After 100 years, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources focused on the future

According to Dean Mary Buhr, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources’ centennial is as much about celebrating the future as it is the past.

"The centennial gives us the opportunity to highlight what the college has accomplished in the past and that then forms a foundation from which we can talk about where we are going in the future," said Buhr. "When you look at how much the college has changed over the past 100 years, you recognize that it will probably have to change an equivalent amount in the next 100 years – and it will always be to address the needs of the province and the world in all the things that constitute agriculture and bioresources."

Centennial celebrations are well underway at the College of Agriculture and Bioresources with a kick-off and an all-years alumni reunion held at the beginning of January. The next event is an open house on June 22 showcasing research and innovation at the college. Buhr indicated that the open house would be an important event for the college as it "gives us the chance to show the university campus, the community, industry and our alumni, who we are and what we have become.

"Most people in the western world hear the term agriculture and understand by that farming and form a mental picture of someone standing in a field with a pitchfork but they don't understand the breadth of what agriculture is and they don't feel related to it all," she continued. "Agriculture is also policy and business models, reclamation of damaged land, creating better feed for animals, designing healthy foods and being able
to grow fuel and fibre and plastics on land that food crops can't use."

When the college undertook a name change in 2006 to become the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, it was to better reflect the scope of research and teaching at the college. Buhr hopes that the open house will provide some clarity to modern agriculture, and help people to see that agriculture is all around them, "in farms, yes, but also in cold-tolerant strawberries, in young entrepreneurs and fuel from cow poop, and healthy people, plants, animals and environments."

In September, the centennial celebrations will continue on with a barbeque, complete with cake, to celebrate with the students who Buhr points out are the most important resource of the college.

"The students are the future and we must never lose sight of that. Yes, we do the research but we are also providing students with the wealth of knowledge that the world so desperately needs to make a reasonable future for itself – and that's the most important thing we can do."

Buhr suggests that the next 100 years in agriculture and bioresources will be anything but boring. With issues like a global need for food security and climate change, the college will have much to contribute. She thinks the best plan is to
be proactive.

"Whatever we do, whatever crops or products or production methods we develop, will be useful somewhere in the world. I think we need to prepare as best we can for the kind of variations that we expect are coming, and then plan well enough to be able to adapt to the unexpected variations that come our way."

Buhr would like to see the college "support the province as it moves into expanded use of resources, expanded in both the sense of doing more things with resources that we have, and the sense of properly using more of the land base that we have and using it in a more sustainable fashion. The environmental piece is key and that is because we all need to be cognitive that our practices be such that we are giving as much back, if not more, than we are taking out."

Kira Glasscock is communications co-ordinator in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources

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