Archive for June, 2008

Sowing Seeds Update-June 11th

Although the rain has made June feel more like Junuary, last week was filled with one rain soaked adventure after another for us apprentices. (I feel bad for the little basil that got planted in our plot last week and the shock of weather that they have had to endure). Although Elaine did mention how lucky we were to have gotten our plots in the ground before the rain. The fury of rain, including the torrential downpour that we experienced while planting the mighty Brassicas, has created a light haze of weeds that now cover the fields. (I see much more hoeing and weeding in our future).

Apprentice plots are looking good, and miracle of all miracles-they have produced some plants!! Peas, beans, lettuces, radishes and other early growers have poked their shoots out. We also learned about post-harvest processing this week (remember to never store your apples and carrots together!), spent some quality time with the chickens and learned the value of a sharp knife.


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Although this entry marks the first of many Sowing Seeds updates to come, it is difficult to put down all that has been going on and learned by the seven apprentices over the past two months. The farm has definitely changed from a quiet place to a busy network of great people and excitement for the current season. Time has flown by as we have come to learn the basics of what it takes to transform land into a rich and diverse food producing system. Every day that goes by I am humbled by how little I know and realize how much more there is to know about growing food.

This week we finally planted our own plots- an exciting and somewhat daunting process. Will anything actually grow? As I plant these tiny little carrot seeds in my plot, I feel our plots are such a great way for us to learn experientially about planting crops, planning, successes and failures, as well as a way to learn through other’s experiences. As the week continued with bright sun and warm temperatures, we were tasked with various jobs around the farm including laying out aluminum irrigation piping, learned about the different types of cover crop and self-critiqued our last-week’s hoeing around the lettuces.

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June 17th – first potato harvest

There’s a new garden on campus – the LFS Orchard garden, just behind the MacMillan building, which is home to the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Currently it’s producing just one crop – potatoes. It’s always been difficult for us to grow nice potatoes on the Farm due to our friendly resident wireworms who have an appetite for tubers. That’s why we’re lucky to be reaping the harvest from this new campus garden (an affiliate of the Farm and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems). The potatoes are available while they last at our Saturday markets, and sold out at their first appearance last week.

Some photos of the harvest process, for your enjoyment:

wireworms on the move

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To everyone who attended Wednesday’s UBC Food Systems workshop: thank you so much. The event went as well as it possibly could have, in my opinion, with a resounding message of support for the UBC Farm as the outcome. Each of around a dozen break-out groups used their report-back time to make a strong statement of support for the maintenance of the Farm’s current size and location, expansion of academic connections, financial support for the Farm from the University, and enhancement of like-minded food production areas on campus. It was also emphasized that to reduce or hinder the growth of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems would be a seriously regressive act for the University, and would be looked poorly upon by the global academic and sustainability communities.

Critical questions were raised regarding what would become of the ideas generated by the attendees of the workshop. Campus and Community Planning’s Joe Stott said that any consensus formed at the meeting was in no way binding, but that the goal was to “generate as many ideas as possible” to assist in the planning process. The results of the workshop will be made available to attendees and the public via C&CP’s website. (We’ll also post updates here.)

The next step – which C&CP is calling “The Preferred Option” – is due this Fall, and entails the presentation of a number of land-use proposals by Campus and Community Planning (C&CP), each outlining a different scenario for the South Campus area. It is fair to say that if none of these scenarios suggests the Farm be kept at its current location and size, it will prove a blatant disregard for the “consultation” held on Wednesday, and totally undermine the stated intentions of C&CP to listen to public input.

We’ll keep up all our efforts with outreach and pressure on the University in the months to come, and I invite you to keep up with progress. In order to save this beautiful place we need all the help we can get at this time. Thanks for your continued support and assistance!

(**For those of you who weren’t able to make it, Mark Bomford’s rushed but rich presentation about the Farm’s legacy, role, and importance at UBC has been posted on YouTube.)

