Over the past 15 weeks since the Kemptville College Renewal Task Force started, I have tried to keep up to date on their work. I can only guess at what those first initial meetings would have been like. Where do you start? Right after the town hall meeting on July 16th, I stayed and spoke to a number of people who like me, were interested in learning more and discussing it with others. Most were appreciative of the work the Task Force had done, but one particular person (who I didn’t know and had never met before) wasn’t. This person was saying that they couldn’t believe how little the Task Force had done. This person also claimed to have intimate knowledge of the work of the Task Force and who the interested parties were from someone on the Task Force. I asked that person if they had been in any meetings of the Task Force. They said ‘no’. Trying to suppress my sarcastic evil side, I asked the person if they had any idea how complex an issue this was….
There are so many moving parts to this, there are so many procedural components, there are multiple organizations involved currently, before we even get to talking about who is interested in being part of the future of the college. The Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario is the owner of the land & the buildings, the University of Guelph “owns” the curriculum & the dairy herd at the college (amongst many other things), the Dairy Farmers of Ontario owns the milk quota from the dairy herd, and finally, the provincial government would have to approve any recommendation that the Task Force would bring forward. Not to mention, the other organizations and groups that would be affected like the municipality of North Grenville. Working with all of these organizations who all have a stake in what happens to the college, would require significant leadership, experience and detailed knowledge of each of these organizations.
I would hazard a guess in saying this is probably uncharted territory for Ontario with respect to agricultural education (with equine, horticultural mixed in too). There was the situation of Olds College in Alberta, but I’m not sure how much that situation from another province can help the Task Force when dealing with their current situation. So, there would be no provincial precedent for the Task Force to work with. There would be no established starting point for them to begin from or to help them choose their mandate. As well, no end solution that they could use to build the framework of their recommendations. So, in other words, here are the keys, but we just want to let you know….. 1) we don’t know how to drive it, 2) we don’t know how it works, 3) we don’t know what it will need, 4) we don’t know how to to keep it running, 5) we don’t know where it will take you, but good luck with it. Sorting through all of this would be an unenviable task to say the least!
So, to the person who wasn’t happy with the progress of the Task Force, I will say this: “if you really understood the complex issue the Task Force was facing, you would clearly see that they have actually made impressive progress so far. If you don’t see it, you obviously don’t really know anyone on the Task Force and don’t have a clue about the challenges they are facing.” I would add that the person should show some respect for these unpaid volunteers, who in some cases, have full time jobs, operate farms and have families that are sacrificing, so that these volunteers can shoulder this responsibility and work together to find a solution that benefits all of us.
Speaking of unpaid volunteers, I know that the Task Force is getting money from the KCAT foundation, but as this situation continues, I’m sure that the expenses will begin to pile up and the foundation should not be expected to continue to fund the Task Force alone indefinitely. I would like to volunteer to help set up a community based fund of some kind, to help pay expenses for the Task Force. I’m not exactly sure how long the Task Force’s mandate will be for, but after the facilitator’s report goes in this fall, if they are asked or if it’s necessary to continue to work on this, I’m sure they will need the money.
I’m confident that I can say, that on behalf of myself, the Municipality of North Grenville, the students of KCAT, the agricultural community of Ontario and many others who have a stake in the outcome, I am very grateful for the work done by the Task Force so far. I know this issue is very time sensitive and you have a lot of work ahead of you, but if there is anything that I can do for you, any way that I can help, you only need to ask.
North Grenville Resident