Jack Wilkinson started as a sheep farmer, then became a cow-calf operator, then grain and oilseed producer. He observed early that “farm income had as much to do with government policy as it did with hard work and sound production and management decisions.” Driven by that observation, he served his industry at all levels, local, provincial, national, and international, always to ensure that things unfold as they should for farmers. He was actively involved in the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.
Having been born on a farm near Sarnia, Ontario, Jack graduated from the University of Western Ontario in Social Sciences. As a sheep farmer, then beef farmer, he learned how difficult it is to earn a living in either of those two sectors. But as a very active man in the agricultural community he saw that many of the problems were not a result of his ability as a farmer. Others shared similar problems. He became vocal and active, and a director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He served as vice-president in 1987 and 1994. He came back to the OFA after serving on the board of the CFA, and was OFA president 1999 – 2002.
While vice-president at OFA, Jack became very much aware of the importance of the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations. He moved to the board of CFA on behalf of the OFA to play a more active and influential role at the international level. He was president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture 1995 – 1999, as lobby groups, governments and others prepared for the next round of negotiations. His expertise at unifying the diverse interest groups in Canadian agriculture was vital in presenting the Canadian government with an industry consensus. Jack extended his reach to the international level during those years.
After his second stint on the board of OFA, he took advantage of his international experience, and his recognition as an excellent spokesperson for farmers, and was elected president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, headquartered in Paris, France. Once more his skill at linking diverse agricultural groups shone through by being elected to that office for an unprecedented six years. During his time at IFAP, the size and scale of its operation doubled, with dramatically increased involvement by developing countries.