A bit of history …
A century of Success
In 1906, at a time when a fledgling horticultural industry was developing along the south shore of Lake Ontario, Moses Rittenhouse donated a farm of 90 acres at Vineland , to the Province of Ontario, ". . . for experimental work on tender fruit." This same area today is recognized as Canada's premier grape and tender fruit region . The farm donated by Moses Rittenhouse developed to become the home for a research and advisory centre that was to gain international respect. Over the years the mandates for this centre of research have been broadened and have included fresh, processing and greenhouse vegetables, floriculture and mushrooms, plus nursery and other ornamental crops. Collectively these fruit, vegetable, floral and nursery industries rank amongst Canada's leading economic generators, while supporting thousands of full time jobs for Ontario workers.
The initial research programs at Vineland Station, operating under Ontario's Department of Agriculture, were targeted at identifying the most favourable fruit varieties for cultivation in Ontario. Breeding programs, to develop new fruit varieties which would be commercially successful in the microclimates of the southerly regions of the province, were logical progressions. As the industry advanced so did its needs for improved cultural methods, and so research programs were modified to provide growers with the technology for advanced management practices.
Post harvest challenges
Changing times, and increasingly sophisticated market challenges, brought about a further evolution in the services provided by the station. These new initiatives were directed to post harvest aspects of horticulture, including processing, storage, biochemistry and microbiology. The quality of its research and counseling services did not go unnoticed, and resulted in the addition of vegetables, floral and nursery crops to its initial tender fruit and grape focus of responsibilities. And so satellite stations, with scientific and technology consultants, were established in Simcoe, and at Bradford on the Holland Marsh, so that the full range of services of the station at Vineland would be readily available locally, and easily accessible, to growers in these important centres. The name of the station was changed to reflect this enhanced status, and so became the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario (HRIO).
A cooperative commitment
There is far more at Vineland Station than the provincial research programs. Early on, active working affiliations were established with the Canada Department of Agriculture (now Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), the Departments of Botany and Biology of the University of Toronto, and the Ontario Agriculture College (OAC) which today is a College in the University of Guelph. Traditionally, Advisory Services have been located locally to provide educational programs and services for the horticultural and other industries, and for the public. Additional services operating from within the Vineland Station have included Inspection Services, the Economics Branch, and the Farm Credit Corporation.
Recently the programs of HRIO were transferred from Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs to become part of OAC's Department of Plant Agriculture of the University of Guelph, and so becoming the Vineland Campus.
The significance of the research and counseling expertise, which has been provided via Vineland Station to the industries it serves, has not diminished with the years. Rather, the era of global marketing and intense, international, competitive pressures, have elevated the awareness that future viability must be more strongly knowledge-based than ever before. Much has been accomplished during this century of successes at Vineland Station; much more remains to be done in the years ahead.
Ontario 's ability to maintain progressive tender fruit, grape, vegetable, greenhouse floriculture and nursery industries, hinges on these industries remaining in the forefront of knowledge and applied technology. Amajor initiative of the Centennial Committee is funding scholarships, at the masters and doctorate levels, for research specific to the needs of these industries. It is planned for these studies to be centred at the Vineland Campus. The selection of priorities for research must continue as a collective responsibility between growers and the academic community. Vineland's accessibility qualifies it as the prime location for essential studies.
The Vineland Station site has been expanded since 1906. But it remains faithful to the objective proposed by Moses Rittenhouse one hundred years ago, by providing "a pleasant place to enjoy horticulture." It's a delightful place to visit. So set aside a little time to explore the Millennium Forest, the heritage gardens, experimental plots and learn a little about the programs and services originated by the backroom- people at the Vineland Campus.