International Federation of Agricultural Journalists

September 14, 2011

Arts, Sport, Heritage & Culture

Tonight I brought greetings to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists:

On behalf of the City of Guelph and its citizens, I am delighted to welcome all of you to our community for your 2011 Congress.

I understand your Congress was last hosted in Canada in 1967. That’s an awfully long time between visits! We’re thrilled to have you here. We are excited to have this opportunity to showcase Guelph, and southern Ontario, to leading agricultural journalists from some 30 countries around the globe.

Guelph was founded in the year 1827. I know that makes it a fairly young city, compared to the “Old World” towns and cities many of you call home. But by Canadian standards, Guelph has a long history – in fact, its founding pre-dates the confederation of Canada by 40 years.

From the very start, agriculture was a vital part of the heart and soul of Guelph. And, it remains so today. The founder of Guelph, John Galt, was the Superintendent of a British development firm called the “Canada Company.” When Galt planned Guelph, he wanted an “instant city” with a market for locally grown produce. His motivation? Driving up prices for the farmland that the Canada Company had for sale.

The first area cleared by settlers in 1827 was Market Square, and the Market was Guelph’s first building. That first building was replaced a few decades later by Guelph’s first Town Hall, which also housed the farmer’s market. By 1860, Guelph’s Market was a major hub of agricultural commerce, with monthly cattle auctions, horse auctions, and livestock fairs. Our agricultural strengths grew.

The Ontario Agricultural College was founded in Guelph in 1874, and the Ontario Veterinary College, which was founded in Toronto in 1862, moved to Guelph in 1922. Both became founding colleges of the University of Guelph.

Guelph’s reputation as an agricultural centre was cemented in 1889 when the city was chosen as the permanent site for Ontario’s annual Provincial Winter Fair, a livestock show, market, and agricultural fair. This heritage is still highly visible in downtown Guelph today.

Guelph’s first Town Hall was in use as our City Hall until just a few years ago, when it was turned into a court house. Our new City Hall was built on the site of the old Provincial Winter Fair building. A wall from the old Winter Fair building has been preserved, and is a main architectural feature of City Hall. The current Farmer’s Market is housed just around the corner, in what were once the show horse barns for the Winter Fair. We are building an ice rink and fountain in front of City Hall. It will be called Market Square, and just like the original Market Square, it will be a focal point and gathering place in our community.

Today, Guelph’s agricultural heritage can be seen not only in the physical remnants of buildings that once held cattle markets and agricultural fairs. It is most powerfully visible in the thriving agricultural innovation sector that calls Guelph home. As one of Canada’s leading centres for agriculture and life sciences, Guelph is the birthplace of new discoveries, new products, and new solutions that are shaping the future of agriculture.

We are home to provincial and federal agricultural ministries; dozens of agricultural organizations; and the University of Guelph, known the world over for its agricultural research. In partnership with the University and an organization called Grow Guelph, we have produced a 4-minute video about Guelph’s agricultural innovation sector. This video has been provided to every delegate today on a memory stick.  

Also on the memory stick, is information about Taste-Real – a food tourism initiative that taps into the growing local food movement. Guelph residents have enthusiastically embraced the local food movement – joining farm shares and co-operatives, starting community gardens, establishing new farmer’s markets, and patronizing restaurants that feature local menus. This is not surprising, given that local food markets have been a prominent part of our community since its very first days. After all these years, the Guelph Farmer’s Market is still packed with people every Saturday morning.

So once again, welcome to Guelph. We are a community that is proud of its agricultural heritage, proud of its leading-edge agri-innovation sector, and proud to support local food. As people who are always willing, able, and eager to talk about agriculture, we are thrilled to have hundreds of agricultural journalists in our midst! With the rise in urbanization around the globe, agricultural communications are more important than ever. Enjoy your stay with us, and all the best for a terrific Annual Congress. Thank you.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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