Organic Farming Centre Opens at U of G

September 04, 2008 - News Release

The University of Guelph today officially opened the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, where students of all ages will learn about local organic food production and resource conservation.

"It's all about preparing younger generations for a different kind of future," said president Alastair Summerlee during a grand opening celebration attended by, among others, Guelph mayor Karen Farbridge and Robert Gordon, the new dean of the Ontario Agricultural College.

"This innovative centre will provide practical experiential learning opportunities for our students, which, in the long run, will help bring about changes and improvements to our food system," Summerlee said.

Located on one hectare at the northwest corner of the Arboretum, the farm will also serve as a community networking centre. Already, three non-governmental agencies — the Canadian Organic Growers, the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and FarmStart — have been involved in both the planning and initial planting.

The knowledge students gain will be both practical and useful, said Prof. Ann Clark of the Department of Plant Agriculture, who helped create the centre. "We are not simply operating a market garden but also preparing society for greater self-sufficiency in healthy and nutritious food, with less dependence on fossil fuel energy and scarce water resources."

The centre will be co-ordinated by Martha Gay Scroggins, a commercial organic market gardener. She will oversee teaching and practical learning opportunities as part of U of G's major in organic agriculture.

The organic major was introduced by a team led by Clark and Prof. Paul Voroney of the Department of Land Resource Science in 2002. It was the first program of its kind in North America. It's still the only such academic organic major offered in Canada.

Students and professors in other U of G programs can also tie the organic farming centre into various courses, Clark said. For example, students might monitor trends in vitamin content in produce, determine food pathogen risks on fresh vegetables, study the economics of market gardening, or look at ways to improve soil and water use efficiency.

In the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, students working with chef Simon Day will use produce to prepare meals. Joan Knox, the chef at the University's Child Care and Learning Centre, also plans to integrate food from the garden into meal planning.

Children from the Child Care and Learning Centre have already visited the organic farm, which is located near their building, and eaten vegetables harvested from their own parallel garden. "Hopefully, we will be growing not only produce but also future organic gardeners and growers," Clark said.

Prof. Ann Clark
Department of Plant Agriculture
519 824-4120, Ext. 52508

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 6982/

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