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DC receives large donation to farming programs

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express 

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has donated $1 million to aid in the expansion of Durham College’s farming operations programs.

The donation to the college came from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a company that donates to causes such as education, land conservation, and science. They are also one of Canada’s largest private sector employers, as their companies, such as Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart, employ more than 200,000 people across the country.

In particular, the funds are slated to support the horticultural technician and horticulture – food and farming programs.

The horticultural technician program is meant to help students learn to create landscapes, renew historical gardens, and enhance communities.

The horticulture – food and farming program teaches students about farm-fresh food that is in demand, as well as how to make it.

According to Durham College president Don Lovisa, this is the second time the foundation has donated to the program.

“We’re just thrilled that a company, a corporation like Weston, would believe in our vision to the extent that they do, and help to support the programs that we deliver.”

Lovisa says the first donation added terraces, covered walkways, and an outdoor classroom to Durham’s Centre For Food (CFF) at the Whitby campus.

The latest donation will support the construction of a post-harvest and storage facility, greenhouse expansion and the implementation of container farming. This will increase food production at the CFF, allow for experimentation of newer agricultural practices, and provide students with new experiential learning opportunities.

Lovisa told The Oshawa Express, “It took us a few years to get known for food and farming, horticulture and culinary, but we do fill the courses now, and we’re quite pleased with that.”

He says the latest donation will allow for three specific projects to move forward.

“One thing we didn’t contemplate when we built the greenhouses and the gardens is the amount of post-harvest work there is,” says Lovisa. “So when we harvest, we don’t really have a dedicated space that allows us to wash the vegetables properly and storage of vegetables so that they last a little longer, so we try to use everything that we harvest. So we’re going to add a post-harvest facility.”

The next project they’ll be working on is an expansion to the greenhouse, which, according to Lovisa, will provide students with more space to work with.

“The third [project] is kind of unique,” says Lovisa. “It’s a [farming] container… it’s a self-contained unit that allows us to do some experimental growing and hydroponics.”

Lovisa says the Durham College program is the only program to have a full garden on their campus.

The college’s chefs will often go out into the garden and pick vegetables and other foods for the students’ dinner.

“All of that’s going to add to our students learning,” says Lovisa. “It’s all designed to not only sort of support the commercial end of the enterprise, but the academic end too.”