How this man would save Kemptville College
By Patrick Meagher
MONTPELIER, VERMONT Christopher Dutton thinks Kemptville College is a perfect location to relaunch a new agricultural college under a new model where students run the dairy farm, plant crops and manage the campus landscaping.
Thats how it works at Vermont Technical College, just south of the state capital of Montpelier.
Dutton, an associate professor of agriculture, met recently with Ontarios point-man on the future of Kemptville College, former federal minister of agriculture Lyle Vanclief, to discuss the U.S. model.
“Heres what I am saying to all of you,” Dutton told Farmers Forum. “Were struggling as a school as well its the demographics and we have been looking at this for a long time. What we chose to do with our school and our school farm is to change the product and convert the school farm into something much more student run. That significantly decreases cost.”
So, the college now trades 15 hours of work each week for free housing. Students dont pay for their room, just meals and tuition. Dutton says Kemptville can eliminate its four full-time farm workers by letting the students manage and run the dairy operation. There are 30 to 35 dairy students at Vermont Tech. There were about 60 ag students in the two-year ag diploma program last year at Kemptville College.
Vanclief “came away thinking this is a more inspiring way to run a school. The performance of our farm depends on the performance of our students,” Dutton said. “Theres great incentive for everyone to do things right. Its a real neat model.”
Dutton figures if the University of Guelph couldnt make Kemptville College work then costs could be bloated due to wage contracts and union demands that ensure too many staff, as well as other embedded extras. The best thing might be to close the college and start again with a lean economic model, he said.
Dutton said he ran the numbers and his student-run model at Kemptville would mean the 50-cow dairy herd, without hired workers, would pay for itself. All student tuition could be used to pay for academics.
As it stands, the Kemptville College dairy operation would pay for itself now if you dont factor in capital expenditures, said research station operations manager Tom Beach.
A college restart would only need two instructors to cover plant and animal sciences at a cost of CDN$90,000 annually each ($110,000 with benefits), Dutton offered.
Factor in ag diploma program full-year tuition of $4,800 (excluding the about $10,600 for room and meal) for 60 first- and second-year students and you get revenue of $288,000. Other program courses would contribute to operating costs.
Vermont Techs ag program also designs short courses of, say, three days four times per year for people already in the workplace to study hands-on skills such as brewing, distilling, yogurt making, and small grain production.
“It improves the economics because you advertise the course, you wait for the break-even number of students, then you run with it. You pay a little more for faculty because you have to pay them to commit to something that might not happen.”
Kemptville, with 40 buildings, “is a great campus for agriculture,” Dutton said. “In my opinion, agriculture as a field is going to expand and get stronger dramatically. Youve heard the nine billion by 2050 (United Nations forecast that the world will have nine-billion mouths to feed by 2050).
“Thats a doubling of current production. Theres a lot of pressure on agriculture right now. We are the only business that takes carbon out of the atmosphere. Its going to expand just for resource management purposes, even if we dont think about food. Its a really big deal. Only a few people get it. Agriculture is eventually going to be the source of most of our major human problem solutions and we should be excited to instruct it and you have that great facility.”
Without a doubt, somebody smart will focus the new campus on emerging technology, such as nutrient management or a school of waste technology, he said.
He added that he hopes one day a college can come up with a way to create a 100 per cent contra-system with the students. “Free education for labour,” he said. “I dream about that.”