When the Task Force had their town hall meeting on July 16th, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of information that was shared. Some of the parties who are interested in being part of the college’s future didn’t want to be named and I can understand that. So, I’ve decided to put forward an idea that I think needs to happen for the college to ultimately prosper. I think that KCAT should return to being a college again. By returning to college status, I believe it can service the educational needs of the agricultural community and also service the needs of North Grenville residents and residents of other local communities.
If the college were to offer non-agricultural courses like business courses and trades skills training at the college, residents who weren’t involved in agriculture would still be able to use the college. This would increase enrollment and allow local residents to get the education they need here and save people money by not having to travel to get the education they need. With this type of training available locally, it would also make North Grenville a more attractive place for businesses as well. There would be potential for a well trained work force or at least a local institution where skill specific training could be done. Companies don’t want to start a business in a place where there is a lack of skills and training. They want to start operations in an area where they don’t have to invest a lot of money in training people. They want people to already have the education they need.
By also offering continuing education at the college, residents could take night courses so they could go to school without having to take time off work. There is a fast growing trend emerging in the agriculture industry and it’s called hobby farming. Though it’s not a recent trend, young couples are starting to buy small family farms, trying to grow their own food and trying to sell some of that food at local farmers’ markets etc. (all while working full time jobs during the week). The college could offer night courses to these new farmers on how to grow cash crops, how to farm sustainably or a course on how to run a farm as a business. This could also be an important part of creating a local food hub in North Grenville. A place where these new farmers could sell locally to local residents, local restaurants etc.
As I’ve heard from people many times, there is a lot of potential for the agri-food industry here in North Grenville. Woody Armour has written about the potential of the college in supporting different food initiatives. I believe that he’s right. I’ve spoken with several people in the past year about the potential for a local craft brewery or a brew pub. The raw ingredients like hops and barley can be grown locally and there is an excellent supply of spring water as well. The beer could be sold to local residents and restaurants and create tourism. One craft brewery recently opened in Gananoque and by all accounts is very well received. With North Grenville’s strategic location right beside the 416 with quick access to the 417 (Montreal and Ottawa), the 401 (Kingston, Toronto) and even the U.S., it is very well positioned logistically. The college could play a key role by providing courses on brewing, malting and growing the grains needed. There is even the potential for an entire craft brewing industry. Most importantly, the industry would not be seasonal. It would also spawn restaurants, hotels and other supporting businesses. Similar to Prince Edward County and its wineries, North Grenville could become a destination for beer lovers and day trippers. Imagine it, locally grown ingredients, locally brewed by local residents. In my mind, that’s an ideal scenario!
Maintaining equine and horticulture programs could also be done as a college . I was told the current Equine program is the only one of its kind in Eastern Canada. If that’s true, it’s hard to imagine the program not growing if it were marketed by an institution that actually wanted to increase enrollment (and not just watch enrollment die, so once it plundered all of the research and grant money, it could close the college). Not to mention the fact that the equine industry is apparently doing very well in the area. I believe Horticulture is another important program. At the college, the students have access to unique facilities like the Ferguson Forest Centre and the college’s huge campus, which other colleges like Algonquin simply don’t have. Once again, if marketed properly, the Horticulture program could grow significantly.
All of these things could be possible with a community college that provides the necessary education for all local residents.
Sounds good right?