Canada’s “asparagus baron” passes at 93

I never called him gramps, or grandpa.

It was always Homer.

Homer Curless McMann. You don’t see names like that anymore.

Amy and I are in Alliston, Ontario, today for the funeral of my 93-year-old grandfather, Homer.

Homer spent the winter in Florida for as long as I can remember. And when I was a kid, my family would vacation there in the summer. On one of our last family vacations, 14-year-old me — feeling fairly hot cause I’d just had my braces removed — made friends with a girl who was also vacationing with her family. Since all I could think or talk about was this girl, my parents had the outstanding sense to go out with my younger sister and leave me along at Homer’s trailer with the girl.

As I made out with the girl, I thought, this is a truly wonderful grandparent.

Courtlynn, you won’t remember this, but when you were 6 days old, in 1995, we all drove to Florida and got to stay at a swanky place on the beach in Naples. Homer and Gladys drove down for dinner, and as we watched the sun set over the Gulf, we all felt blessed and thankful.

Homer loved his six grandkids and 17 great-grandkids.

Homer had the gift of the gab. He had to; for almost 20 years he sold most of his 100 acres of asparagus at the door — today he’d be called an original champion of local food.

In April 1995, I gave a talk at a livestock conference here in Alliston, and brought Homer along for the dinner and entertainment.. As we drove back to the farm, Homer said, to me, "I think you may have the gift of the gab too."

Beyond introducing me to Red Cap Ale — a beer I drank in university because no one else would touch it and my supply was safe — Homer had a warmth, especially with strangers.

In 2003, my friend Denton Hoffman was named general manager of the Ontario Asparagus Growers Marketing Board, and I said, "you’ve gotta meet Homer" (that’s Homer on the left and Denton on the right).

So, one summer day we drove up to Barrie, Ontario, and took Homer and Noreen out for lunch. His eyes sparkled as he recounted how he paid kids from (nearby Canadian Forces Base) Borden with beer to pull weeds, and how he entertained visitors to the farm, about an hour northwest of Toronto, who would buy asparagus 100 pounds at a time and freeze it.

Homer, here’s to you.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time