ALFRED — The research farm at the former francophone agricultural Collège d’Alfred is for sale. But there is no listed price.
The 323-acre property is the final piece of the defunct agricultural school slated for liquidation after the University of Guelph pulled out of the operation in 2014. Known as the “lower campus,” the available parcel comes with 10 empty buildings, including two dairy barns — one of them erected in 2019 — and a greenhouse facility.
The former college’s main administration, classroom and dormitory buildings — the “upper campus” — were sold two years ago to an unknown buyer during the pandemic, according to Roxanne Lormand, director general for the l’Union des cultivateurs franco-ontarien (UCFO) organization. Those structures still appear to be empty at the forlorn-looking site.
Ottawa acountancy firm Raymond Chabot Inc. is soliciting offers on the FERCA-owned property until 2 p.m. on Sept. 29, under a court-appointed receivership process initiated by the Dejardins bank after a debt payment default. The firm can be reached at 613-737-1679.
Established in 1981, Collège d’Alfred was the only francophone agricultural school in Ontario. The U of G took Alfred over in the 1990s, then dumped it and its other Eastern Ontario college, in Kemptville, less than two decades later. Two other French-speaking institutions — Collège La Cité and Collège Boréal — stepped in to offer some programming in Alfred, but that ended in 2019.
Meanwhile, the school’s respected organic research dairy herd was still producing milk until a year ago, through a separate entity set up by the UCFO, la Ferme d’education et de recherche du campus d’Alfred (FERCA). FERCA bought the lower campus in 2018 from the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario, the provincial entity that owned the property. Lormand said that some labour issues and difficulty conducting research preceded the shutdown of the dairy operation last year, and that there is some outstanding debt. “The UCFO invested some money in it, as well as some other provincial organizations,” she said
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario allocated a special type of non-saleable research and education milk-production quota to the FERCA operation in 2015, but this was forfeited when FERCA stopped shipping milk “at their own request” in September 2022, according to the DFO.
Lormand agreed it was sad to see the end of the last vestiges of regional agricultural schools in Eastern Ontario. “There’s not a lot of them in Ontario, and there’s not a lot of French in Ontario,” she said. “It’s always sad to see them going out.”
Prior to going into receivership, the property had been listed for sale for some time, said Stanley Loiselle, an accountant and licensed insolvency trustee overseeing the file.
Loiselle said that he’s under no obligation to accept the highest — or any — offer submitted by the Sept. 29 deadline. “My obligation is to all the stakeholders, not just the bank that brought the motion to appoint us. We need to do the best we can to get as much as we can,” he explained. An acceptable offer also requires final approval from the court before any deal closes.
If no worthy bid is received in response to the recent call for offers, the receiver will continue to look for a buyer through other means. “There are so many scenarios” that could play out in that situation, he said.
Loiselle speculated that the property may appeal to existing, quota-owning dairy farmers looking to relocate some or all of their production into a new barn. “I guess we’ll find out on September 29th.”
Equipment at the site will be sold separately at auction, he added.