Note from a Canadian Greenhorn
My name is Jacob Slosberg, and I am a student at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. I am current an undergrad in the B.Sc. Global Resource Systems program focusing on Agricultural and Environmental Studies. I am 21 years old and have been involved in sustainable, organic food systems for nearly six years.
I am writing you today to tell you about our campus farm. Like many universities our whole university was founded as an ag school, with a large farm taking up a majority of the campus. We had poultry and dairy research facilities, as well as many different crops. However as Vancouver grew and the university expanded and diversified to one of the world's leading educational institutions, the farm shrank to what it is today, 24 hectares including surrounding forests and other environmental barriers, with 8 of those 24 hectares cultivated as an organic sustainable farm.
The farm in its current form has been a campus presence for about the past 8 years known as The Center for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm. It is the primary research facility for our unique Agroecology program. In addition to providing a research facility, the farm itself is extremely important to the surrounding community on a number of levels. It exists as Vancouver's last operational farm, which functions as a food source, but more importantly as an education source helping people understand the food system in which they live as well as how to be an active member of a community. The farm harvest is distributed to the community through a number of channels. Primarily, the harvest is sold to the UBC Food Services (cafeterias), regional restaurants, student-run campus cafes, our farm CSA, or sold at our weekly farm market.
Among the many community enrichment programs we run, two prime examples are the Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden and the Mayans in Exile Community Garden. The Aboriginal Community Kitchen Garden is a program that has been established to help local aboriginal communities develop a knowledge based within their community as well as provide valuable food resources within their community. It also fights malnutrition, and food/health ignorance that are prime contributors to this community's health issues like obesity and diabetes. The Mayans in Exile Community Garden is a community garden established for the benefit for a unique community within Vancouver, a group of Mayans in political exile from Mexico. They were traditionally farmers but after having to escape from their homeland they were without land to farm. Without land they were unable to provide for themselves and as well as pass on valuable community based knowledge to their children. By providing this community a venue to practice their traditional farming techniques our community as a whole is enriched by our diversity and the Mayans are able to ensure their future.
These are just a few examples of the (literally) 100's of programs, projects, and research experiments being hosted by the UBC Farm. I believe that UBC Farm is an invaluable asset to our university and regional communities. This is truly a birthplace of many of tomorrow's sustainable farmers, like me.
To add to this long and inspiring story, the UBC Farm is actually currently under threat of being forced to relocate or shrink, due to development. There has been major public outcry at these extremely damaging proposals. In addition to many other avenues of appeal, the farm has delivered a petition in support of the full 24 hectares with the signatures of 10,000 people, to the administration. In the wake of this public support as well as many of other efforts including city council resolutions, planning committee recommendations, and alternative development proposals the administration overseeing this development has been showing strong signs of support, but no promises been made or clear plans been laid our yet. This saga is more than two years old and not over yet, and way to complex to explain in this short email.
In addition to being involved with the farm operations, I am also the president of the UBC Bike Co-op. The main projects I have been working on are to develop a fleet of cargo bikes to be used around campus and around the city to lessen our dependence on cars for urban hauling, and to build a fleet of farm-suitable (see sturdy and dependable) bikes to help our farmers get around the farm more efficiently, and to help distribute the farm goods by bicycle.
Note: You can see beautiful pictures, and learn more about this farm at www.landfood.ubc.ca/ubcfarm/