Will TBARS be Operational in 2016 and Beyond?

We hope so! TBARA Board had decided to close TBARS on March 31, 2015 due to lack of adequate funds. At that time, Sustainability Study of TBARS was still going on. Before closure however, we were allowed by the NOHFC to use leftover funds from the previous project at the end of March 31, 2015. As a result, TBARA Board decided to keep TBARS operational until December 31, 2015, even though staff was reduced in number and we were without a technician. The Lord helped Blaine Tomeck and myself by sending some volunteers to work at TBARS (details in TBARS Annual Report 2015). Consequently, we were able to pull through the season and complete the report in time. I was also able to earn some additional dollars which helped us to hire an intern in mid-September. The earned dollars and savings (including saving in labour due to volunteers) left us with some balance for 2016 and I was told by TBARA Board last month that I could continue until March 31, 2016.

In early 2015 after TBARA decided to close TBARS, I made contacts and met with a few key persons at Lakehead University (LU) through colleagues and friends in the university for LU-TBARS alliance and the continuity of TBARS. These meetings resulted in the visit of Dr. Andrew Dean (Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Innovation) and Brian Stevenson, President of LU, to TBARS in August 2015. Back in summer 2012, TBARA Board had authorized Bill Mauro, MPP of Thunder Bay-Atikokan to pursue alliance of TBARS with LU. This was also one of the recommendations in TBARS Sustainability Study by Dr. Glenn Coulter, Integrity Intellectual Property Inc. Calgary, Alberta. Though Dr. Stevenson didn’t make any commitment then, he was impressed by TBARS and appeared to be positive about TBARS-LU alliance. The main hurdle in that was the funding issue, because as I understand from my colleagues in LU, there had been cuts in the funding to the university as well.

In September this year, Bruce Forrest and Bernie Kamphof, then President and Director TBARA, and I met Bill Mauro to impress upon him the outstanding productivity of TBARS and the need of its continuity in the interest of the consistent economic development of the northern agricultural communities. Apart from farmers, researchers and extension specialists, the good work done at TBARS is also recognized and supported by public at large and the media. Mauro assured us to talk to Dr. Stevenson and also advised us to submit another funding proposal to NOHFC. I had already scheduled meetings with officials from the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and FedNor. My colleagues in both the organizations have been very supportive of TBARS and me. My ideas/logic and the project title “Maximizing Economic Yields” was accepted by the two organizations and I was advised to submit Phase 1 Applications, which I did last month. Once Phase 1 Applications are approved (I am hopeful), I will have to write and submit Phase 2 Applications. Approval of Phase 1 applications or submission of Phase 2 applications is no guarantee of funding. However, the Lord has made me a man with an optimistic and positive attitude. I believe that “optimism spells growth”. When the first decision was made to close TBARS in March 31, 2015, any one in my place would have been writing job applications, but I continued making efforts for the continuity of TBARS (reference my meetings with LU officials; in between I was also able to rope in NWO Innovation Centre for these meetings).

As in the past, I was invited by Bill Mauro to his open house on December 4, 2015. There was no time for detailed talks, though it was clear that Mauro was sincerely trying for continuity of TBARS. However, he regretted that the outcome of his efforts was unlikely to be seen by the end of this month/year.

I am very appreciative of the support to TBARS from all corners, including two of our very capable ministers from Thunder Bay, enterprising farmers and farm organizations, farming related businesses, TBARA Board, general public, and the media. I believe there are also some colleagues and well-wishers who have been trying for sustainability of agricultural research in Northern Ontario in general and TBARS in particular. As usual, I am optimistic and will keep trying!

Wish you all Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

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