Monroe Landon was born in Norfolk County in 1887. Upon graduation from Simcoe High School, he attended the Ontario Agricultural College where he reportedly spent more time in the library than the classroom.
Monroe was a farmer and successful breeder of purebred Jersey cattle which he regularly showed at the Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.
He spent his lifetime promoting the planting, preservation and promotion of woodlots including the establishment of windbreaks to restore the wind-blown sand plain of Norfolk county to productive cropland. He wrote and lectured extensively on the benefit of tree cover and windbreaks to halt wind and water erosion on sandy soil.
In 1928, Monroe was elected President of the newly formed Norfolk Chamber of Commerce made up of progressive farmers and businessmen. During his 13-year tenure as President, he played a significant role in setting the foundations of the organization. An informative bulletin was regularly circulated to members that included articles about the latest research and proven practice in successful livestock and crop production.
Early on, Monroe realized the value of educating Norfolk County students. He encouraged teachers and their students to plant trees on their school grounds for Arbour Day. During the 1930s, he organized yearly Norfolk Naturalist outings where experts toured groups throughout Norfolk County in search of flora and fauna including the rare Prothonotary Warbler and the Blue-Tailed Skink, Norfolk’s only lizard.
He diligently lobbied the Provincial Government to establish legislation to support and promote the planting of trees and to deter the indiscriminate cutting of forest cover. In 1946, his efforts were rewarded with the passing of the Provincial Tree Conservation Act. Under this Act, County Councils were empowered to pass related By-Laws.
With Monroe’s continued lobbying, Norfolk County was the first county in Ontario to pass Tree Cutting By-Law #86 on January 23, 1947, to restrain and regulate the cutting of forest trees. Monroe chaired the three man “Tree Conservation Commission of Norfolk County” that was formed under the By-Law for thirteen years.
Monroe was a highly knowledgeable botanist and naturalist who knew the flora and fauna of Southern Ontario intimately. As a botanist, his detailed study and documentation of Norfolk County’s flora (1,250 species) and its documentation in Vascular Plants of Norfolk County is an invaluable legacy. In 1937, Monroe purchased 132 acres of forest in Norfolk County. This property is part of the Carolinian Life Zone and supports at least 16 at-risk species. In 2008, Monroe Landon Woods was acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
On Monroe’s death in 1980, Harry B. Barrett wrote, “With Monroe’s passing we witness the end of an era the likes of which may never be seen again. Who else conversed as a boy with the pioneer founders of the Long Point country? Who else absorbed the accounts of the virgin forests and marshes with their fascinating flora and fauna as told by the early hunters, trappers and pioneer farmers? Finally, who else was so willing to share his knowledge with any of us willing to listen?”