In late March 2009, the University of Guelph announced that a number of programs at the school would be cut in response to budgetary challenges. Among those proposed cuts was Canada's only organic agriculture degree program. While the number of enrolled students in the program is small in comparison to the University's entire Agricultural College (the largest in the country), there is of course a rapidly growing interest in organic food and the values and principles such food espouses. Understandably, the proposed cancellation of the program concerned many students and a number of rallies were held alongside intense vocal opposition.
Deconstructing Dinner invited two students to share their concerns with the proposed cuts.
Host Jon Steinman also delivers an in-depth analysis of the University's proposal. While the demand for organic food has skyrocketed to the point where demand is far outstripping supply, Jon seeks to understand why a University and its President would be unable to recognize the economic, social and environmental potentials of maintaining one of the most promising futures within the food system. What was discovered was a telling story of a convergence of non-organic interests going well beyond the walls of the University of Guelph.
Silvie Fojtik, Third-Year Student, Water Resources & Engineering, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON) - Water Resources Engineering combines elements of other disciplines such as Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, Planning and Geography in a unique combination ideally suited to addresses society's concerns and needs surrounding water. Silvie participated in designing a water resource system for the University's newly established Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming.
Erin Carlson, Second-Year Student, Organic Agriculture, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON) - Erin hails from Summerland, BC, where her family grows cherries. The Major in Organic Agriculture at Guelph is available within the 4-year B.Sc.(Agr) degree program at the University. Diploma or degree students may also elect specific courses from within the organic repertoire available at Alfred, Guelph, and Kemptville campuses. Interdisciplinary research programs approach questions ranging from composting and nutrient management, to crop breeding, weed control, and marketing, and offers research positions to undergraduate as well as graduate students.
Wayne Harris, Farmer, Mountain Valley Farm / Kootenay Alpine Cheese (Lister, BC) - Towering over Mountain Valley pastures is the magnificent Thomson Mountain range, and it's alpine meadows and forested slopes maintain a sentinel over this dairy farm. The farm is situated in the heart of the Kootenays, on benchland above the Creston Valley, 10 minutes from the Idaho border and 4 hours from the Alberta border. Mountain Valley uses no pesticides, GMO's or chemical fertilizer on the land. They nurture and replenish the soil through many sustainable management practices, including the application of composted manure from the farm and whey from their new cheesemaking facility. The health of the herd is maintained following organic practices, with no hormones being used. They are certified organic with Pacific Agricultural Certification Society and also belong to Kootenay Local Agricultural Society whose mandate is to foster local, sustainable agriculture.
Alastair Summerlee, President, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON) - Summerlee became the 7th President of the University of Guelph on July 15, 2003. Summerlee, whose career as a scholar, professor, researcher and administrator spans nearly 30 years, joined the University of Guelph faculty in 1988 as a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. He was named an associate dean of the Ontario Veterinary College in 1992, dean of graduate studies in 1995, associate vice-president (academic) in 1999, and provost and vice-president (academic) in 2000.