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Some of you may be wondering the reason behind my last blog post titled: “A response to Stephen Toope’s form letter response.” Oops- thanks to Ayla for pointing out that I should give a brief backgrounder on this…. soooo….As far as anyone can tell, Stephen Toop (president of UBC) has been sending roughly the same response letter to everyone who writes to him with concerns about the future of the UBC Farm vis-a-vis the Vancouver Campus plan review process whether they be children, groups or individuals. Some people have expressed anger or disappointment at this choice of response strategy. They feel Stephen Toope may not actually be reading all the letters he receives and thus not considering valid points therein. Furthermore, his form letter seems to portray the original letter writer as confused about terminology and process, regardless of just how well-informed the original writer may be. This serves to generate real confusion so we needed to try and clear that up! Feel free to post your letters to Stephen Toope here as well- we love reading them…as I’m sure he does too 🙂

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Beginning Thursday, July 3rd (that’s next week) we will be adding an additional drop-in volunteer session. Join us Thursday nights from 5pm-9pm for a sunset session where we do some harvesting, prep for the big harvest work on Friday, and listen to the sounds of the Farm settling in for the night. Thursday evening shifts are great for those of you who work a 9-5, Monday – Friday sort of job, and want to get in some field time after work. So you know, these are often my favorite sessions: the temperature is just right after a hot day, the birds are out, and the attitude is relaxed. Hopefully this will be a good chance for some of you who haven’t been able to make it out on Fridays to come and join us.

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From: Andrew Rushmere
2840 Fraser st.
Vancouver, BC
V5T 3V9

To: Stephen Toope, President of UBC
103-6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC
V6T 1Z2

Dear Stephen Toope,

I’m not sure whether you will actually get a chance to read this letter. If this is somebody in your office reading, I would certainly appreciate if you could pass this letter on for Dr. Toope. I would like to thank you very much (either the office-bound reader or Dr. Toope- whoever it actually was)  for your form letter response to my letter to you about the UBC Farm and the Vancouver Campus Plan review process. Nevertheless I wanted to highlight some points that have angered a number of people who have also received your form letter that you may wish to consider changing or removing from your future communications (all excerpts from your letter appear in quotation marks below ).

1) “The UBC Farm is an academic facility associated with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and thus is included in that planning process (Master Plan).”

It is not good enough that the farm just be included in the planning process. Most of us know that it is included and Campus and Community Planning is proud to announce that fact in bold on their website. The nature of the farm’s inclusion in the process, however, is uncertain. Many people also know that in the April 2008 Main Campus Plan design workshops, Campus and Community Planning circumscribed the possibilities for the future of the farm by severely limiting its land base in all the options presented to workshop participants. Many people have asked in their letter that UBC Farm be included in a transparent planning process that does not limit the possibilities for the future size and function of the UBC Farm, that does truly listen to the voices of the public and UBC Farm stakeholders and that, beyond token inclusion, the farm should be given special consideration in the process given its important teaching, learning and research uses.

2) “Some confusion seems to have arisen as a result of a separate discussion with the GVRD regarding a review of the South Campus Neighbourhood Plan, which is one of the residential neighbourhoods on campus. That plan does not include the UBC Farm, but perhaps the name ‘south campus’ contributed the confusion.”

The AMS group, Friends of the UBC Farm, has never been confused about the South Campus Neighbourhood Plan. We have always referred to the Vancouver Campus Plan review process in all of our communications, presentations, and documents about the current situation of the UBC Farm as it relates to the planning process. Anyone who has sent a letter your way has likely received notice about the farm’s current situation through one of these Friends of the UBC Farm communiques or through a notice based on these communiques. Thus, there can’t have been much, if any, opportunity for the specific type of confusion you mention.

3) “Many people, from the campus community, including representatives from the Friends of the UBC Farm, have also recently participated in design workshops that provided valuable input to the development of these physical plan options”

Friends of the UBC Farm were never invited to participate in the April 2008 design workshops you mention, nor did anybody attend the workshops as a formal/official representative of Friends of the UBC Farm, though we would have appreciated having an official voice.

