From a release, By Eleanor Renaud, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario agriculture received a heavy blow with the recent announcement that the University of Guelph will be closing its Kemptville and Alfred College campuses by the end of 2015. While the university says it will continue to manage field crop research facilities at both locations, delivery of academic programs will come to an end.
The university says it will reinvest in strategic areas that further support Ontario’s agri-food sector, including new research appointments at the Guelph campus. But strengthening core programs near Guelph will do little to benefit prospective students who wish to stay and work in eastern Ontario.
The news has hit farm families in that region hardest, because many students cannot afford to move across the province when they are still needed to work weekends on the family farm. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is deeply disappointed in the University of Guelph’s decision, which we feel is inconsistent with its mission to serve society, and to recognize agriculture and veterinary medicine as areas of special responsibility.
But eastern Ontario isn’t the only region troubled by this announcement. Agricultural colleges such as Kemptville and Alfred have produced knowledgeable managers and skilled farm workers critical to the future success of Ontario’s entire agri-food sector. Their absence will leave a significant gap for our industry that offers among the highest employability rates in Canada, with three jobs waiting for every agriculture graduate in Ontario alone.
Ontario agriculture is a fiercely progressive industry. We are early adapters of new technologies, and we rely on our academic institutions for sustainability, advancements and improvements. Those skills are particularly in demand now, as our sector rises to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s challenge to double the annual growth rate of our sector by the year 2020.
While the University of Guelph has chosen to discontinue the role it played in providing educational opportunities in eastern Ontario, this cannot be the end of agricultural academics in that region. There is work to be done, and Ontario needs educated young people to do it. Ontario agriculture will work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to ensure this need is met, continuing to enable prosperous and sustainable farms.