College would like county involved in new institute

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Olds College officials would like to see Mountain View County become one of the participants in the recently announced Werklund Agriculture Institute (WAI) program.

Dr. Jason Dewling, vice president academic and research and Mark McLoughlin, executive director campaign, appeared before the county’s policies and priorities committee at the committee’s recent regularly scheduled meeting on April 4.

The WAI will include the Werklund Growth Centre, a producer mentor program, integrated ag enterprise, outdoor farm show, applied research, and the creation of a Thought Leader position.

“There is a very unique opportunity for MVC to participate and invest in the future of agriculture by making a transformative gift to the WAI at Olds College,” McLoughlin said.

“Olds College and MVC share a deep commitment to shared values in agriculture, community and economic development.

“A contribution to the WAI will position MVC as a global epicenter for agriculture thereby benefiting local producers, provincial organizations and national food production.”

Dewling and McLoughlin’s presentation involved a discussion of a few options of “how MVC may participate, through various ways including possible land purchase, land donations and/or cash donation.

“Additional key benefits would describe how land is retained for agricultural use and its perpetual benefit to students and agricultural leaders; how Smart Ag practices are tested in local region for local benefit; and how we estimate the economic development impact of WAI to be in the range of $5.6 million per year.”

The four options proposed are as follows: the county make a cash donation of $1.5 million and no land donated; the county make a $750,000 cash donation and no land donated; the county donate $750,000 of land and $750,000 in cash; the county donate $1.5 million in land and no cash.

Dr. Dewling said he believes the county can be an important contributor to the WAI project.

“We’ve put several options before the county,” said Dewling. “Essentially we are looking for them to partner in the agriculture institute.

“We believe that for the agriculture institute to be successful it will take some local ownership, some provincial and some federal. Certainly as an agricultural county, we believe they can play a major role in it.”

Asked when the college would like to hear back from the county, he said, “Their timeline is really up to them. Today we were just presenting the opportunity and I’m sure there will be discussions in the next few months as to how they may or may not want to be involved.”

Reeve Bruce Beattie said called the WAI an “exciting project.”

“It brings a new level of excitement to the college and the ability to develop this institute,” said Beattie. “I’m hopeful council will find ways to support it. We are very supportive of agriculture. That’s our bottom line within the county, so I’m looking forward to council’s discussion around how we can contribute to this initiative.

“They have provided some options and we have some time to consider those. There are four options presented, but I think there are probably six or seven that we would like to work with.”

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Dan Singleton

Dan Singleton is the editor of the Mountain View Gazette who joined the newspaper in 1994. He covers news, municipal politics and community events in Mountain View County. He is also a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.