It will soon be four decades since the Farm Centre first opened its doors.
While it won't match the gala that took place on November 18, 1975, Manager Phil Ferraro said the board of directors of the Farm Centre Association is currently working on an event to mark the occasion. He said the details should be worked out over the next few weeks.
"We are not planning anything really grandoise, but we want to offer people a chance to look back," Ferraro said.
When the University Avenue location first opened, it quickly became much more than an office building for the agricultural community. It hosted countless cultural and entertainment events aimed at both producers and non-farmers alike. In fact, the mission statement for the association urges the promotion and encouragement of “better understanding and exchange of views between agricultural, urban and industrial groups and organizations.”
Ferraro said a number of members of the current board are the second generation to be involved, and they can remember playing with the other children while their parents attended meetings. He said there was a period when the centre seemed to get away from its mandate of being more than an office building, but they are now making a concerted effort to return to their roots.
Over the past several years, the centre suffered from two significant challenges—a declining tenant base as many agencies have been the victim of government cutbacks and an aging infrastructure. To help solve the second problem, the centre began major renovations last year, with financial help from the federal and provincial governments, as well as from a special fund established for projects to help mark the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that eventually led to Confederation.
New flooring was installed in the hallways and public spaces, the roof was replaced and both entrances were landscaped. Thanks to support from Farm Credit Canada, he said the centre is now in the process of developing a commercial kitchen suitable for small scale micro-processing ventures. Ferraro said he has already sought out the advice of officials at Canada's Smartest Kitchen at Holland College.
Last year, the Farm Centre established the Legacy Garden to showcase Island crops of the past, present and future. Ferraro said it has grown into a community garden that had 150 people taking part this summer.
The centre now hosts a New Year's Levee each year in conjunction with the Women's Institute and a trade show was held last spring geared to small scale agriculture.
The sod turning for the centre officially took place January 4, 1975 with Edwin Jewell, then a 4-H member, doing the honours. the ribbon was officially cut by David M. Stewart, President and Chairman of the MacDonald-Stewart Foundation, which provided a $500,000 donation towards the building. Others taking part in the opening ceremony four decades ago were Dan MacPherson, (the first chair of the association board), board Co-chair Dr. L.B. MacLeod, Gordon Bennett (who was then Lieutenant Governor) then premier Alexander B. Campbell and A.E (Bud) Ings, who was then minister of agriculture and forestry.