Sowing the seeds of a sustainable agriculture program

Sowing the seeds of a sustainable agriculture program
Bishop’s Principal Michael Goldbloom, Provincial Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann, and Saint-Francois MNA Genevieve Hebert at Thursday’s announcement (Photo : Gordon Lambie)

By Gordon Lambie
Local Journalism Initiative

On Thursday afternoon the provincial government announced $1.8 million in financial support for Bishop’s University’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program, to be spread out over the next three years.

“Developing expertise in the field of sustainable agriculture and organic food systems is important to our economy,” said Danielle McCann, the province’s Minister of Higher Education. “I am confident that the university’s expertise will make it possible to develop this promising niche in agriculture to gain more knowledge and benefit the entire population of Quebec.”

McCann underlined the importance of supporting studies into sustainable practices in agriculture, in particular, as something that stand to benefit farmers in all regions of the province.

“Basically it’s seed money,” said Darren Bardati, Chair of the Department of Environment and Geography and co-founder of the sustainable agriculture program, explaining that the funding will allow the program to hire new faculty and expand the course offering to the point where the University can offer a major in the subject. “Like all things it will take a while to start generating its own revenue,” he added.

During Thursday’s announcement, Bishop’s Principal Michael Goldbloom explained that the origins of the program date back to efforts made in 2016 to find new revenue streams for the university. Faculty members were challenged to come up with ideas for new programs that could both serve as an innovative field of study and also an additional source of income. He credited the idea for the sustainable agriculture program and the development of the “living laboratory” farm that has been set up on Glenday Road to Bardati and Math professor Brad Willms, both of whom he referred to as “true academic entrepreneurs.”

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