Bluewater District School Board Agriculture Program moves to new location

The start of an exciting new chapter and innovative partnership for Bluewater District School Board’s (BWDSB’s) Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Agriculture program is being celebrated.

Invited guests, including students, current and former staff, trustees, dignitaries, community partners, program founders, and media attended an open house on Thursday, May 2, 2024 for a firsthand glimpse of the program’s new location at Grey Roots Museum and Archives in Owen Sound.

(L-R): BWDSB Director of Education Lori Wilder, Grey Roots Manager Jill Paterson, BWDSB Chair Jane Thomson, BWDSB Learning Services Administrator – Student Success Kim Harbinson, BWDSB Superintendent of Education Keith Lefebvre, SHSM Agriculture Teacher Dylan Williams, SHSM Agriculture students – For larger view, Click on Image

After approximately 20 years of running the program on a plot of land beside Chesley District Community School, board and Grey County staff collaborated recently to launch a pilot within the historic Moreston Heritage Village at Grey Roots.

As one of the most recognized landmarks in the region, relocating to Grey Roots provides new opportunities to expand the program’s reach and marketability to students who may not have considered enrolling in the past. The decision for the pilot was also based on a recent donation of farmland adjacent to Grey Roots by local residents, Everett and Marylon Hall, which will enable many amazing capabilities for hands-on student learning.

Initiated through longtime teacher of the program, Dennis Watson, with the support and vision of several passionate community members and staff, the Agriculture program in BWDSB was the first of its kind in Ontario. Combining the theorical and the practical through classroom learning and an onsite barn, a greenhouse, and a maple syrup production facility, students explore various career paths associated with food production, raising livestock, crop management, and horticulture. Over the years, the program has welcomed students from farming families, and those without a background in agriculture who are interested in an introduction to this vital industry in our communities.

Students also obtain certifications in the following areas: First Aid/CPR; Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS); Farm Safety; Pesticide Safety and Livestock Medicines; Weed and Pest Identification; Plant Identification; Livestock Management; Working from Heights; and Customer Service.

“We are so pleased to celebrate new beginnings and a promising road ahead for our SHSM Agriculture program in the excellent and ag-friendly facilities provided by our Grey Roots partners,” says BWDSB Superintendent of Education Keith Lefebvre. “Thanks are extended to our county and museum counterparts and the many individuals and supporters, past and present, who have been instrumental in the continued growth of this pivotal program for our students.”

“From Grey Roots’ perspective, hosting the BWDSB’s Specialist High Skills Major Agriculture program is an exciting opportunity to utilize the Moreston Heritage Village facilities during our off-season. We take pride in supporting the future of the agriculture community and are delighted to report that the pilot is progressing smoothly,” says Jill Paterson, Grey Roots Manager. “We’ve had a great experience collaborating with board representatives, the program’s teacher, Mr. Williams, and the exceptional students.”

SHSM programs provide authentic, experiential learning opportunities that enable students to participate in specialized training and certifications, while developing relationships with community partners and businesses through co-operative education placements. BWDSB is a provincial leader in SHSM offerings with a total of 37 programs available across nine secondary schools.