Agriculture Canada’s research farm in Harrington opens its doors to the public this month

We can often think of government institutions as giant cogs in a wheel with no real relevance to our day-to-day lives, but for the scientists who work at the Agriculture Canada Research Farm in Harrington, PEI, every bit of data they collect and every piece of new agricultural research they do helps to put food on Canadians’ plates.

You may already be familiar with the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre. Found in the middle of Charlottetown, the vast green space that runs between University Ave and Mount Edward Rd is home to fields, offices, and laboratories. That broad strip is a 65-hectare lot of land. With 330 hectares, or just over 800 acres, the Harrington farm is substantially larger. One of 20 federal research centres across Canada, much of its work is to support the potato and grain industries in the region. “A lot of the work revolves around things that may impact crop growth or what a farmer is able to sell at the end of a growing season,” Mark Grimmett, associate director of the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre, said.

Pests, weeds, insects are all problems that can be addressed on a regional research level, since environmental and geographic aspects are usually consistent for the Atlantic region. “It’s also looking for new crops that we can grow in this region as well, and new options for farmers and the agriculture industry in the region to make a profit on and to grow and to introduce other rotational crops into our standard crops,” Grimmett said. Bringing in new varieties from across Canada or around the world, the farm’s researchers study the plants’ growth and see if they may or may not work well for our climate, soil, and environment.

The farm is a hotbed of activity each and every day, but like all farms, spring is busy. Over the winter, a large greenhouse allows the researchers to start their plants, and then in spring, planting happens in the fields. There are 16 researchers and professionals, and there are 80 people working full time in the summer months, which includes an additional 40 summer students who are hired through the Federal Student Work Experience Program.

Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Grimmett points out that the farm works closely with many PEI farming organizations, including the PEI Federation of Agriculture, the Organic Producers Co-operative, the East Prince Agri-Environmental Association, and the PEI Department of Agriculture. “There’s also opportunities for direct contact between farmers and our researchers too, we don’t put up a buffer…farmers can reach out and talk to our researchers as well.”

The farm will be hosting an open house on July 14, from 10-2 and Grimmett looks forward to welcoming Islanders to the farm. “Scientists will be on hand, we’ll also have hands-on displays for people to look at. It’s something for the whole family, there’ll be children’s activities as well,…machinery displays,…we’ll be doing wagon tours of a number of the research fields … and so people can learn about some of the different crops and research that is happening here firsthand.”

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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