Sav­ing the Farm (round 2): The Farm Rein­vented

Trek Magazine - - Message From The President -

A farm of some de­scrip­tion has been a part of UBC’s Van­cou­ver cam­pus since the estab­lish­ment of the univer­sity site on Point Grey. How­ever, the farm’s size, lo­ca­tion, pur­pose, and op­er­a­tions have all seen many changes over the years.

In the decades fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War, the di­min­ish­ing so­cioe­co­nomic im­por­tance of agriculture in the prov­ince was mir­rored in cam­pus growth pat­terns, as new athletics fields, park­ing lots, and aca­demic build­ings dis­placed former farm­land.

Even­tu­ally, the sec­ond-growth for­est on the far south of cam­pus was cleared to make way for new agri­cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties, but by the late 1990s, ac­tiv­ity had de­clined sig­nif­i­cantly – some op­er­a­tions hav­ing moved to new lo­ca­tions in Agas­siz, BC. By 1997 the farm had been ear­marked as a “Fu­ture Hous­ing Re­serve” in UBC’s Of­fi­cial Com­mu­nity Plan.

In 1999, how­ever, stu­dents en­rolled in the new Agroe­col­ogy and Global Re­source Sys­tems pro­grams “re-dis­cov­ered” the south cam­pus field ar­eas. They en­vi­sioned the land as an in­te­grated farm sys­tem, which would pro­vide a prac­ti­cal, ex­pe­ri­en­tial com­ple­ment to the sus­tain­abil­ity the­ory be­ing taught in the class­room. It was a vi­sion that con­flicted with the Of­fi­cial Com­mu­nity Plan, and it sparked a decade of dis­cus­sion about the fu­ture uses of the land.

Mean­while, af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion in 2000 of a vi­sion doc­u­ment en­ti­tled “Rein­vent­ing the UBC Farm,” fac­ulty, staff, stu­dents, and com­mu­nity mem­bers worked to­gether to bring pre­vi­ously frag­mented field ar­eas to­gether into a sin­gle work­ing farm and for­est sys­tem that de­liv­ered a grow­ing num­ber of pro­grams to stu­dents and re­searchers in many dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines.

De­spite this, by the sum­mer of 2008 there was great con­cern among the farm’s users and sup­port­ers that it would be re­placed by mar­ket hous­ing. A “Save the Farm” cam­paign mo­bi­lized sig­nif­i­cant sup­port, cul­mi­nat­ing in a pe­ti­tion with 16,000 sig­na­tures and a Great Farm Trek on April 7, 2009, when 2,000 peo­ple marched from the Stu­dent Union Build­ing to the farm, to show their sup­port for re­tain­ing its ex­ist­ing size and lo­ca­tion.

Later that year, the UBC Board of Gov­er­nors stated that there would be no mar­ket hous­ing on the farm pro­vided that “the univer­sity’s hous­ing, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and en­dow­ment goals could be met through trans­fer­ring den­sity to other parts of cam­pus.” The board also called for an aca­demic plan for South Cam­pus to ad­vance “aca­dem­i­cally rig­or­ous and glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant” teach­ing and re­search around is­sues of sus­tain­abil­ity.

By win­ter this plan – Cul­ti­vat­ing Place – was in place and in 2011, fol­low­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, the farm was re-zoned “Green Aca­demic” in UBC’s Land Use Plan.

As a re­sult, the Cen­tre for Sus­tain­able Food Sys­tems was soon es­tab­lished at the farm. It is a unique re­search cen­tre that aims to un­der­stand and fun­da­men­tally trans­form lo­cal and global food sys­tems to­wards a more sus­tain­able, food-se­cure fu­ture. There have been ap­prox­i­mately 10-15 ac­tive re­search projects on site ev­ery year since 2011.

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