KEMPTVILLE - Eastern Ontario’s new Agri-Business Support Centre could become a model for the rest of the country, Alvin Dobbie, chairman of its board of directors, said at the office’s official opening here Wed., April 25.
The Centre is helping to take up the slack left when OMAFRA’s county offices were replaced last year by regional centres, providing a new communication service for farm groups, co-ordinating county calendars of events, providing office support and researching human resources needs for the agricultural sector.
It is aimed at serving producers, agri-businesses, OFA field staff and county federations, 4-H and Junior Farmers in the 11 easternmost counties, which include Frontenac, Leeds, Grenville, Lanark, Renfrew, the new city of Ottawa, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and Prescott and Russell.
Dobbie said this region is ahead of the rest of the province in providing these services and Human Resources development Canada (HRDC) - which is funding the centre to the tune of $180,000 in its pilot year - will examine its operation to see if it can become a model for the rest of the country, Dobbie said during the opening ceremony. The Centre started operation April 4. Its funding is up for review in February of 2002.
The Centre is operated as a partnership by HRDC, the University of Guelph’s Kemptville Campus and OMAFRA. Its board of directors previously oversaw the operation of the Agricultural Employment Centre, which operated out of the former OMAFRA office in Nepean.
The Employment centre was itself an outgrowth of the now-defunct Farm Labour Pool.
Alng with Dobbie, members of the board of directors are Jack Shaw, Peter Boonman, Bill French, Preston Ralph, John Roosendaal and Keith Matthie.
On the human resources side, the Centre is researching what skills are required by employers and how to match them to those looking for work and if there is a shortage of skills that are in demand the Centre will find out where training is available.
The Centre will be publishing a newsletter and manager Shirley Munro is looking for agricultural organizations to provide write-ups of their activities so that each county will receive a letter customized to its area. The idea is to open the lines of communication among farmers, agri-businesses and related commodity groups with their communities and counterparts across Eastern Ontario.
The newsletter will contain editorial and coming events sections.
Munro says she needs help in establishing a mailing list so that the newsletter can get out to all farmers, 4-H clubs, Junior Farmer clubs and agribusinesses in Eastern Ontario. Those wishing to receive the newsletter are asked to contact her.
Munro will also assist farmer snd rural organizations access government assistance programs.
After the official opening ceremonies, Dobbie told reporters that government promises when the OMAFRA closures were announced to put its information on the World Wide Web are of little use to many in the farming community who don’t have Internet access. This is particularly true among the older members of the farm community, who comprise the majority of producers in the province.
Farmers still like to have a "physical package in their hands" that they can read at the dinner table, said Dobbie, himself a cash cropper from the Perth area.
Although commodity organizations have their own publications, these are produced in Toronto or in Western Ontario, he said, and are not connected to "grassroots producers" who need local information as well as the big picture.
Awareness of agriculture among urban populations is also part of the Centre’s mandate, Dobbie added.
The Centre is located in Room 215, Fraser Hall, Kemptville College. Its mailing address is Postal Bag 2112, Kemptville, K0G 1J0. Its telephone number is 613-258-8271 and its fax number is 258-8262.