by SUSAN MANN
The University of Guelph is working to improve its relationship with the agricultural community and long-time supporters in Ontario, says Malcolm Campbell, vice-president of research.
“I know the relationship that we’ve had in recent years has not been a stellar one and it’s one that we’re looking to improve right across the province by working together with communities,” he told delegates at the Dairy Farmers of Ontario annual meeting Wednesday in Toronto. “I hope you see a difference in years to come.”
Delegate Paul Henderson said during a question period he feels the university had lost its way and now he feels it’s “coming back home to the farm.”
Campbell told meeting participants the university’s new leadership team is involved in developing a new vision for the university, and what is emerging from that process is the importance of the agri-food sector.
The last time the university developed a strategic plan was 1995, Campbell said. “We were well over-due” to devise a new one.
The university of Guelph is the only university in Ontario that has a focus on agriculture and that “runs through the DNA of our particular institution,” he said. “It goes back to our founding colleges, the Ontario Agricultural College, Ontario Veterinary College and Macdonald Institute and also to when the university was formally founded in 1964.”
Henderson, a member of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario, which advises the provincial agriculture minister on strategic directions for research, said he realizes a critical mass is needed “for students to enjoy the university or college experience.”
However, “I really didn’t like the fact that Kemptville College was closed,” he noted. And “I do think it will lead to a lot of people in eastern Ontario being unable to” get the college experience.
The college was operated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as an agricultural college until 1997 when the campus operations and delivery of academic and skills training programs were transferred to the university. In March 2014, the university announced it was closing the college due to low enrolment, inefficient program delivery, aging buildings and low research output.
Henderson also stressed the importance of eastern Ontario to the province. There are far fewer farmers in the region now than when Kemptville College began in 1917 but “I don’t think we should forget eastern Ontario is down there and is still an important part of Ontario.” BF