By Brandy Harrison
KEMPTVILLE — A new provincial working group is shaking the bushes to find institutions to re-start agricultural education at Kemptville College as early as 2016.
“I’m quite confident, if we have partnerships established,” says Brian Carré, chief administrative officer for the Municipality of North Grenville, who is keen to see the college offer at least some new courses next fall.
In March 2014, the University of Guelph announced it would close the 98-year-old agricultural college, graduating the last agriculture students this spring.
In mid-July, the province unveiled a working group to gauge the feasibility of new education models. In the last two months, it’s already talked to a handful of interested organizations and is on track to report late this fall, says Carré, who co-chairs the group.
There won’t be a return to a stand-alone college, but the site could become a hub where existing colleges, universities, and organizations jointly provide programs and courses, says Carré. Agriculture is the No. 1 priority, but there is also a push for courses in health and wellness, business, and trades training.
North Grenville is also in talks with the province to buy the land and buildings and set up a non-profit manager. Until its agreement expires in 2018, Guelph will operate and upkeep the college.
Along with Carré and representatives from OMAFRA and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the group includes North Grenville director of planning and development Forbes Symon, interim college director Patricia Remillard, and Ann Weir, economic development manager with the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.
But the Kemptville College Alumni Association feels cut out of the process.
It was blindsided by the announcement and hasn’t heard a peep from the province since, says president Ron Burgess, who doesn’t see a way forward for the alumni proposal, which included a commitment from an ag education provider.
Burgess isn’t holding out hope.
“There seems to be no stomach in the province to look after rural Ontario. I’ve been wrong before, so let’s hope I’m wrong this time. Miracles happen.”