The scholarships and MacSon Professorship in Agronomy for Eastern and Northern Ontario honour a four generation family legacy in agriculture and environmental conservation.
All have been established through the sale of land in Plantagenet, Ontario. Proceeds from the sale were directed into the new scholarships and professorship, which unlocked additional funding that resulted in a $6 million investment to support Eastern and Northern Ontario agriculture and students.
The property was originally owned and farmed by Rodney Maclaren who spearheaded the original gift to the University with his mother Joy Maclaren. The land was donated to the University of Guelph in 2005 to add capacity for research and conservation, and the Ontario Agricultural College worked closely with Geordie Maclaren, Rodney’s son, to develop the new scholarships and professorship.
“The four generations of our family have all been involved in agriculture, education and conservation,” shares Geordie. “This is all in recognition of my family’s legacy. My great grandparents started ranching in Western Canada and my grandparents and parents both farmed in Eastern Ontario. They all had a passion for education, agriculture, and the conservation of land and wildlife.”
The MacSon naming is a nod to the family’s history as it comes from the corporate name of the Maclaren’s family farm
“The legacy created is a permanent testament to the Maclaren family's commitment to farming and conservation,” says Rene Van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College.
“It has been a pleasure working with Geordie to honour the intention of his grandmother’s original gift to the University. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to strengthen our research capacity in Eastern and Northern Ontario.”
Today Geordie, (OAC ’97A), farms 700 acres of cash crops and 50 beef cows. He and his wife Tara (B.Sc. 2000) are strong advocates of education and agriculture who promote the importance of both as they raise their three children on the family farm. Geordie is pleased with the final outcome and how it acknowledges his family.
“My grandmother wanted to give back to the east similarly to how some western family members have given to the west. Eastern Ontario is where she spent a great portion of her life after moving from the west. The original intent for the donated land was for research in Eastern Ontario. The professorship and scholarships will keep funds invested in the region and will drive research to this area,” he explains.
The MacSon Professorship in Agronomy for Eastern and Northern Ontario will be housed in the Department of Plant Agriculture with responsibility for conducting research in agronomy and cropping systems at the University’s New Liskeard, Emo and Winchester research stations. The new investment will pay for the named professorship for 10 years; the college will then provide base funding for this permanent position.
The position will develop and lead a comprehensive research program addressing issues relevant to crop production in Eastern and Northern Ontario while working to enhance economic and environmental sustainability of field crops grown in these regions.
The MacSon Graduate Entrance Scholarships will support two students each year entering any graduate program in OAC who will be conducting research or studying issues related to conservation. Preference will be given to students who are from Eastern Ontario and/or students who self identify as Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit, Metis). An undergraduate scholarship is also being developed.