The Central Experimental Farm, recently given a National Historic Site designation, has seen a real commitment on the part of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada with the appointment of an official Advisory Council, with representation from the local community, that will be consulted on any proposals for future change at the farm. This move reveals a new commitment on the part of the federal government to treat the Central Experimental Farm as a part of the community; a community that cares about what happens there.
Further evidence of that commitment comes with a proposal to restore the Booth Barns, known as Building 118, a local landmark that comprises two historic agricultural buildings dating from the 19th century that anchor the more southerly section of the farm against a busy urban landscape. The complex' heritage value was recognized with an official designation under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1998. Although the two adjoining low annexes dating from the 1920s and 1930s will come down, the silos will be retained.
With animal research no longer taking place on that section of the farm, the barns have remained vacant over the past few years and lack of maintenance and vandalism have threatened their continued existence. The proposed restoration will secure the site which will be used for badly needed storage of heavy equipment that itself has suffered from vandalism from being overwintered outdoors.
Other historic buildings that no longer serve their original purpose are being saved from demolition as the department welcomes outside tenants to the farm. The Bee House, Building 26, was saved by the intervention of active heritage organizations and concerned citizens and today it is home to the 4-H Club. Another recent partnership resulted when the Heritage Canada Foundation moved into the old Dominion Observatory, giving it renewed life.
The Friends of the Farm have increased their activity with an ambitious development plan for the Millennium that will include badly needed upgrades to the arboretum and display beds, all without compromising the beauty of this picturesque cultural landscape.
These developments give cause for celebration in light of the more recent tragic fires that saw the destruction of the Horse Barn and the charming house across the road from it.
Let's hope that this federal commitment signals a trend toward greater respect for the concerns of the local community, whether it involves the preservation of the site or the naming of the livestock!