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From: Andrew Rushmere
2840 Fraser st.
Vancouver, BC
V5T 3V9
arushmere@hotmail.com
604-329-0050

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,

Sincerely,

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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