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This is ag: Dalhousie Agricultural Campus home to new Barley Arch

Dal AC is thrilled to have a barley arch on the campus grounds in Bible Hill. The arch was special-made and in time for last week’s convocation. From left, alumni association chairwoman Audrey-Jo McConkey; Mollie Pickard, Class of ‘18 life president; Cora Sharp, life secretary; and dean David Gray.
Dal AC is thrilled to have a barley arch on the campus grounds in Bible Hill. The arch was special-made and in time for last week’s convocation. From left, alumni association chairwoman Audrey-Jo McConkey; Mollie Pickard, Class of ‘18 life president; Cora Sharp, life secretary; and dean David Gray. - Submitted

By Emma Geldart

At Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture, barley is more than just a grain.

It symbolizes excellence in academics, leadership, research and innovation. It’s an emblem of hands-on learning, new friendships and partnerships. It represents a beautiful campus where you can make a difference. As Dalhousie University celebrates its 200th year, the Faculty of Agriculture is excited to unveil a new symbolic barley addition to its campus - the Barley Arch.

“The Barley Arch is symbolic on so many different fronts, especially this year,” said dean David Gray.

“The shape of the arch mimics the sunrise in our 200th logo while the leaves of barley represent the integrity and commitment of what it means to be an Aggie.

“Having sold our 1,000th ring this year, the tradition continues to grow as will the Faculty of Agriculture as we proudly enter the dawn of our third century together with the broader Dalhousie community.”

The Barley Arch is a 10-foot tall arch that will frame the entrance to the Alumni Gardens, just off of the MacRae Library parking lot. The arch, which mirrors the design of the popular Barley Ring, was unveiled May 10 as part of Convocation celebrations. The beautiful hand-crafted arch is a gift to campus from the Agricultural Campus Alumni Association.

The Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association (DASA) is also contributing to the new arch. Traditionally, DASA presents a gift to campus in the name of the graduating class. This year, that contribution has gone toward supporting the design, construction and installation of the Barley Arch.

The significant addition to campus has been custom made by Ruben Irons, an artist blacksmith from Pictou who has been creating and sculpting for more than 20 years. Ruben also constructed the arch framing the main entrance to the Alumni Gardens in 2009.

“Once the project was proposed the first step is letting it roll around in my head for a while, imagining different ideas,” Ruben said.

Once Ruben had an idea for the design, he met with Darwin Carr, botanical garden manager, and Alisha Johnson, alumni relations officer, to pitch the idea and co-ordinate the finer details. Once the design was agreed upon, Ruben gathered materials, lit the forge and picked up his tools.

“I cut out all the leaves and pieces for the arch first,” he says. “I then hammer all the leaves hot on the anvil. Once everything is forged I weld it all together and grind it smooth. The last step is having it all sandblasted and painted.”

In total, Ruben spent about 150 hours working on the barley arch.

The arch arrived on campus in multiple pieces. The arch itself in one piece with the leaves arriving as six separate pieces. The arch was welded to the footers and then the leaves were screwed onto the arch. The result is a beautiful 10-foot, handcrafted design welcoming visitors to the Alumni Gardens.

“The most challenging part of this project was imagining the arch in its place and determining the proper size so that it will feel natural from many different vantage points,” Ruben says. “I also had to figure out how to honour the design of the Barley Ring without copying every detail. This was such a rewarding process for me from start to finish.”

The community is invited to come to campus and view the new arch and enjoy the gardens of the Agricultural Campus.

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