The Guelphster

In homage to my chum, Mr Timothy Relf,
I thought I’d use rhyme to talk about my stay in Guelph.

Then I came to my senses and realised there’s no way I could hope to match the Relfster’s poetry prowess (Sally Gunnell and poly tunnel? Genius), so it’s back to boring old prose I go. (For those who don’t have a clue what I’m on about, you’ll have to follow the link above. I hear there’s demand for a blue plaque on his old house in Kent now to mark his literary contributions…).

Anyway, back to business. I’ve travelled about an hour south of Toronto to the university city of Guelph. It’s one of Canada’s biggest cities, but it’s really spread out, leafy and has lots of quaint stone properties – I get the feeling the original architects were very taken by olde English buildings.

I currently staying with my lovely Nuffield chum, Sarah. She’s very kindly opened up her home to me and seems very intent on showing me the best Guelph has to offer. Out of interest in Canada’s grain markets (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it) she took me to try some of the local real ales yesterday, which rubbished my belief that the only decent ales come from the UK.

Today I have been to visit Owen Roberts of the University of Guelph. He’s an expert in agricultural communications and is very interested in knowledge transfer. Twenty years ago he set up something called SPARK, which stands for Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge. It’s a publication about the research the university is doing, but it is written by students at the university who are trained by Owen in the art of writing. It’s sent out to alumni as well as government agencies and organisations that provide research funding – basically it explains what scientists are up to in a simple way, justifies research expenditure and makes it clear how the work the university is doing can be transferred into the real world.

I’ve mentioned before how important I think it is for agricultural scientists to be able to talk to farmers about the work they do so it can be applied on-farm, so the project Owen set up is really interesting. It’s always great to meet people who really care about the work they do, and if his students feel half as inspired by him as I do after talking to him today then agricultural journalism in Canadian is on a strong footing.

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