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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Racing to save an Eastern Ontario agricultural landmark: Kemptville College



“He don’t know sheep s**t from shinola.” That expression has been around from the 1940’s but it is still used today. I know this because I heard variations of the saying a number of times at the meeting on Kemptville Campus on Saturday.
Alumni, farm families, local businesses, college staff and students are often passionate and outspoken about their love for the nearly 100-year-old agricultural school and the role it plays in the Eastern Ontario agri-food industry. Many feel that those in power at the University of Guelph are too far removed from the rural roots of Kemptville College to fully understand the impact of this decision. Nearly 400 people came to voice their opinions and to commiserate in their disappointment, but they also had some really good ideas. Now they just need some help implementing them. Enter the OFA.
The OFA summit agenda on March 15th was completely taken over by the topic of the closure of Kemptville and Alfred campuses of University of Guelph. Just three days had passed since the official announcement was made that the schools would not be accepting new students in the fall, and the classroom doors will close in May 2015. That announcement took many people by surprise, and they were still looking a little shell-shocked on Saturday.
Organizers managed to keep speakers on point and steered away from politics. Leeds Grenville MPP Steve Clark was on hand to repeat his request for a 2-year-moratorium on the closure decision, to buy the college more time to investigate other sustainable solutions. The Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministry of Agriculture was also in attendance, pointing out that “great strides have been taken since the announcement had been made,” at least in the case of Alfred Campus, which has had a partnership offering from Cite Collegiale.  
Kemptville College may eventually form a similar partnership with Algonquin or some other educational body. Step one is the formation of a group of stakeholders committed to finding solutions so that Kemptville College does not have to close its doors in 2015. OFA President Mark Wales said he wants to see new students coming in this fall, because “if we allow the lights to go out, it will be that much harder to get them back on.”
Kemptville College Foundation Mac Johnston is looking for committee members from all areas of business, fundraising, educational and research expertise. He also needs volunteers to step forward, to carry out the menial tasks that will have to be done in order to implement decisions as they are made. If you are interested in getting involved, contact info@kcf.ca.
My two cents, if you want them, is that Kemptville College must remain open as an educational institution. However, I believe that change is a good thing, and the decision by Guelph to sever ties with Kemptville as a school is a sign to us that perhaps we never were accepted as a viable part of Guelph University. Funding comes from a number of sources for Kemptville Campus programs, but that funding is not sustainable. If they get an emergency cash infusion, we will just be in the same place in another few years.
It’s time to get back to basics. Before joining Guelph in 1997, Kemptville hosted a community agricultural college. Today we could definitely take advantage of the growing movement toward sustainable local food practices and provide both classroom and distance education courses on those subjects. Maybe we could be an Algonquin College South. The grounds provide ample space for practical hands-on education in organic gardening and sustainable farming while future food safety workers, manufacturers and cooks would be learning the other parts of the supply chain. Classes would be taught by people who are currently running businesses or working in the industry.
Farmers in Eastern Ontario want the opportunity for their children to learn the family business close to home. Let’s continue to provide that for them.
Kemptville Campus has a booming business right now in the skilled trades. That should be supported and allowed to thrive. KC also has a thriving International Business Development Centre. We can teach developing countries how to farm in a way that is sustainable and cost effective. We have so much to offer.
For me, Kemptville College is where my mother worked for 37 years and I climbed into trees and read a book while I waited for her to finish her day. It’s where I met my husband, the Farmer. He has taught there for 24 years. The thought of it closing just makes me cry. I can’t help thinking we live in a society where we throw things away when they aren’t working effectively, instead of coming up with solutions to help things evolve.
If you would like to be part of the discussion on the next incarnation of Kemptville College, contact Mac Johnston at the Kemptville College Foundation.



1 comment:

Terry and Linda said...

Just met Carry and Jasen Bronec He told us about your side so I had to make a note and come over to meet you!

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
http://handcraftedbyus.wordpress.com
♬♬♬ Happy Saint Patrick’s Day ♬♬♬