Ontario Agriculture

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As the chariot pulled away from the Crown Plaza in Montreal this group of AALP participants knew they were in for an info-packed day starting off with McGill MacDonald Campus.

We all have our favourite post-secondary campus, but many participants on the bus were excited to visit McGill for the first time – especially the Macdonald Campus where their primary dairy research is conducted. Nestled on 250 hectares of farm land, this campus is home to 2,000 students in both diploma and university degree programs. The campus is designed for students to obtain practical experience in their degree programs. Elsa Vasseur, Assistant Professor in the Animal Science Department, described one of their main research programs, Proaction, which is working to determine what appropriate housing is required for a cow’s maximum comfort, longevity and locomotion.

Chantal Charette, Dairy Unit Manager of the MacDonald Campus Farm, provided the class with the background of the dairy barn that consists of Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jerseys with 92 kg of quota total. What's her secret to success? Immunityplus, a reproductive typing offered by Semex allows you to select sires that have the highest health scores to ensure calves are born healthy and stay healthy.

Switching gears to biotechnology, Mark Lefsrud, Associate Professor who leads the Biomass Production Laboratory, discussed the many projects that McGill has been working on. One of the main research projects is to help greenhouse operators maximize efficiency both in North America as well as the Caribbean. Who knew that in Cuba those veggies have been picked for three weeks before they arrive? McGill wants to help developing countries be able to grow their own food through their greenhouse work.

McGill Feeding McGill is a great program where all the food produced on the farms goes into the cafeteria on the main campus. This is done in part by Valerie Gravel, Assistant Professor in the Plant Science Department, who works with strawberries and other horticulture products to determine stresses to the plant and how to mitigate these to improve yield.

After learning about the main research pillars of McGill, the class loaded the bus, stopped for a quick bite to eat and continued on to the L'Union des producteurs agricoles du Quebec (UPA) in downtown Montreal.

Quebec has a unique situation when it comes to the animal that supplies us with bacon. Quebec is the only province where the Éleveurs de porcs du Québec (the pork board) negotiates the price for both the producer and the buyer. The board also assumes income stability risk to ensure that the grower is making more money than their cost. As Gaëlle Leruste, Communications Advisor with Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec, explained, this is a unique method of ensuring price protection and is a key factor for continuing growth in the pork industry.

Communications Director of UPA, Patrick Lareau, closed off the day with a few facts that makes Quebec farming unique:

  • 3 million acres of agriculture
  • 29,437 producers with an average of 279 acres per farm 
  • 12% of Quebec population works in agriculture
  • 64 dairy cattle/herd
  • 1 in 3 young farmers run his or her own business 
  • Most maple syrup is from Quebec: 71% of world’s production 
  • The large Christmas tree in downtown New York comes from a Quebec tree farm

As the class departed the UPA office, our trusty bus driver Nancy gave us a tour of downtown Montreal. This allowed us the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the city as well as experience the Montreal International Jazz Festival in the downtown core.

-Class 16

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