4) “I want to clarify that, as part of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, the UBC Farm needs to support our teaching and research mission. Where community access and involvement can be incorporated into that mission, we are very supportive of that….Many of the people who have written to me think of the UBC Farm as a park or green space that exists, and should exist, to provide a benefit to Vancouver residents, acting as a large market garden or a park.”

This comment was slightly frustrating to read as I wrote my letter to you after I read a version of your form response letter that you sent to a friend of mine. In that letter you hightlighted a similarly worded point that the farm needed to be considered for its academic value and not just as a community amenity space. So I decided to write my first letter to you to highlight ONLY the academic value of the farm and how it helps you fill out your teaching and research mission. It seems curious to me that none of the more high-powered people in the planning process or at UBC seem to have heard the message about all the academic activity that happens at the farm. It seems they might need some more help seeing just how the UBC Farm and Centre for Sustainable Food Systems does fill out your teaching and research mission.

First of all, it is narrow thinking to sharply separate academic activity from relevance to the community. Despite the business/bottom line rhetoric pervading Canadian university leadership, universities (when they live up to their highest ideals and much of their own marketing propaganda) are public institutions which should be accountable and relevant through their research programs to the community. Community and academic goals should and can easily be made one and the same. I understand the need for some more abstract, less community-facing work in a University setting, but ultimately all that work should have the well-being of the public in mind. 

This perhaps more subjective consideration aside, even by a more traditional objective account of what “counts” as academic/teaching/research use, the farm still has incredible value. Based on our documentation there were 35 active research projects involving over 100 faculty, staff, and students at the UBC Farm in 2007 and that number has been rising every year. Fourteen of UBC’s 25 faculties and schools use the farm for teaching and research. Over 2 250 students used the farm in over 40 credit courses in 2007 alone. The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems also received UBC’s Helen McRae award in 2007 in recognition of its achievements in UBC student development.

Furthermore, the UBC Farm fulfills a number of Trek 2010 goals and strategies including:

  • Develop more opportunities for community involvement and collaboration.
  • Create community-university groups to identify possible areas for joint activity in such matters as local health and education needs.
  • Create more volunteer opportunities for members of faculty and staff.
  • Encourage greater connection between UBC and the external community.
  • Develop improved and innovative ways for the external community to gain access to UBC ’s many academic, cultural, and recreational offerings.
  • Model UBC as a responsible, engaged, and sustainable community, dedicated to the principles of inclusivity and global citizenship.
  • Explore ways and means of developing a closer relationship between UBC and the First Nations communities located near our campuses.

Beyond these points, it is absurd that Campus and Community Planning and UBC Properties Trust should have so much sway over the fate of the University’s academic resources. Does making short-term money through market housing trump rich academic experience?Every piece of UBC marketing/branding/propaganda/rhetoric I have read, from Trek 2010 to the Sustainability Office’s sustainability report, to UBC’s signing of the Talloires declaration refers to ideals that the UBC Farm is actually acting on and facilitating through its programming every day.


So I encourage you again to take a good look at the value of the UBC Farm, academically and otherwise and I urge you to ensure that it remain in its current location and at its current size of 24 hectares. I ask again that it be given SPECIAL CONSIDERATION in the planning process and that the planning process be made transparent and officially open to all stakeholders in the UBC Farm, and that it not limit the possibilities for the future size and use of the farm. Finally, I encourage you more fully fund programming at the UBC Farm and enable its continued relevance to the public and a world threatened with food insecurity, climate change, and other large issues that the UBC Farm can play a role in countering. You can have your cake and eat it too by fulfilling UBC’s future housing needs with in-filling developments on main campus, which will allow you to preserve the UBC Farm as is and tout it as one of the jewels in UBC’s crown.

Thanks again for your time and consideration,


Andrew Rushmere
CC: UBC Board of Governors, Nancy Knight, UBC/GVRD joint committee, Stephen Owen, Murray Isman, UBC Farm, UBC Farm Blog

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