Guelph, ON has a reputation of being environmentally friendly. The University of Guelph expresses sustainability goals and has been said to have the best food at a Canadian University. This reputation will be seriously tarnished if the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) follows through with its plan to build a new Honey Bee Research Centre (HBRC) on top of the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (GCUOF). While there is a need for honey bee research, it should never come at the expense of the most biodiverse, food-productive hectare on University land.
“The farm has received no notice of a disruption to farm activities or the reduction of the farm site 50-70% to be occupied by the new HBRC.” – Karen Houle
Exploration for a new HBRC location began in Fall 2016 and conceptual designs by the three finalist international firms were revealed June 2019. During that time there was no consultation with the GCUOF. Rene Van Acker, Dean of OAC, would only communicate in public briefs that the new HBRC would be built adjacent to the current GCUOF site, and that these projects would be synergistic. However, he has recently affirmed that the 1 HA site would be shared by both operations (The Farm and the new HBRC), which means major impact to the GCUOF. HBRC has stated to GCUOF they don't want to collaborate on the site. The site map used by the architects and project manager clearly place much of the new ~18,000 square foot building and parking lot on top of most of the GCUOF.
“Left with one out of our seven greenhouses on a small corner, and having had to endure a multi-year disruption due to the construction of a major capital project, The Farm, the uncompacted non-toxic soils, and all its myriad ecological and cultural relations and projects, will simply not be viable as “a Farm” anymore. After 11 years of incredible food-growing, sustainability-work and community-building, we will be unable to work with our many on- and off-campus partners, or train our hundreds of volunteers and welcome our thousands of guests from daycare kids to new Canadians learning local food literacy. There might be something left “after” and something built “after” but it won’t be this beloved, incredible Farm." – Karen Houle
The GCUOF plays a unique and vital role at the University of Guelph. It hosts student and faculty research and teaching, wellness initiatives across many colleges, and is the foundation of the circular food economy at the University. Healthy organic food produced on The Farm is used on-campus by Hospitality Services and others, and returned to The Farm as compost for future soil and food production. This was a model for, and major contributor to the success of the $10 million Smart Cities Challenge. The Farm also collaborates off-campus with over 20 local organizations to create food and learning opportunities. In addition to these positive impacts, and many more not listed, 86% of undergraduate student voters in the 2019 CSA Referendum voted in favour of supporting the GCUOF financially through their annual student fees. There are so many reasons for The Farm to remain intact and unharmed, and with support from the broader community, we have faith that the University of Guelph will, as a whole, see the wisdom in relocating the HBRC project off the current GCUOF site, and publicly commit to preserving and enhancing the GCUOF now and in perpetuity.