Agricultural Education | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Agricultural Education

Agricultural education in Canada occurs formally at at least 4 levels: school system, diploma (subdegree) level, university bachelor degree level, and postgraduate degree level (master's and doctoral).

Agricultural Education

Agricultural education in Canada occurs formally at at least 4 levels: school system, diploma (subdegree) level, university bachelor degree level, and postgraduate degree level (master's and doctoral). In addition, another informal level (ie, extension activities) operates as the link between scientific findings, technological developments and the farmer. Agricultural education in primary and secondary schools generally consists of a course designed to acquaint the student with the complexities of modern agriculture. Usually taught in high school, it is aimed at developing an awareness of the role of agriculture in society. Formal post-secondary education and extension activities constitute Canada's most significant agricultural education efforts.

Agricultural education began in New France in 1670 at the Petit Séminaire at St-Joachim, an "industrial" school which provided some training in agriculture. This training was most probably directed to practical experience on the school farm, which was described as having good pastures, woods, an area of tillable land and 150 head of cattle. This program, begun by Bishop Laval, continued until 1715. Two additional schools, initiated in Québec early in the 19th century, lasted for only one year. In 1859 the School of Agriculture of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, sponsored by Abbé Pilote, opened with Émile Dumais as professor of agriculture. It offered a diploma and later a degree program. In 1962 it became part of the Faculty of Agriculture of Laval University.

The first English-language agricultural school was established at Guelph, Ont, in 1874. It began with a one-year, practical, work-oriented program. In 1880 a 2-year diploma program was instituted and the school underwent a name change, from Ontario School of Agriculture to Ontario Agricultural College and Experimental Farm (OAC). In 1887 a 3rd year was added to the program, and in 1888 the OAC was affiliated with University of Toronto, thus achieving degree-granting status. A 4th year was added to the program in 1902. In 1964 OAC became part of the University of Guelph.

In 1885 a school of agriculture was established at Truro, NS, followed 8 years later (1893) by a school of horticulture at Wolfville. Both were absorbed by the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC), which officially opened at Truro in February 1905, gaining degree-granting status in 1980.

The last agricultural school established in the 19th century was the School of Agriculture of Oka, founded in 1893 by the Trappist Fathers of the abbey of Oka, Qué. In 1908 it affiliated with Laval and changed its name to the Agricultural Institute of Oka. In 1962 it became a part of Laval's new Faculty of Agriculture.

Contemporary Degree-Granting Institutions

Schools of agriculture differ markedly in their affiliation and sponsors. There is no Canadian equivalent of the US Land Grant Act, which established land-grant agricultural colleges throughout that country. Early Québec schools were sponsored by religious groups, while McGill's Macdonald College (now Macdonald Campus of McGill University) was endowed by Sir William Macdonald. The NSAC, OAC and Manitoba Agricultural College (MAC) were established by their respective provincial ministries of agriculture, while the faculties of agriculture of Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC are each a faculty of a provincial university.

Those schools established as integral faculties of a university did not provide instruction in many of the basic arts and science subjects (eg, literature, chemistry, physics, mathematics); students instead took service courses offered in the arts and science faculties. The MAC and OAC initially provided these basic courses, relinquishing them when the university moved onto the agriculture campus in Manitoba in the former case, and when a university was established on the OAC campus in the latter. Macdonald Campus, while always a part of McGill, has, by reason of physical separation from the main campus, provided instruction in the basic sciences by its own specialized staff.

The subject areas deemed appropriate to agriculture have changed significantly. The early schools all offered courses in crop and animal production. Soil science, agricultural engineering and agricultural economics were also a part of many early curricula. The development of agricultural research and its associated disciplines has broadened the offerings of all faculties. Most faculties now address the processing of agricultural products as well as primary production, and some include wildlife and forestry as a part of natural resource management training as well as environmental studies.

