By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — For nearly 100 years, Kemptville College was the go-to place for an ag education if you couldn’t or wouldn’t make the trip to Ridgetown or Guelph.
The college closed back in 2015, with the University of Guelph citing declining enrollment as one of the main reasons. About 600 full-time students went through the college after the announcement and before the college closed. The municipality of North Grenville took possession of the campus last year, with the goal of transitioning it into an educational hub. There are two French-language schools now on site, as well as a daycare. The animal health laboratory is also still active.
Though Kemptville College is gone, it’s far from forgotten. Over 250 local residents and graduates showed up on campus despite dismal weather on Sept. 28 to mark what would’ve been the college’s 100 anniversary.
Anniversaries and get-togethers demand the sharing of stories. Former college professor and Farmers Forum founder, Terry Meagher, offered this tidbit from one graduating student years back: “I learned about agriculture. I got my diploma. I got my wife. Now, I’m going home.”
The first agricultural course was launched in 1918. Two years later 22 students enrolled in the two-year ag program. By 1935, the college charged $3.50 per week for room and board. The college continued to grow and the late-70s were among the best years, seeing 3,500 students enrolled in continuing education courses. The next year farm mechanic courses were launched. The college became a satellite of the University of Guelph by 1997 and despite an operating surplus in 2013, the province announced the closure of the college the next year. The last year for graduating agricultural students was in 2015. There were 36 graduates. The college graduated 91 full-time students that year.
The campus wasn’t just an educational hub but a social one, where friendships were forged and lasted a lifetime.
That’s certainly the case for Apple Hill-area dairy farmer Warren Macintosh, who graduated in 1986 with an animal science diploma. His wife is also a Kemptville graduate. He made the college judging team in his first month there and stuck with it alongside four other guys for his two-years there. “Those five guys are still close friends and we see each other from time to time,” he said.
Fournier-area dairy farmer Ken Wilkes acted on a nugget of wisdom he learned on his first day at Kemptville back in 1980. “You can work hard and get straight A’s,” he said. Or “You can come and have a great time and still pass. I took the latter route. I think it turned out well.”
Wilkes had the dubious honour of being kicked out of residence twice. The first time was when his welding teacher’s wife unexpectedly had a baby mid-way through class. “I had a five-hour spare.” Naturally he decided to party in his room and from that year forward, no alcohol was allowed in the student residence, he said.
The second time was after fellow students decided that the best place for all the autumn leaves was in his room. He cleaned out his room but filled the hallway. He got kicked out of residence for four weeks, staying with friends in the Kemptville area.
“I just had a really good time. I don’t regret anything,” Wilkes said. “I’ve used it my whole career, what I learned.”
Apparently so. His farm expanded two years ago with a new barn and he installed two robots.
100 years of memories at Kemptville College
By Connor Lynch