The facility could open in 2024
By Diego Flammini
An Ontario municipality is moving forward with bringing a new learning and tourist attraction to its community
North Perth Council recently voiced its support to construct an Ag Science Centre following a feasibility study, market analysis and interviews with stakeholders.
Project organizers initially called for the facility to be a children’s museum, but the feasibility study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and completed by Lord Cultural Resources, revealed an ag attraction would be a better fit for North Perth, said Kim Kowch, community development coordinator with the Municipality of North Perth.
The study also found that no such ag-focused science centres exist in Canada.
“Our area is very strong in agriculture, we have a strong focus on innovation and growth and (the science centre) aligns really well with what we see as being our economic priorities going forward and it would be attractive to youth and young families,” Kowch told Farms.com.
The feasibility study suggests a municipally owned building which can include outdoor opportunities.
North Perth Council has conditionally approved a site, Kowch said.
The location will be 21,000 gross square-feet and have at least 15,000 square-feet of useable space. That area will be split up for exhibition space, science exhibitions, an area for children between the ages of two and six and space available for private rentals.
The materials inside the Ag Science Centre will focus on topics like farm safety, industry careers, food production and other themes developed with the Listowel Agricultural Society, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the greater ag sector.
The centre will operate as a non-profit and create around 11 jobs in the community.
The project is expected to cost almost $14 million.
If all goes smoothly and funding from different levels of government and the private sector is guaranteed, the facility could open in three years, Kowch said.
“We’re still at the stages where funding is being secured and partnerships are being developed,” she said. “But if everything comes together the way we hope it will, we’re looking at opening the centre some time in 2024.”
The original idea for a children’s museum in the area came from community resident Jill Lewis.
“I wanted this project to provide fun, year-round educational programming that isn’t just sports,” she told Farms.com. “We could have high-school kids run programs for smaller children and incorporate people from all sorts of backgrounds.”
Lewis now chairs the Huron Perth Ag Science Centre Steering Committee.
Lewis has a background in science and admits agriculture is out of her realm of expertise.
But this provides an opportunity to engage with stakeholders who can provide valuable input, she said.
“We’re happy to work with people in the agriculture industry who do know the things we don’t so we can make this science centre the best it can be,” she said. “The community support so far has been fantastic and we’ll be looking for people to get involved once we’re further along in the project.”
Anyone interested in the Huron-Perth Ag Science Centre can follow its updates on a Facebook page. People can also contact Lewis through that page if they wish to get involved with the project.