Lakeland milks its agriculture programs

By Geoff Lee

August 16, 2017 3:21 PM

Lakeland College’s Dairy Learning Centre will be one of the most advanced dairy training facilities in Canada. Each element of the state-of-the-art learning facility is designed with education in mind – featuring a traditional milking parlour and a robotic milking system. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKELAND COLLEGE

Feast on the Farm will provide a taste of what’s to come this fall at the Vermilion campus of Lakeland College, with agriculture programs taking centre stage.
The feast will be held at the Centre for Sustainable Innovation in Vermilion this Saturday, with fall term classes starting on Sept. 5.
The late-summer feast will promote locally-grown farm food along with conversation about the programming trend toward more agriculture learning and research at Lakeland.
“It’s like a fashion; it’s what’s in style for the current year,” said Lakeland president, Alice Wainwright-Stewart.
“We have a little bit of lull in oil and what’s happening in that.”
This fall, 432 students are enrolled in agriculture programs with a 44 per cent growth rate since 2011.
“It’s a purposeful growth,” said Wainwright-Stewart, noting the trend toward so-called innovative smart farming operations in Canada.
“It’s our roots; we started as an agriculture college and we just continued to move those roots forward.”
Smart farming is what the new Dairy Centre will be all about when it opens on Aug. 22, to showcase traditional parlour cow milking and leading edge robotics.
Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt is expected to attend the grand opening at Lakeland’s student-managed farm.
The 47,000 sq. ft facility is a partnership with Alberta Milk that is looking at Lakeland to show dairy farmers how they can upgrade their milking operations with automation and robotics.
Alberta Milk has an additional milk quota as an incentive for dairy producers to contribute to.
“So people from farms can come and see what we’re doing and how it might relate to what they want to do on their farm,” said Wainwright-Stewart.
Meanwhile, ticket sales to the year’s farm feast are ahead of where they were tracking a year ago. They were 75 per cent sold as of Aug. 11.
About 170-180 people are expected to attend the upcoming event, with proceeds in support of student leadership opportunities.
The feast will include a delicious meal, a rousing live auction, and great music from the talented Dirt Rich Band.
The event will showcase the strong ties to agriculture that Lakeland has maintained since 1913.
“Today, as a global leader in student-managed learning experiences, Lakeland continues to create opportunities for our students to take the lead,” said associate dean Geoff Brown earlier this year.
Wainwright-Stewart said Browns appointment to the department is a reflection of the higher profile that agriculture has been taking at the campus.
“Josie Van Dent, our dean of agriculture will be really focussing on partnerships and some developmental programming as we more forward,” she said.
Lakeland has put plans in motion to renovate and expand its current Cattle & Sheep Facility into a modern Animal Health Clinic by early 2018.
In the longer term, there are plans to upgrade the equine centre at the student-managed farm.

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