Farm's future remains secure

Darrell Cole
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No plans to close or downsize Nappan experimental farm

KENTVILLE - While it remains a shadow of what it once was, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada continues to have plans for the Nappan experimental farm.

While concerns are quietly expressed about the lack of activity at the century-old farm near Amherst, science director Peter Hicklenton said there are no plans to cease operations there.

"The farm was taken off the list for closure several years ago and I'm not aware of any changes to that commitment," said Hicklenton, who is responsible for the farms in both Kentville and Nappan. "There has been no discussion about closure. Nappan is a smaller centre in terms of staff, but there is research going on there."

Hicklenton said there are two scientists working at Nappan with one doing research on soils and the other doing research on new production systems for beef with a particular emphasis on pasture finishing.

"Those are the main programs going on there. In addition to that, there is some useage of the site by other scientists like Dr. Yousef Papadopolous, who is one of our people co-located at the agricultural college in Truro," he said. "He is a forage breeder and he has a number of forage plots at Nappan."

Hicklenton said Nappan is not alone in that there are a number of similar farms across the country in a similar situation with limited professional staff, but a lot of research going on.

The science director said he proposed a few years ago to use Nappan more and more for organic research, but he has yet to successful convince the agricultural college to place more research there.

"There's a good future there, but to say in five or 10 years it's going to become the centre for something, we don't have that," he said. "It's not really on my agenda to do that. Given the level the activity going on there I'm very happy it continues as an experimental farm in that mode."

He doubts the farm will ever return to the days when it had five or six professional researchers with their own programs, but sees it as a venue for research that's being administered or completed elsewhere.

The future of the farm was first placed in doubt back in 2005 when the former Liberal government announced it would close as part of the budget process. Only after a groundswell of community support and a federal review of the closure that revealed the closure plan was flawed did Ottawa relent.

Organizations: Agri-Foods Canada

Geographic location: KENTVILLE, Amherst, Truro Ottawa

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