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Historical Plaque

The O.A.C Review
The Dairy Department

Back in the early days of the College, there was built a cheese factory on the College Farm. Apparently, this was not a successful venture. In the report of the Professor or Agriculture for the year 1884, we are told that the "Ontario Experimental Farm Creamery" had been made from "the old cheese factory" building with the object of developing the creamery business. Experimental shipments of butter were made to Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston, London (England ), Liverpool and Glasgow. On the whole, reports on the quality of the butter made, were favorable. The "Experimental Farm Creamery" did not get started until September 25th, 1884.

In 1885 the first Professor of Dairying was appointed in the person of S.M. Barre. He, apparently, was not favorably impressed with the Creamery prospects at the College. In his report for that year we read, "I regret to state that a worse creamery section than Guelph I never met." The next Head of the Dairy Department was J.W. Robertson, then a rising young Scotch cheesemaker, from Harriston, Ont. Robertson was one of the brainiest men ever appointed to the College Staff. However, men of brains are not always appreciated in the civil service, hence, Professor, (now Doctor,) Robertson, soon resigned having held the position for about three years, though he gave lectures to College classes in the spring of 1890. During 1890, the practical work of the Dairy Department, was under the charge of Geo. Harcourt who had been Robertson's assistant.

On January 1st., 1891, H.H. Dean a recent graduate of the College, was given the chair of Dairy Husbandry. There has been no change in HEad since.

In 1891, the Dairy Building consisted of the old cheese factory changed to a creamery, with some living rooms attached for the buttermaker. "Jim Brady" was herdsman, engineer, buttermaker, in fact, chief and only cook and bottle-washer for the Department. In one corner of the creamery was a small cupboard-like office heated with an old, gas-producing coal stove. To this cheerless spot the present Professor of Dairying came in the winter of 1891, after spending a month or two at Farmers' Institute work, as a sort of "warming up" for the job.

There was no dairy class-room at that time, practically no machinery and no laboratories to teach dairying to students. Lectures were given wherever there happened to be a vacant lecture-room at the time appointed for the dairy lecture. The lecturer was able to appreciate the difficulties of the "peripatetic philosopher".

The present dairy plant contrasts very markedly with the one in use, 1891. Present students in Dairying scarcely appreciate the great advantages they possess over those attending the College in the '90's and previously.

The Extension work in Dairying for Ontario, is directed by the Department of Agriculture in Toronto, whence a large staff is controlled, for inspection and other extension services. The statement has been made recently that this work could best be directed form the College, where there is ample cold storage and other facilities, including bacterial and chemical laboratories. Office room could be provided at small expense in the Dairy Building. This plan would save thousands of dollars to the Province of Ontario. (The writer does not expect a "Vote of Thanks" for this suggestion.)

As at present organized the staff of the Dairy Department includes: H.H. Dean, Professor of Dairy Husbandry; W.H. Sproule, Lecturer; H.A. Smallfield, Lecturer; Miss Belle Miller, Demonstrator; F.W. Hamilton, Demonstrator and T.J. McKinney, Demonstrator.

The chief aims of the Dairy Department are:

1. To provide a sound, theoretical and practical training in the main branches of Dairying, for students who are interested in the subject, particularly for Fourth Year Dairy Option students, and for three months' Factory Course Classes. (The 35th consecutive Short Dairy Course was completed in March, 1928.)

2. To conduct investigations and research work, in dairy problems, so far as the limited time and funds will allow. To do effective research work a special staff is needed, who could devote most of their time to this line. One who is a good lecturer is seldom a good investigator. These require two entirely different types of men and women. The former must be one who can inspire students to think and do noble deeds; the latter, needs to be a "plodder," one who is content to live largely in a laboratory, far from the haunts of men and women.

The people of the Province of Ontario have invested millions of dollars at the O.A.C. The only way to get interest on this money is to require that good teaching shall prevail and that research problems beneficial to agriculture shall be carried out to the fullest extent possible. At the present time the College is being operated at about one-half its capacity. No business concern would be satisfied with half the returns possible from its investment.