By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — Agriculture at Kemptville College hasn’t come to an end for lack of ideas, said Kemptville area market-gardener Elwood Armour. He got involved with the college two years ago when the University of Guelph announced it was shutting down the campus to the dismay of many farm families across Eastern Ontario.
There were demonstrations calling on the college to be restored, to no avail. The local Township of North Grenville is poised to take over control of the college and could transform it into a climate change focused research and community hub. Armour is doubtful agriculture will play a role. He’s not alone.
Said North Grenville Times editor David Shanahan: “It has too often seemed that practical ideas to do with the promotion of local food production and processing, for example, have been ignored in planning to date.”
Here are some of those ideas.
Artisan cheese factory and retail store: The college had the existing dairy herd, the milk quota, a robotic milker, barn and the land. Adam van Bergeijk, who owns Mountainoak Cheese in New Hamburg, said a prospective cheese operation would likely need at least 40 cows to have a sustainable supply. The college had 43 heifers and calves and 66 kilos of quota.
A local food hub: To give local producers, especially smaller ones, a central location to bring product and prepare it for market. In fact, Armour said, although that idea didn’t go anywhere with Kemptville College, the plans for it were used to build the Smiths Falls food hub at the former Rideau Regional Centre.
Mobile slaughterhouse: Three trucks, refrigerated, with slaughtering facilities inside. That would have helped farmers who have meat to move, including many local bird clubs, Armour said. Researchers from Trent University and the Trent Centre for Community Research brought the idea of a mobile slaughterhouse forward for Haliburton County just last winter.
Maple Syrup production and festival: Between a 30-acre sugar bush on the college property and a $100,000 evaporator, Armour thinks the college could’ve made a go as a maple syrup festival. Armour added that there are numerous maple tree bushes in the area but no one person can justify a go-it-alone $100,000 evaporator. Ontario had 17 different maple syrup festivals this year. The college had been a maple syrup research centre and had an evaporator on site, he said.
Hop harvesting: With microbreweries springing up all over the province, Armour thought the college could get involved with hops; not by growing, but by harvesting them. Armour proposed that the college purchase a $60,000 hop-picking machine. Hops had been a popular crop in the area years ago.