Macdonald Farm: A unique place of learning on the island of Montréal

Published: 20 February 2024

La famille du lait featured our very own Macdonald Campus Farm in their online magazine, speaking to General Manager Janice Pierson.

The award-winning Macdonald Campus Farm, the last to produce milk on the island of Montréal, offers a unique research opportunity to academics and agricultural specialists. It also forms a crucial part of McGill's programs within the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, from Bioresource Engineering and Animal Science to Agricultural Economics, Parasitology and more, facilitating learning beyond the classroom. In addition, the farm is the primary learning location for McGill's Farm Management and Technology program and is frequented by students in certain courses offered at John Abbott College and Vanier College.

For Janice Pierson, producing milk in such a rich context is extremely fortunate. Raising cows near the campus and research laboratories allows the farm to test new ways of doing things and improve all facets of dairy production. Various projects related to animal nutrition and well-being, artificial intelligence in the dairy environment, or energy recovery, for example, allow Janice and her team to continually adapt to the new realities surrounding agriculture.

Janice dreams of a proliferation of interdisciplinary research projects, in addition to existing research chairs and the numerous master's and doctoral projects being carried out on campus. “Agriculture can be linked to so many other fields, such as medicine, economics or the social sciences. We could develop really interesting partnerships," she told La famille du lait.

For her, it is essential that the animals frequent the pasture, get daily exercise and have access to a diversified diet—but she has even greater ambitions than raising happy cows that produce good milk.

“In light of current environmental findings, we cannot do anything other than create agricultural ecosystems more in harmony with nature; regenerative farms," she said.

How to achieve this? According to Janice, we must continue to work jointly with research specialists and agronomists to have a more holistic understanding of agricultural environments. In this sense, several projects will see the light of day at the Macdonald Campus Farm in the years to come: reforestation of certain plots, planting of windbreak hedges, installation of nest boxes and beehives, crop rotation, better management of manure, recovery energies and many other initiatives aimed at improving biodiversity and the health of all things.

But for Janice Pierson, the key to success will always be research and teaching. And as long as she is in office, surrounded by her happy cows and her colleagues, the Macdonald Campus Farm will remain an incredibly special place, contributing to changing agricultural paradigms and inspiring the next generation to do even better for the future of the world.

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