Ontario Ag minister presides over opening of expanded Winchester Agricultural Research Station

The expanded Baker Rd. facility, as photographed in September 2019. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — The official opening of expanded facilities at the Winchester Agricultural Research Station drew Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman and local MPP Jim McDonell to the occasion.

“Our government is committed to supporting research that’s providing farmers with the most up-to-date information on best practices and ways to improve and grow their businesses,” said Hardeman during the June 28 event celebrating the new 5,210 square-foot research building erected at the Baker Rd. station. “We want to provide farmers in Eastern Ontario with research suited to their local conditions, and help them — and all Ontario field crop farmers — be profitable, efficient and sustainable now and into the future.”

OMAFRA Minister Ernie Hardeman, in North Dundas Township later that same day, during his June 28 tour of the area. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Located in the Township of North Dundas, the new facility — in conjunction with the existing 150 acres of field crops, corn, cereals and soybeans plots at the Winchester Research Station — enables research related to soil and water quality, climate change, nutrient availability and weed control. Research results from the station are then shared for commercialization or with farm businesses to be adopted to improve farm practices to help make food production safer and more efficient. Managed by the University of Guelph as part of the Ontario Agri-Food Alliance, the site is owned by the province through the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.

“The University of Guelph is delighted to continue to serve the Eastern Ontario agri-food sector, leveraging our world-class research to ensure the long-term productivity and competitiveness of the sector,” says Malcolm Campbell, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Guelph. “This new facility will provide a crucial hub for U of G researchers to continue working together with and in support of local and regional partners, contributing critical data to the province’s field crops research system that will help drive impactful innovation and sustain the sector across Ontario.”

“This investment in research infrastructure in Winchester helps contribute to productive, innovative and sustainable agricultural and food sectors and rural communities in Eastern Ontario,” said Dr. Lorne Hepworth, Chair of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.

The Winchester Agricultural Research Station is one of several such research stations across Ontario.

The occasion also happened to fall one day after Hardeman marked the first anniversary of his current position at the Ford cabinet — though the Ag minister was hardly new to the position, serving in the same post for just under a year in the Mike Harris government during the late 1990s.

The Oxford MPP’s tour of the area that day included a roundtable session with farmers in Winchester as well as delivering an Excellence in Agriculture Award to the makers of Vodkow — an increasingly popular alcoholic spirit produced from a milk sugar byproduct generated by the Parmalat cheese factory in the village.

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