John Kuhl, the second youngest of seven children, was born in 1928 and raised on a mixed farm at Gnadenthal, Manitoba. He went to school in Gnadenthal, Gretna and Winkler. After a short-lived stint as a pre-med student at the University of Manitoba, he joined his father in the family farming operation.
In 1949, John married Lillian Warkentin; together they raised two sons, John and Keith, and four daughters, Juliana, Deborah, Rebecca and Susan. Lillian passed away in 2006.
In 1960, John and two family members founded the Southern Manitoba Potato Company (SMPC) based in Winkler. Besides growing potatoes, SMPC began developing climate-controlled post-harvest technology. Eventually SMPC succeeded in meeting the most demanding industry standards for the production and storage of chipping potatoes. Seed potato production soon became another important line for the company. SMPC is now owned and operated by son Keith, wife Karen and their sons Marlon and Jeremy who are responsible for the day to day operations of the company. They are the fifth generation of Kuhl farmers in Manitoba. Keith is President, CEO and board chair. John still takes a daily interest in the operations of the farm.
John has led, or at least contributed to, just about every major development in the Manitoba fruit and vegetable industry over the last 40 years. Under his chairmanship, Peak of the Market, as an organization grew and flourished. John was a master at tackling touchy issues and calmly guiding a sometimes volatile group to a consensus.
John was involved in the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) for many years and was its President in 1987-88. At some point, he headed virtually every CHC committee. He is one of a select few who have been recognized nationally by the horticultural industry for their contribution. He was awarded Honourary Life Membership in 2000.
John leads by example, generously sharing his knowledge through regular contributions to industry educational meetings and tours of his farm. He worked with researchers of Agriculture Canada, University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Government. John was a founding member of the Winkler Potato Company and the Kuhl Foundation. He also served as chair of a number of school boards over the years.
John guided the congregation of the Winkler Mennonite Brethren Church in the design and construction of the present facility, which accommodates some 800 people. It opened its doors just in time for the church’s centennial in 1988. With his way with young people, he became a gifted and longstanding youth leader of the church.
John Kuhl’s leadership abilities are an inspiration for leaders in all walks of life.