by Tom Van Dusen
What’s your agricultural organization doing to celebrate Canada 150?

There’s no doubt that Ag 150 celebrations are underway on a national scale. Going back to last fall, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food set the stage by using the latest in GPS and hands-free technology to carve the Canada 150 logo in a Saskatchewan wheat field.

And the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has launched “Canada 150: Our Farms. Our Food. Our Future,” a campaign intended to raise awareness of how Canadians enjoy an abundance of safe affordable chow at some of the lowest costs in the world.

Those are big-ticket projects intended to promote the policies and messages of their sponsors as much as celebrate the 150th. But what about more modest local efforts pilled together by volunteers for no other reason than to acknowledge the fact that, after 150 years of Confederation, Canada remains a remarkable country, the best place to live and practise agriculture in the world, county by county.

I haven’t heard of many of those yet. However, the Lombardy Agricultural Society is one group that has a 150th project underway which started last year with one of its directors winning a seed company contest. Now the fair board is looking forward to launching its 2017 season with a splash of complimentary colour in honour of the 150th.

After director John Joynt won the contest co-sponsored by Prince Edward Island mail-order seed company Vesey’s, and the Canadian Garden Council, the society was awarded 1,000 red and white tulip bulbs with which to create a 150th celebratory flower bed.

The bulbs were received and planted last fall at the fairgrounds along Highway 15 south of Smiths Falls and now Joynt and other Lombardy directors who organized the project are patiently awaiting the manifestation of their 150th Celebration Garden.

“The plants are coming up but it’s still too early for the blooms,” Joynt says, adding organizers decided not to create any fancy patterns but to plant the tulips in an orderly way in front of the main agricultural hall.

“The thing is, when you try to get too creative, some of your plants might die or get destroyed somehow, ruining your design.”

In connection with what they hope will be a full blooming, volunteers Joynt, his wife Mary, Aline Hicks and Bonnie Covell are organizing a Canada 150 celebration May 24 at the grouping of white, orange-roofed fair buildings which has become a local landmark.

John was told that Lombardy is the only agricultural society to have claimed a 1,000-bulb prize in the contest. A recipient of the Vesey catalogue distributed across Canada and the United States, he noticed the company was sponsoring a contest requiring entrants to describe the merits of their organization, appropriately in 150 words or less.

“I mentioned our activities in general and our special attention to children and seniors and I was notified that we’d won.”

Michel Gauthier, executive director of the Garden Council which promotes the role and benefits of Canadian public gardens, has confirmed the “praiseworthy” win: “The response across Canada was overwhelming.”

In conjunction with the 150th celebration, the society will officially open its accessible washrooms and doors, newly renovated at a cost of $45,000. The fair board’s next major project is a new heating and air conditioning system towards which it has already raised $25,000.

Asked what the connection might be between the accessible renovations and the 150th celebration, Joynt admits there isn’t one other than timing and practicality: “It just seemed like a good opportunity with a crowd on hand to point out the new washrooms.”

During the celebration, the town crier will draw attention to local dignitaries asked to say a few words and O Canada will be sung. The society will offer free hotdogs, ice cream and drinks, and will light up and release into the sky 150 bio-degradable lanterns… which aren’t about Canada 150.

Once again, it’s a question of practicality: “The lanterns are a holdover from last year which was the fair’s 150th. It was an extremely dry season in 2016 so we decided to play it safe and not let them go until this season.”

In addition to providing public access to the Celebration Garden, Lombardy organizers have agreed with contest sponsors to install signage, document activities for a program report, and participate in evaluation of the program.

There’s no doubt a good, practical, patriotic time will be had by all.