Non-Degree-Granting Institutions

At least 4 schools which evolved from practical nondegree programs are still operating; namely, the diploma programs of the NSAC, Macdonald Campus, OAC and the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. There are 18 institutions offering post-secondary work in agriculture. Of these, 5 offer programs in French (one in New Brunswick, 3 in Québec, one in Ontario); the remaining 13 offer programs in English (one each in Nova Scotia, Québec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; 2 in BC; 4 in Alberta; and 3 in Ontario). Ten of the 18 schools are independent of their provincial university faculties of agriculture. The others - the diploma schools of the NSAC, Macdonald Campus, OAC and the faculties of agriculture of University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan - are administratively associated with the faculty.

In 1997, the Colleges of Agricultural Technology at Alfred, Kemptville and Ridgetown (formerly operated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) merged with the University of Guelph and became part of the Ontario Agricultural College. The curriculum at the 4 campuses is fully integrated and is approved by the Senate of the University of Guelph.

All these diploma schools offer production-oriented courses to prepare farmers for modern farming. In addition, many offer programs to prepare graduates for jobs as technicians in various agricultural industries. Most programs are of 2-year duration, although some offer a third year. Subject matter mirrors the changes that have taken place in agriculture. Production courses, which previously emphasized instruction on plowing or home slaughtering of beef or poultry, may now provide information on agricultural chemicals for pest control, farm accounting and use of computers in feed formulation, and adjustment and management of highly complex farm machinery.

Agricultural Extension

The process of transferring new developments in technology and farming techniques from researchers to farmers is called "extension." Those responsible for this process in Canada are generally employed by the provincial departments of agriculture such as agricultural representatives or, in Québec, agronomes. The need to engage in extension activity has long been recognized. In Ontario, the agricultural representative service was established in 1907 by Deputy Minister of Agriculture C.C. James, who placed 6 young OAC graduates in 6 high schools across the province. These men "would be the direct link between the farmers, the agricultural college, and the department of agriculture." James's idea of "ag reps" was so good that it was eventually copied by all other provinces.

The former Manitoba Agricultural College organized special "Better Farming Trains" which toured the province with demonstrations, lectures, exhibits and staff consultants. A similar technique was used by Macdonald College, which in addition appointed graduates as "demonstrators" and stationed them in rural areas. This function was later taken over by the provincial extension service.

Extension educational and advisory activity is a major responsibility of provincial ministries of agriculture. The educational role is fulfilled by organizing and, in many cases, conducting short courses and workshops and by the preparation of interpretative bulletins and press releases for farmer use. Extension services are staffed by agricultural professionals and by specialists in various agricultural production problems. The agricultural representative can play a key role in identifying problems at the local level and in relaying these problems to the research scientist. In many instances the representative co-operates with the research scientist in the conduct of "local" tests of new technology.

Nova Scotia Agricultural College

The NSAC operates as an interprovincial college providing agricultural education to students from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland. In 1980 the NSAC received approval to offer a 4-year program leading to a BSc in Agriculture (in agribiotechnology, agricultural business, agricultural chemistry, agricultural economics, agricultural mechanization, animal science, aquaculture, pest management and plant science). The degrees are awarded jointly with Dalhousie University.

Before 1980 the college had offered a 2-year university-level program which prepared students for the final year of a degree program at the OAC, Macdonald College or the University of Maine. The NSAC also offers 2- and 3-year technical programs in agricultural business, animal science, bio-resources engineering, plant science, animal health, chemistry laboratory, food quality, landscape horticulture, farming technology and agricultural technology. In 1997 it introduced a technical degree (BTech) program in landscape horticulture. The NSAC offers part of the biosystems (agricultural) engineering program of Dalhousie University.

Students take courses at both institutions to complete the academic requirements. In 1993 the NSAC initiated a formal agreement with Dalhousie University whereby it offered the MSc Agriculture program with the degree awarded by Dalhousie. Graduate programs are offered in agribiology, agricultural chemistry, animal science, plant science and soil science.

