Longstanding donor to help increase Lakeland College farm

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September 6, 2018
The generosity of a donor will provide more opportunities for Lakeland College’s agricultural sciences students to take the lead and grow ag-based research opportunities.
Judy Sweet made a $500,000 donation to Lakeland on Thursday, Sept. 6, which will be used to increase Lakeland’s farm land base in the future. This gift builds on Judy’s support of the modernization and expansion of the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility, which officially opened on Oct. 20, 2016 in memory of Judy’s late husband Garth. Students are trained on feed efficiency testing of livestock at the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility by working with faculty and directly with industry. This year, students will work on a project using GrowSafe® automatic feeding equipment and an emerging method using infrared technology.

After learning more about Lakeland’s farm operations, as managed by the animal science technology and crop technology students, and attending the students’ farm unit presentations, Judy remained connected with Lakeland and interested in its work to advance agricultural learning. As a proud supporter of the college, Judy wanted to help Lakeland continue its momentum in expanding and modernizing the college farm.

“This donation is really about helping Lakeland College address their need to grow their farm operations. This ties into the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility and supports the students, who are eager and already prepared for the real world when they graduate. They could run their own farm, start a new business, advance ag research or take on something else, and they are prepared to do it,” says Judy. “To advance this, you have to have more land.”

Animal science technology and crop technology students currently have access to 2,000 student-managed acres of crop and pasture land, hundreds of head of livestock and numerous learning facilities at the Vermilion campus, including the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility

From the inception of Lakeland’s farm operations, as managed by students, nearly 30 years ago, enrolment has grown steadily. Since Lakeland last grew its land base in 2010, the number of animal science technology and crop technology students has increased from 90 to 266 students – an increase of 196 per cent. There are 559 students in seven agricultural sciences programs at the Vermilion campus this fall.

“Land is the foundation for our student-led learning model on the college farm. Our intention is to grow our land base in a way that enriches educational opportunities in ag business and research,” says Josie Van Lent, dean of Lakeland’s School of Agricultural Sciences. “We are very grateful to have Judy’s support and to see her donation going towards a program that supports business and business principles in agriculture. This gift will not only benefit Lakeland’s ag programming and farm operations, it will also have a lasting impact on our students – their education lasts a lifetime and that’s what Judy is contributing to.”

Increasing enrolment combined with growing livestock herds, including an 80-head research herd, 290-head dairy herd, 90-head commercial beef herd and a 40-head purebred beef herd, have put pressure on Lakeland’s land base. Judy’s donation will enable Lakeland to pursue a future land acquisition that supports growing its award-winning student-managed learning model and new research opportunities. 

“Thank you to Judy and her family for supporting the growth of our college farm. This donation is truly a meaningful gift to our students and Lakeland – it solidifies our position as a leading provider of agricultural education in Canada,” says Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart, president and CEO of Lakeland College. “The college relies on community support from generous and visionary donors like Judy to deliver the exceptional educational experiences that students require to excel.”

Lakeland’s guiding philosophy is that students benefit from first-hand opportunities to learn by doing and leading; there is no substitute for experience.
Photo: Accompanied by her grandson Spencer Boles (front row, far left), Judy Sweet (front row, second from the left) presents Josie Van Lent, dean of Lakeland’s School of Agricultural Sciences, and Geoff Brown, associate dean, with a donation to help grow Lakeland's farm. Joining them for the presentation are representatives from Lakeland's student-run farm and the Vermilion campus Students' Association (back row, from left): Ethan Winsnes (sheep unit manager), Hannah Olsen (SA president), Brantley Wasmuth (crops assistant manager), Connor English (research unit manager), Jonathan Lange (dairy unit manager), Colton Nickipelo (general manager), Jarrett Hargrave (purebred beef unit manager), and Erica Horner (commercial beef unit manager).