Edmonton

Behind the barn doors at Edmonton's urban farm

The University of Alberta's south campus farm is an agricultural oasis in an urban landscape.

'You might know 146 people. I know 146 animals in the barn and I know them inside and out'

Stan Blade, the dean of the faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences surveying spring crop planting at the south campus of the University of Alberta. (John Robertson/CBC)

'Round these parts, they call him the cow whisperer.

Harold Lehman leans over to pet a calf inside the University of Alberta dairy on the south campus.

"I started as a milker," smiles Lehman. "I was just a young lad of 24." 

The manager of the Dairy Research and Technology Centre, Lehman has been working in the barns for three decades.
Harold Lehman has spent 32 years working in the Dairy Research and Technology Centre on the south campus of the University of Alberta. (John Robertson/CBC)

"You might know 146 people. I know 146 animals in the barn and I know them inside and out. I really took pride in knowing the animals," said Lehman.

Stan Blade also grew up on dairy farm and now is the dean of the faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences

The south campus farm has a long and rich history of agricultural research, he said.

"If you know where the Northern Jubilee Auditorium is? That use to be our cow barn area. We would drive our cattle to pasture in the 30's and the 40's and now as you can see, it's a modern research facility doing all sorts of interesting things," he said. 

"It's like the jewel of our faculty."

"The jewel of our faculty"

6 years ago
Duration 2:36
Stan Blade, dean of the faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, shows us around this spot in Our Edmonton.

He points to crop research just gearing up and industry advances in poultry, swine and dairy.

"All of those things that are important for Alberta farmers, for Canadian farmers," he said. "That work is going on right here at our research station."

The farm's history is celebrated at the Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences Museum snuggled between Foote Field and the Saville Community Sports Centre. 

Curator Jack Francis, who began working in animal research at the university in 1949, has collected more than 500 artifacts from hand tools used to work the fields to horse drawn buggies and carriages.

"I retired and laid low for a couple of years and then I thought, I know there's stuff around the old barns and we gathered it together and started in 2000," Francis said. 

Inside a "unique" agricultural museum in Edmonton

6 years ago
Duration 2:04
Jack Francis, the curator of the Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences Museum on the south campus of the University of Alberta, shows us around this "unique" collection.

The museum is run by volunteers and the public can make an appointment to stroll down agricultural memory lane. 

As for Harold Lehman, after 32 years the cow whisperer is retiring from the dairy with many stories of his own.

"This is actually my last week, it's been a privilege, I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

You can see more from the University of Alberta south campus on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV. 

"I love the animals"

6 years ago
Duration 1:11
Learn more about the dairy research and technology centre at the University of Alberta from Harold Lehman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adrienne Lamb

Host/Producer

Adrienne Lamb is the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. She served for several years as CBC Radio's national arts reporter in Edmonton. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2001, Adrienne worked at CBC in Ontario and New Brunswick. Adrienne is a graduate of Western University with a degree in English and Anthropology and a Masters in Journalism.

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