Laval University

The Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences currently offers an 8-trimester (4-year) program following the CEGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel, ie, senior matriculation). Students can pursue one of the following degrees: a BScA in agronomy, agricultural economics and farm management, food engineering, agri-environmental engineering, nutrition, consumer studies, food science and technology. Through the Faculty of Graduate Studies, MSc degrees are available in agricultural microbology, animal sciences, food science and technology, nutrition, plant biology, rural economy, soil science, agri-environmental engineering, and a joint MBA-agri-business with the Faculty of Administrative Sciences. PhD degrees are available in animal sciences, economics (offered conjointly with the Faculty of Social Sciences), food science and technology, microbiology, nutrition, plant biology and soil science. New programs of continuing higher education have been created at the BSc level (certificate): food distribution and merchandising, horticulture and landscape management, dairy and beef production, consumer studies, food science and quality.

Macdonald Campus, McGill University

Formerly known as Macdonald College, the campus is located at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Qué, was built, endowed and staffed through the benefaction of Sir William Macdonald. Construction began in 1905, the first students enrolling in the fall of 1907. An earlier McGill agriculture program was begun by Principal J.W. Dawson, who in 1864 published First Lessons in Scientific Agriculture for Schools. Macdonald's Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is unique among faculties of agriculture in North America in being part of a largely privately endowed university. The faculty offers 4 undergraduate degrees through 3-year (6-term) programs following completion of the CEGEP diploma.

The areas of specialization for the BSc (Agriculture) are agricultural economics, animal science, applied zoology, botany, entomology, environmental biology, agricultural science, microbiology, plant science, resource conservation, soil science, environmental forestry and wildlife resources. Areas of specialization for the BSc in Food Science are food science and agricultural chemistry. A BSc in nutritional science includes a dietetics program that provides entrance to professional registration as a dietician as well as a program in human nutrition. A BSc in agricultural engineering is also awarded. This degree, although offered by the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board and provides entrance to the engineering profession in all provinces and territories of Canada. The McGill School of Environment, a trans-faculty unit involving the Faculties of Arts and Science as well as Macdonald Campus, offers "domains" of study leading to BSc and BA degrees. These domains are thematically coherent areas of environmental study not encompassed by the traditional disciplines.

All departments offer MSc and PhD degrees through the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Programs of study and directed research are given in agricultural chemistry and physics, agricultural engineering, animal science (including animal genetics, animal physiology and nutrition), entomology, microbiology, plant science (including agronomy, plant breeding, horticulture, plant genetics and plant pathology), soil science and wildlife biology. A recent addition is a graduate certificate program in biotechnology.

Ontario Agricultural College

From 1888 until 1964 the OAC degree of BSA was awarded by the University of Toronto. Since 1964 the degree has been awarded by the University of Guelph. The OAC offers 4-year, post-senior-matriculation programs leading to the BComm and BScAgr degrees. All BScAgr students take 14 core agricultural courses throughout their curriculum, after which they may develop an individual specialization, or specialize in agricultural economics, agroecosystem management, agronomy, animal science, and horticultural science and business. Postgraduate programs leading to MSc and PhD degrees are offered by all departments in the college. Interdisciplinary programs are also available.

University of Manitoba

In 1905 the Manitoba Agricultural College was established as an outgrowth of a dairy school operated by the Manitoba Department of Agriculture since 1894. In 1924 the MAC was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba. The university's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences offers 4 undergraduate degrees: a BSc in Agriculture, with specializations in agronomy, animal systems, plant systems; a BSc in Agribusiness, with specializations in agricultural economics and Agribusiness; a BSc in Agroecology; and a BSc in Food Science. The Faculty of Engineering offers a BSc in Biosystems Engineering. MSc and PhD programs are offered in agricultural economics and farm management, agronomy, animal science, entomology, food science, horticulture, plant science and soil science.

