Local farming has been given a boost thanks to a $1 million investment from the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) in support of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) at the UBC Farm; where the next generation of farmers is being cultivated.
The grant, part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, signifies the largest ever made by REFBC and marks a joint 10-year partnership between REFBC and CSFS.
The funding will support land policy research and experiments to improve yields and test new crops at the farm. It will also expand both Aboriginal and children’s programming, and invest in a proposed new eco-friendly facility that will increase the number of courses and students taught on-site.
The number of students trained in the UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture each year will now also grow from 12 to 24.
Faced with an aging farming population and costly acreage, the hands-on 8-month long program is a way for young or inexperienced people to engage in small-scale farming and learn about the farm-to-table business.
“This program made me realize that farming is a viable career choice, and I can actually do this,” said Dave Semmelink, a UBC conservation student who recently completed the training program and has now launched his own organic mixed-live stock business, Lentelus Organics.
Semmelink credits the program for helping him to make business connections to find land to farm on, leasing 6 acres of a 25-acre property in Comox Valley.
Jack Wong, REFBC’s CEO, said the foundation is committed to local, sustainable food systems with a focus to advance progressive agricultural land use policies and practices.
“This grant will expand UBC Farm’s unique capacity as a demonstration site for community-based research and education – work that aligns with the Foundation’s goal to build healthier, more resilient communities.”
Rickey Yada, Dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems
“REFBC’s support of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm helps to ensure a more secure and sustainable future for farming in B.C.,” Yada said. “This partnership offers an on opportunity to change land use attitudes and practices through innovation, stewardship and learning.”
About The Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia
The Real Estate Foundation of BC is a philanthropic organization that helps advance land use in British Columbia. It provides grants to non-profit organizations working to improve BC communities and natural environments through responsible and informed land use, conservation and real estate practices. Its funding programs support research, education, and law and policy reform. Since 1988, the foundation has approved more than $69 million in grants. Learn more at www.refbc.com
About The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
The CSFS is a unique research initiative that aims to understand and fundamentally transform local and global food systems. The CSFS manages a diverse range of programs concentrated at the UBC Farm, a working farm in the city of Vancouver that is a living laboratory for food system sustainability. CSFS is committed to finding solutions to the global challenges facing the sustainability of our food system, and our resultant personal, community and environmental health.
About the proposed UBC Farm facilities
The proposed infrastructure will enable CSFS to be a global gathering place to create solutions addressing every part of the food system, from sustaining honeybee populations to promoting the next generation of farmers’ access to land. Plans for the site includes research labs, classrooms, kitchens, flexible working spaces for community groups, increased space for crop preservation and seed saving, and meeting spaces for hands-on learning that are integrated into the farmland landscape.
When the facilities are in place, UBC Farm’s capacity to house indigenous peoples’ initiatives will increase to an estimated 7,000 visits from 3,400, and children’s programs will increase from 5,000 participants to 10,000. UBC Farm will have the capacity to expand its scope as a living laboratory with additional academic projects, courses, and international research collaboration.