University of Guelph’s College Royal Celebrates 93 Years

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Be a part of this FREE weekend March 18-19. Fun for all ages. Celebrating 93 years.

It’s a defining University of Guelph event. More than that – and especially important in this sesquicentennial year – it’s a Canadian happening. And in a world facing the defining challenge of sustainably feeding a growing human population, it arguably reaches beyond our borders as well.

“It” is College Royal, the annual student-run open house at the University of Guelph, and the largest event of its kind in North America. Now in its 93rd year, the campus-wide event will be held March 18-19.

This year’s edition will feature the kinds of activities that have long attracted visitors – some 30,000 of them each year – to the Guelph campus.

Visitors can take in livestock shows, dog and cat shows, square dancing, a flower-arranging competition, club demonstrations and campus tours. Also on the bill are family favourites, from Old Mac’s New Farm in the campus barn to teddy bear surgery at the Ontario Veterinary College.

But College Royal is more than that, says Vanessa Crowley, student president of this year’s event.

The 2017 open house is being branded as part of Canada 150 celebrations marking the country’s sesquicentennial. That’s appropriate, for two reasons.

Just a few years after Canadian Confederation, the Ontario Agricultural College – one of U of G’s three founding colleges – was established in 1874.

And with its own roots extending back almost a century, says Crowley, the annual open house is “part of Canada’s 150 years of tradition and innovation. We want to celebrate College Royal as one of Canada’s events.”

College Royal still links the campus with its rural and agricultural beginnings. Just look at the program’s perennial offerings, including a junior tractor rodeo, a seeds and forages competition, and milkshakes in the Department of Food Science.

“It’s important to know how the food on your plate is getting there,” says Karly Rumpel, a second-year student in agricultural science and this year’s College Royal ambassador.

But there’s a new agri-food revolution afoot – one connecting anyone who eats food, whether they live in the country or the city.

Imagine self-driving tractors that automatically plant, irrigate and fertilize crops without wasting seed, nutrients or water. How about a smartphone app that allows a farmer to identify insects to help predict and control pest infestations? Or what about robotic milking systems to collect the milk for those food science milkshakes – systems already being used in dairy farms and at U of G’s Elora dairy research facility.

In a new digital agricultural revolution, innovations such as these will come from linking agri-food expertise with information technology. That revolution is needed to meet a defining challenge of our time: how to farm smarter to feed a projected mid-century population of nine billion without depleting the Earth’s ecosystems.

Finding ways to do that is the point of Food From Thought, a new $76.6-million research project at U of G that brings together more than 100 researchers and external partners to change the way we produce food.

“That’s a prime example of how we’re going to sustain the population,” says Crowley, now completing her fourth year in food and agricultural business. “We’re in a very urban area, but we’re still working on feeding the world.”

Those efforts are attracting wider attention.

In early February, a federal report from Ottawa’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth said Canada is currently the world’s fifth-largest agricultural exporter but has the potential to leap into second place. The study pinpoints the University of Guelph as a key contributor toward helping the agri-food sector to meet that potential for growth.
Bringing Canada to the world through agri-food: that’s something to think about while you sample that milkshake at College Royal this year.