University of Saskatchewan

The Faculty of Agriculture of Saskatchewan was established in concert with the university. The university's location within Saskatoon was, in fact, determined by its suitability for an agricultural college (ie, it had adequate land for a farm and experimental field work). The University of Saskatchewan's first agriculture classes were held in 1912. The faculty offers a BSc in Agriculture. All programs consist of 4 years following Saskatchewan Division IV or grade 12. In the first year all students follow a common curriculum.

Later they may specialize in agricultural biology, agricultural chemistry, agricultural economics, agronomy, animal science, applied microbiology, crop science, food science, environmental science, horticultural science, mechanized agriculture, plant ecology, rangeland resources or soil science. The College of Graduate Studies and Research offers various graduate degrees: an MSc in agricultural extension; an MSc and PhD in horticulture science; and MAgr (a nonthesis degree), MSc and PhD programs in agricultural economics, animal and poultry science, applied microbiology, crop science, food science, plant ecology and soil science. In addition, the degrees of MEng, MSc and PhD in agricultural and bioresource engineering are offered in the College of Engineering.

University of Alberta

The Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Alberta began instruction in 1915; this program, like Saskatchewan's, was an integral part of the new university. In 1970 a forestry program was added and the faculty's name was changed to the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry; in 1993 the faculty merged with the Faculty of Home Economics to become the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics. Two other Alberta institutions, the Vermilion and Olds schools of agriculture, were established in 1913.

The faculty has 4-year post-senior-matriculation programs leading to BSc degrees in Agriculture, Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Forestry, Human Ecology, and Nutrition and Food Science. A modified first year is also offered at the University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and affiliated junior colleges. Students in the agriculture, nutrition and food science programs specialize after the first year in agricultural sciences, animal science, applied economics, crop science, food science and technology, foods and nutrition, land resource science or nutrition.

The faculty also co-operates with the Faculty of Business to offer a BSc in agricultural/food business management, with specializations in agricultural business, food processing business, and food service business management, forestry business management, and forest resource business management. At the graduate level the following programs are offered: a nonthesis MAg in many disciplines; a nonthesis MEng in bioresource and food engineering; an MF in agroforestry; thesis MSc and PhD programs in agriculture, agricultural economics, agroforestry, animal science, conservation biology, food science and technology, forest biology and management, forest economics, forest science, land reclamation and remediation, nutrition and metabolism, plant science, protected areas and wildlife management, rural sociology, soil science, rangeland and wildlife resources and water and land resources, wildlife ecology and management; an MA and MSc in textiles and clothing, and an MSc in family ecology and practice; and a doctor of philosophy is offered. There are also joint graduate degrees in agriculture and business, including the MBA/Masters of agriculture and MBA/Masters of forestry programs.

University of British Columbia

The Faculty of Agriculture received its first students in 1915 and was assisted in its development by Professor L.S. Klinck of Macdonald College. The faculty requires 4 years of study following senior matriculation, however the intention is to move to a second-year entry in the year 2000. The BSc degree (agriculture) is offered in agricultural economics, bioresource engineering (through the Faculty of Applied Science), animal science, food science, plant science and soil science. However, the faculty is in transformation and is working on several revised programs to be piloted in September 1999: the Food, Nutrition and Health Program will offer a BSc (food, nutrition and health) with majors in food science, nutritional sciences and dietetics; the Agroecology Program will offer a BSc (agroecology) with majors in agroecology, animal studies and horticulture; and Community and Environment is hoping to offer a Bachelor of human ecology and a Bachelor of environmental design and planning by the year 2000.

The degree of Bachelor of landscape architecture is no longer offered; in its place the faculty offers a first professional Masters degree in landscape architecture, as well as a research Masters, and the Masters of advanced studies in landscape architecture (MASLA). At the graduate level the MSc degree is offered in agricultural economics. Both MSc and PhD degrees are offered in animal science, food science, plant science, resource management (interdisciplinary) and soil science. The faculty also offers a post-baccalaureate diploma in aquaculture jointly with Malaspina University College.

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