Thanks to Marc Bieler, DipAgr’58, BA’64, a new chapter in environmental studies at McGill has begun.
Born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1938, where his Canadian father worked for the League of Nations, a young Marc Bieler discovered his passion for agriculture by spending time during the summers on a farm on his Swiss mother’s property. After a two year farm diploma course at McGill’s Macdonald College and a bachelor of commerce degree also from McGill, he went to work for international grain traders Continental Grain, which took him to Winnipeg, Vancouver, Minneapolis and then New York City, where he lived for four years.
But the country life was calling him, and he returned to Quebec to work for the provincial department of agriculture, then buying an apple farm in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and eventually becoming a full-time farmer. By 1980 he had three farms of his own. Switching from apples to cranberries in 1984 brought Marc Bieler great success, and his agri-food business grew and grew, expanding into cattle breeding, apple processing and maple syrup production. Located in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, 100 km south of Quebec City, Bieler Cranberries is now Canada’s leading cranberry producer, with 1,500 acres producing 40 million pounds of fruit a year.
Marc Bieler has been an annual donor to the University since 1964, enabling multiple scholarships, internships and funds. In 2009, he contributed $1 million to create the Bieler Family Internship Program in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. His landmark $15-million gift to the McGill School of Environment, announced in October 2020, will revolutionizing research, teaching, experiential learning and environmental outreach at McGill. It will enable the University to train the next generation of leaders and innovators to embody the kind of cooperation that humanity needs in charting new courses to save the planet.
“We’re close to the land, so we see the changes that are happening in the climate,” says Marc Bieler. “When you read about the fires in California, the deserts increasing and the ice caps melting, and the disappearance of species in nature, you realize that we’re not in balance. So I decided that I should do something major: what do you do to help the world and its predicament that we’re in right now? If present trends continue, it’s disastrous. My wish is that students that are really intererested and motivated will get involved. It’s important to meet the challenge that we have to face.”