by William J. Langenberg, M.Sc. Agr. (former Lecturer, Kemptville College)
This Thursday, February 18, exactly 100 years ago, Kemptville Agricultural School was officially opened by the Ontario Deputy Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Bert W. Roadhouse. Addressing the 1000 + audience, Roadhouse said: “Kemptville Agricultural School has become an important institution in Eastern Ontario”. The Principal, William James Bell, and his Staff (E.K. Hampson, A.J. Logsdail, P.M. Dewan, W.J. Johnston and D. M. Morrison) were highly complimented for the excellent work carried out at the School since the first courses were offered in 1918.
In his address, Minister Roadhouse strongly advocated the need for an agricultural education. He went on to say that public funds spent on this endeavour were well justified. The School’s 80-acre Alex Armstrong farm east of County Rd. 44 was not intended to be a luxurious operation. This farm’s main purpose was to serve as a demonstration farm in the production and distribution of high quality crop seeds, plus to provide agricultural extension services by the original staff to the farmers in Eastern Ontario. It was at this farm where Professor Bell pioneered and introduced the growing of Yellow Sweet Clover as a forage and green manure crop.
When the College opened in 1921 there were no buildings between site of the current hospital on Concession Road and the present day greenhouses, but an 8-acre McIntosh Apple Orchard. The grey building, on center campus, was the apple storage and processing building of the 8-acre orchard.
The familiar red-brick buildings across from Bell Hall (The Regional Veterinary Laboratory and the two Provincial buildings, which houses Service Ontario, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources [MNR], and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs [OMAFRA]) were constructed 41 years later in 1962.
During the opening ceremony, the Honourable George Howard Ferguson, local MPP and member of the Ontario Conservative Government, was given credit for pioneering the establishment of the Agricultural School in Kemptville. Mr. Ferguson, soon to be the Premier of Ontario, said that he was pleased to see the realization of an idea that he had conceived during an evening walk down Prescott Street to the outskirts of the town in early 1916. Ferguson was of the opinion that agricultural training should be carried out in a practical training environment, so that the full benefits of the education might be obtained.
Ferguson’s Concern: “Kemptville Agricultural School could become too academic”.
Ferguson was a man with foresight. He was worried. He had this fear that the School could become too academic down the road. He wanted to have an Agricultural School in Kemptville that helped to achieve some of his goals: First, to cement the School within the Kemptville Community. This community relationship became extraordinary close. Many Kemptville residents provided accommodation to the students over the years. The students participated in the various Kemptville local social activities: church, sports, plays, dances, and parades. Secondly, the School was to provide hands-on training. His worry, that the School would become too academic, was well founded. When OMAFRA divorced from the Agricultural School in 1997, the School became a satellite Campus of the University of Guelph. The School lost its ‘identity’, and slowly lost its historical agricultural significance over time.
Terry Meagher, former teacher of English at Kemptville College, and an Agricultural journalist wrote, as a Foreword in “Those Were The Days”, Stories of Kemptville College, 1917-2015″, by Janet Stark: “The research and education at Kemptville College was redefined since 1997 to conform to Guelph’s view”. The direction that the College Management took between 1997 and 2010 was to move away from Kemptville Agricultural School’s original motto: “PRO BONO-AGRI COLAE” (FOR THE GOOD OF Eastern Ontario AGRICULTURE).