“This award is for the whole team – professors, technologists, technicians, and administration at Niagara College – that supported the development of this program right from the beginning.” Those were the words of Bill MacDonald, professor and program coordinator of NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production program (CCP) – the first of its kind in Canada – after accepting the Cultivation Education Award at the Grow Up Conference and Expo in Niagara Falls on December 1.
“It is exceptional to see Bill and the entire Commercial Cannabis Production team recognized for their passion for cannabis education,” said Al Unwin, Dean of Business, Tourism & Environment at Niagara College. “This program was born out of a desire to help meet the demands of the evolving cannabis industry, and a natural extension of the expertise of our faculty and researchers who take great pride in training the next generation of growers.”
It is a big win for MacDonald and the one-year graduate certificate program which is still green in its third year, training students to grow cannabis according to Health Canada’s strict and complex regulatory framework. Students in the program learn about the biological and cultural practices of cannabis production including plant nutrition, environment, lighting, climate control, pest control, and cultivar selection.
While the cannabis the students grow is ultimately destroyed (according to the College’s Health Canada research license), the real commodity is the graduates. Since opening the doors to their ‘Cannabunker’ in 2018 – the secure lab and growing facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake – 143 graduates have completed the program. Graduates enter the cannabis industry with the hands-on skills and knowledge to work at Licensed Producers in a variety of roles in growing, operations, quality assurance, and more.
Bill MacDonald was nominated for the Cultivation Education Award alongside seven others including the University of Guelph, private career colleges, expert growers, and industry leaders. MacDonald has over four decades of growing experience and holds a Master of Science in Plant Nutrition/Physiology from the University of Guelph. He has spent his career training growers both in the greenhouse industry and at Niagara College where, after 10 years with the Greenhouse Technician Program, he helped spearhead the development of the CCP program.
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