December 2020 – Pierre Huppé
Retiring Chief of Grounds Maintenance, AAFC
No Longer on the Run
When Pierre Huppé joined the staff of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF), he suspected he had landed his dream job. He had previously been a landscaper and had done contract work in the Dominion Arboretum, but this was only seasonal employment. He needed a full-time job.
Pierre achieved that goal, going on to enjoy a 30-year career with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He began as a landscape gardener, became the Lead Hand in the Arboretum in 1999, and since 2003 has been Chief of Grounds Maintenance.
This means Pierre is the keeper of the Farm campus, the Arboretum, and the Ornamental Gardens, a huge responsibility in an ever-changing environment. Pierre says his job is fantastic, but it seems he is always running and never catching up. Even during the winter months, he and his staff are occupied with many tasks such as snow removal, equipment maintenance, and record-keeping.
In the early days of his career, Pierre was not blessed with much leisure time even outside his work hours. He was hitting the books, obtaining a Diploma in Horticulture from the University of Guelph. It took five years of effort to earn a degree via correspondence courses. Students today are all too familiar with distance learning, but it is now done digitally, not through the mail.
The CEF has always provided a focus for knowledge exchange and the sharing of expertise. Pierre and CEF staff continue this tradition. Annual flower trials take place for All-American Selections, the oldest flower- and edibles-testing organization in North America. Seed exchanges exist with arboretums and universities as far away as Norway, Finland, and Russia. Joint research programs on pest and diseases on trees are run with Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Co-Op and field placements with Algonquin College, Niagara School of Horticulture, and La Cité Collégiale are ongoing.
Pierre is optimistic the CEF has a great future. It is active in research, provides beautiful vistas and gardens, health benefits, and recreation opportunities, and is a living link to the past, given its designation as a National Historic Site. Preserving the unique historical aspects of the buildings and grounds has been a key focus in the work of Pierre and his team.
In retirement, Pierre plans to spend time with family and travel throughout Canada. He will finally be able to devote himself to the classical guitar, playing and studying two to three hours a day instead of two to three hours a week. He will exercise when he feels like it, linger in his garden, work slowly, and cease to be constantly on the run.
Pierre will leave knowing the Farm is in good hands, noting his colleagues are “talented, knowledgeable, experienced, and eager to keep up the good work, to innovate and to constantly improve.”
By Joan Butcher
Photo courtesy of Pierre Huppé