By Tom Collins
RIDGETOWN — Eastern Ontario students who were part of this year’s Ridgetown graduating crop say that while they would have attended Kemptville College if it were still open, the chance to move away from home helped them to grow up and offered them new ways of looking at the world.
Twenty of the 126 Ridgetown ag graduates this year came from Eastern and East-Central Ontario. Eastern Ontario farm youth have been opting for Ridgetown College for four years. Kemptville College graduated its last ag students in 2015 and stopped accepting first-year students in the fall of 2014.
Beef farmer Alex McLaughlin, of North Gower, said being at Ridgetown forced him to find jobs in other sectors, including working for Pioneer, a chicken farm and a dairy farm.
“Mainly I tried to stay up there and get different experiences,” he said. “I never would have worked for Pioneer if I had stayed home. I never would have worked on a chicken farm if I had stayed home. There are so many more experiences I got to experience because I was away from home. Ultimately that’s what I was going for.”
Sawyer Vanden Bosch, whose family runs Vanden Bosch Elevators at Chesterville, tried to make it home every third weekend. While he would have attended Kemptville College if it were still open, “it was great to get away from home and go see stuff. Learn how to live on my own and get away from my parents and have to pay for everything myself and do everything myself.”
Jacob Beehler was not sold on the long-distance haul to college. He runs a 300-cow milking herd at Nine Mile Farms at Crysler with his dad Allan and brother Josh and made the six-hour drive home almost every weekend. “I didn’t know many people down there,” he said. “So I found it was always kind of boring. I’d rather come home and help around the home farm.”
However, touring Western Ontario dairy farms allowed Beehler to pick up tips on things that dairy farmers in Western Ontario do differently, and apply those tips to his home farm. For instance, Western Ontario dairy farmers use bunks rather than silos because they see bunks as more efficient with fewer breakdowns, said Beehler. The home farm is now in the process of installing two additional bunks after Beehler’s suggestion to his father.
The decision was made after a round-table discussion in the family. “He was already thinking about going that way, but I just gave him the extra push,” said Beehler.