KEMPTVILLE – The renewal and reinventing of the Kemptville Campus is a work in progress.

North Grenville is ready to take the next steps in seeing the former Kemptville College transformed into an education and community hub offering all of Eastern Ontario agricultural learning opportunities that are second to non.

In 2014, the University of Guelph which operated the college under a long-term lease, removed itself from the campus. The decision sparked fears that a century-old learning institution with impeccable credentials would be lost forever to the North Grenville community in particular and Eastern Ontario in general.

By 2016 the university’s withdrawal was complete.

The municipality then took on the challenge of ensuring the campus survived as a viable learning institution.

The former University of Guelph Kemptville Campus, today transformed as the Kemptville Campus Education and Community Hub. Winchester Press File Photo

In April 2018, the municipality finalized its purchase of a majority of the Kemptville Campus property.

The purchase included 633 acres and a series of existing buildings on the campus. Included were different educational areas such as woodlands, cropland, wet land, green space, green houses. The agri-forestry centre, maple bush, sports facilities, residence and cafeteria, government buildings and buildings used for teaching.

Pat Remillard is the project manager for the Kemptville Campus Education and Community Hub.

“Are we intending to recreate what was done before? No we are not,” she said. “There are other opportunities that we can explore. We have three school boards on campus and we intend to have a presence by all four school boards, two french and two English. Each of these boards have an adult education mandate and we have developed education pathways from early years to post-secondary and adult education.”

Focused areas for the campus will include: agriculture, horticulture, food processing the environment, forestry.

Remillard believes the campus has a unique capacity that others do not which positions it to achieve the variety of goals set.

A 2016 BDO feasibility study recommended a mixed use educational and community hub, and suggested the municipality think outside the box when it came to re-imagining the campus.

The hub is based on three pillars: education and training, health and wellness and economic development.

North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford is understandably excited about the plans for the campus and is its biggest supporter.

“The critical moment we are at now is how do we seize those opportunities,” she said. “In partnership with council and with myself we are looking at how we forge a path that honours the legacy of the campus.”

Peckford said she was particularly happy about continuing to honour the agriculture and educational heritage of the college.

North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford (left) and Patricia Remillard, project manager at the Kemptville Campus Education and Community Hub. Morin Photo

“I feel it is my responsibility we maintain strong relationships with the agricultural community of Eastern Ontario and that we cultivate the synergy of the various opportunities to provide educational training,” she added

New developments continue to add to the campus’ renewal.

“What you are seeing as well, is an expectation for us to still support agri-food. People are coming to us and we are having those discussions and developing those partnerships. What we are today is much further along compared to two plus years ago and three years ago when we were winding down. We are definitely winding up and getting a lot of momentum and in five years it will look much different,” said Peckford.

Already a series of education partners are operating at the campus. There are three daycares, three school boards, adult education programs, the Early-On program, and employment and education services.

Also on the campus are the Ryan’s Well Foundation, the Model Forest, Ontario Maple Syrup Association, and a fully operational cafeteria. Government agencies in place are: the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Service Ontario.

The theme of the campus initiative is climate change resiliency and low carbon innovation.

Remillard said, “We are creating a sustainable community within a community. We want the campus to be a teaching site for best practices and while maintaining a low to no carbon footprint through green building initiatives.”

She noted the goal is for the campus to produce as much energy as it consumes as well as collecting and re-purposing water resources.

“Most importantly children will learn how to grow food,” Remillard added.

Another factor in the renewal of the Kemptville Campus is its participation in the Agri-East Lowlands project, one of many in the agri-food sector.

The project brings local agriculture producers together with those from the world of academia, research bodies, manufacturing, technological industries and financial supporters to funding agencies.

The mandate is to raise awareness of the project in Eastern Ontario.

Mayor Peckford is enthusiastic about where the campus is headed.

“The assets are here. We have the equipment and capacity,” she said. “The campus is another jewel. It is fertile ground, not just for the municipality, but for Eastern Ontario and that includes the agricultural community. There are so many opportunities here.”