inspired leading founders of AALP to conceptualize a program at home in Ontario.

Years of AALP

Jack launched the 1st AALP North American Study Tour

A board of directors emerged alongside AALP founding partners Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), University of Guelph (U of G), Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and Foundation for Rural Living (FRL), with Jack seconded from OMAF to serve as the first executive director of the program.

…And so began the first AALP North American Study Tour in the Fall of 1984 with Jack visiting agricultural/rural leadership programs across the USA to gather insight, best practices and shared successes. A tradition that continues today with both North American and International Study Tours woven into the leadership journey that is AALP.

Honouring Jack

Colleagues, family and friends share their stories and memories of Jack.

“Jack gave his passion, skills and his great personality to improve the leadership lives and abilities of many future leaders in our agri-food industry. He will be greatly missed but what he has left behind will be his legacy.”

Hon. Lyle Vanclief

“Jack Hagarty knew how to get things done. With his long successful career with OMAFRA, and his passion for improved adult educational opportunities for farmers and those who are connected to ag, Jack new what to do and who to talk to, in order to get action started. He was pivotal in building a solid foundation, and for the early success of the AALP program.”

Peter Hannam

“Jack Hagerty was a quintessential public servant. His career, and life, were given to serving others. As a dedicated civil servant, Jack progressed from a field crop advisor to a leadership development expert. Jack was the textbook definition of a servant leader – never seeking the limelight, he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to advance ideas and programs. This was most evident in his role with the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, where he focused his full attention on developing the leadership skills of others for the betterment of the agriculture and food industry. Jack was a kind man. He was a good man. He will be remembered well by all of us whose lives he touched.”

Kenneth (Ken) Knox
Member of the Order of Canada

“Jack’s unassuming and visionary leadership style helped direct OMAFRA towards a new direction – one I remember was not always appreciated by other agricultural colleagues. But his quiet persistence and ability to surround himself with other good leaders set the stage for a period of strong leadership development in rural Ontario. This included the establishment of AALP and the foundations for ROI. He was a great influence in my life and many others.”

Ann Gordon, AALP Class 2 Graduate and AALP Executive Director (1997-2003)

“As a colleague and then Director of Rural Organizations & Services Branch, he provided guidance and leadership in a quiet yet definite style, with moments of humour. We were able to transform our programs to focus on leadership and organization development for youth and adults across Ontario. His contributions with others to create the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program are part of his legacy. His star will shine brightly for many people.”

Lorraine Holding

Do you have a memory to share? 

Please email us and we will post your tribute to this page. 

Jack’s influence spanned the globe serving from Guelph to Ghana, where he and his family lived during a 3-year assignment with the University of Ghana in West Africa. Throughout his life Jack travelled the world, visiting over 40 countries and enjoying time with family.

A memorial service for Jack was held on Monday February 19th, 2024 at the Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home – Hart Chapel in Guelph. A funeral mass was held at the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate on Tuesday February 20th, 2024.

Preliminary Findings

Diversity in Key Actors: Collaboration among private sector, local governments, provincial government, and federal government enhances solutions to labour shortages.

  • Titan Trailers: Cultural support boosts newcomer retention and local economy.
  • Dufferin County: Educational-local partnerships impact labour needs.
  • Western Ontario Wardens Caucus: Regional collaboration aids in overcoming labour challenges.
  • Rural Northern Immigration Pilot Programs and Upskill Canada: Innovative approaches to labour and economic growth through permanent residency facilitation and short-cycle training programs, respectively.

Next Steps

Over the next year research will continue to understand how rural workforce development initiatives are assisting rural communities and rural economies. Upcoming research activities will include continue analysis of innovative case studies, create innovative work force case studies, create online map of innovative work force case studies, conduct knowledge mobilization of findings, and conduct in-depth case studies to enhance the understanding and transferability of 2-3 innovative rural labour shortage strategies.

Blog Authors

Paul Sitsofe

Paul Sitsofe

Paul Sitsofe is a dedicated professional with a diverse background in social and community service, academic education, and practical experience. He is currently a Master of Planning, Rural Planning and Development student at the University of Guelph, where he is currently a graduate student research assistant, focusing on rural demographic shifts and innovative workforce development strategies.

Ryan Gibson

Ryan Gibson

Ryan is the Libro Professor in Regional Economic Development at the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph. This chair position was created through an endowment by Libro Credit Union and two University of Guelph donors.

Ryan also serves as the President of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network and a board member of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation. 

Niju Mathews

Niju Mathews

Niju earned his Masters of science in rural planning and development at University of Guelph. As part of the Addressing Labour Shortages Through Newcomer Attraction Project Team, Niji has contributed to research and examination of current labour shortages being experienced in rural Ontario with an aim to identify potential solutions in the form of policy and practice.

For More Information

Please visit or contact:

Paul Sitsofe –

Niju Mathew –

Ryan Gibson –

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