Durham College launches The Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture

Centre to focus on urban agriculture practices, research, education and training

Oshawa, Ontario, CANADA

Oshawa, Ontario, Sept. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When it comes to food and farming in Canada, there are a number of challenges to consider, both within the industry and broader community. There are opportunities to adopt more sustainable and regenerative practices, and address potential skills gaps – the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council predicts 123,000 agricultural jobs will go unfilled by 2029 – with Ontario accounting for the majority of Canada’s agricultural labour gap. There are also concerns about food access issues and food insecurity – according to the Dieticians of Canada, one in eight Canadian households do not have enough money to buy safe, nutritious food.

To combat these challenges, while championing excellence and innovation in urban farming, Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce the official launch of The Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture (The Barrett Centre). Established thanks to a $5-million donation from The Barrett Family Foundation, its vision is to become an internationally recognized hub of excellence in urban agriculture practices, research, education and training.

“The Barrett Centre is an amplification and expansion of all the expertise we’ve gained bringing the field-to-fork philosophy to life each and every day in our food, farming and horticulture programs,” said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “The knowledge and experience gained from turning unused fields into a vibrant crop-bearing farm serves as a solid foundation for what The Barrett Centre will accomplish, and we are looking forward to continuing to lead the way together, with The Barrett Foundation, our students, faculty and the community.”

At the heart of the work will be the building of a dynamic new urban farm that will be developed as a community-inspired living lab in the coming years. In addition, the centre will:

  • Enhance the existing urban farm at the Durham College Whitby campus.
  • Become a source for information, support and coaching for traditionally underserved and marginalized communities when it comes to urban agriculture initiatives including food security. 
  • Create a comprehensive and connected array of educational programs and materials in urban agriculture will be to meet growing employment needs.
  • Create dozens of new opportunities in the years ahead for students to gain experience working on urban farms and in roles supporting the operations.
  • Become home to a team of highly respected experts working to establish it as an internationally recognized hub of knowledge around sustainable urban agriculture. 

“Our goal as a foundation is to partner with organizations that positively impact communities, locally and globally,” said Bob Barrett, The Barrett Family Foundation. “With its focus on sustainable agriculture, coupled with student learning and research, The Barrett Centre stands to do just that. We are really looking forward to seeing all the great work that will be achieved.”

For more information about the Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture visit www.durhamcollege.ca/barrettcentre.


About Durham College

With campuses in Oshawa and Whitby, Durham College (DC) offers over 11,400 full-time students access to more than 140 post-secondary programs, including four honours bachelor degree and nine apprenticeship programs. 

DC enables students to develop career-ready skills for the ever-changing job market by offering an exceptional college education. With a focus on experiential learning, led by experienced faculty, through field placements, applied research, co-ops and other hands-on opportunities, DC grads are known for having the skills and knowledge employers need. 

At the Oshawa campus, the Centre for Collaborative Education brings together local, Indigenous and global communities, featuring the Durham College Spa, Global Classroom and interprofessional simulation and anatomy labs. The campus is also home to several of the college’s applied research centres, including the AI Hub, Centre for Cybersecurity Innovation and Mixed Reality Capture Studio. Additionally, the flexible, fully automated, and industrial-grade Integrated Manufacturing Centre serves as a model of the new standards in education in advanced manufacturing, mechatronics and engineering. 

At DC’s Whitby campus, construction is nearly complete on the new Skills Training Centre. Designed to shine a spotlight on skilled trades training, innovation and education, this building will expand the college’s capacity to provide students with hands-on training, access to simulators and other forms of instruction in shop labs for carpentry, HVAC, welding, elevating devices, crane operation, automotive, millwright and plumbing, among others. 

The campus also features the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food, which includes the award-winning Bistro ’67, a full-service, teaching-inspired restaurant, and Pantry, a retail store featuring food grown and prepared by students in the college’s horticulture, culinary and cook apprenticeship programs. 


From left to right: Linda Flynn, Don Lovisa, Bob Barrett and Francine Rouleau-Barrett.

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