Our History

Established in 1874, OAC is one of three founding colleges of the University of Guelph.

Its original mandate was twofold: “In the first place, teach to the succeeding, if not the present, generation of the most improved methods of cultivation – in one world, ‘train young [people] in the science and art of improved husbandry;’ and in the second, it must conduct experiments and publish the results.”

After 144 years, much has changed, but the core focus of OAC has remained consistent: teaching, research and knowledge extension.

Our students, staff, faculty and alumni have made significant contributions to food science, policy, environmental science, international development, animal and plant science, rural planning and extension, economics, landscape architecture and agricultural production. Our positive impact can be seen across the world in fields and environments (natural and human-made), in communities and on our plates.

It is important to note the Indigenous lands that the college is situated on. The Guelph campus resides on the ancestral lands of the Attawandaron people and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit. The Ridgetown campus resides of the territory of the Anishinaabe and Wendat peoples and the treaty lands of the Lenape people of the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown. Today, these lands are home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Acknowledging them reminds us of our important connections to this land where we learn and work, and our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Our Present

Today, OAC is recognized as Canada’s largest and most renowned agricultural college and a global leader in education, research and service in food, agriculture, communities and the environment.

We continue to be core to the university’s overall mission and, through the leadership, collaboration and outreach efforts of our community members, we play an important role in contributing to the university’s vision, success and brand recognition.

Our six academic units, located on two campuses in Guelph and Ridgetown, Ontario, lead OAC’s efforts:

  • Department of Animal Biosciences
  • Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics
  • Department of Food Science
  • Department of Plant Agriculture
  • School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
  • School of Environmental Sciences

We offer seven associate diplomas, 17 undergraduate majors in seven degree programs and 26 graduate program options.

The University of Guelph is ranked as the top agricultural school in Canada and is consistently ranked as a top agricultural university internationally. Much of this success is due to the research efforts of OAC faculty, staff and students who receive $58 million in research funding annually.

Charting Our Future

In 2017, OAC Dean Rene Van Acker initiated a collaborative process to develop a new strategic plan, since the college’s Integrated Plan had ended in 2016. While the college would benefit from a new guiding document, the true benefit would be the engagement of the OAC community.

It was important to Dean Van Acker that the full community have an opportunity to provide feedback on what OAC does well and express their needs for the future, particularly in relation to the many opportunities we have in food and agriculture. The process provided occasions to talk about our successes and plans for the future; this document is the culmination of those discussions.

Dean Van Acker also felt it was important that the final document released not be prescriptive, given that most of the action being guided by this document will take place within our academic units and at Ridgetown Campus. Because of this, the document evolved from a strategic plan to a strategic vision that reflects the ideas and priorities of the OAC community, including our students, staff, faculty, administration, partners and alumni.

This document will act as a touchstone, helping us to focus our efforts and remind us of our shared priorities. It will also act as a guide for an annual reporting exercise that will be just as valuable as this document, as it will inspire ideas and share best practices across OAC.

It is also important to note that this document serves as a complementary document to pre-existing agreements and frameworks. Our priorities link strongly with Our Path Forward: The University of Guelph’s Strategic Framework, which was released in 2016. In the drafting of this document, attention was also paid to alignment with the University of Guelph’s Strategic Mandate Agreement (PDF) with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and the new Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs-University of Guelph Agreement.