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Silicon Valley of Agriculture

Fanshawe College in Simcoe Ontario is dabbling into the agricultural tech industry.

Krista Zilkey, left, Donna Gates, right, celebrating 50 years in Norfolk at Fanshawe open house.

Norfolk County is positioned to become the “Silicon Valley of agriculture” says the chair of the Simcoe/Norfolk campus of Fanshawe College.

Donna Gates, a local native, is effusive in her enthusiasm for the potential of this area to create and develop new agricultural technologies and businesses.

“I’ve lived here all my life and wasn’t aware of the level of sophistication and innovation in the farming community,” she admits.

The business of farming has rapidly evolved in recent years. In response, Fanshawe developed a graduate level Agri-Business Management Program.

Gates said about 100 local farmers and businesses provided input into planning the program which studies agriculture production – managing every step of the supply chain from farm to table. The program provides tools to enter the agricultural sector at a supervisory level and manage an existing organization or as an entrepreneur.

“Farming is no longer rubber boots and the barnyard,” she said. “it’s engaging, high tech and innovative .”

Fanshawe has had a presence in Norfolk since the late 60s and established their campus in Simcoe in the early 70s named after James N. Allan, a prominent local provincial politician.

Gates recalled that the original programming focused on farm business management which has now come full circle with the new agri-business management graduate program. She added that several graduates of the original program helped plan the new program. “That’s a poetic symmetry,” she said.

“We’re so fortunate to be a small campus as, opposed to a massive institution, where we can get to know our students and meet their needs,” she said.”

The campus later expanded to post secondary school trades and academics. In the last decade, the offerings added human services. Gates said the Simcoe campus offers unique programming, not available at other Fanshawe locations, which meet local needs and demands.

“We’re so fortunate to be a small campus as, opposed to a massive institution, where we can get to know our students and meet their needs,” she said.

Aside from the attraction of small class sizes, the Simcoe campus can draw on the overall infrastructure and access to services of Fanshawe College.

In addition, a major $3 million renovation project was

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“We have all the IT (information technology) you can imagine,” Gates said.

The student population has increased as out-of-area and even international students are attracted to the facility and its programs. She added the college is looking to provide on-campus accommodations. Now, most commute or find temporary housing in Simcoe.

“We have one student who commutes daily from Scarborough,” she said.

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