Not Your Traditional Education Program

Blog post written by Christopher Cheng
Tsawwassen Farm School Graduate 

The Tsawwassen Farm School program has given me more than I ever expected. I have always had an interest in agriculture and farming the land. Yet, before this, I had always believed that I had to go through a traditional program, learning the sciences and going through traditional classrooms to learn theoretical knowledge through books with the odd field trip here and there. It wasn’t something I wanted to sink years into learning without having a better understanding of what I wanted to do with agriculture first.

However, the Tsawwassen Farm school program operates as a true farm. A 7-month program, the teachers guide you from a small sapling until you are a mature tree, ready to stake it out on your own. You learn livestock management, crop management, beekeeping, greenhouse set up, the list goes on. What you think you will learn from the program versus what you will actually get to experience will be more than you think! 

Personally, I’m not a really outspoken person and I tend to keep to myself. However, the people I met in farm school are people I will always remember. They were kind and accepting no matter the background and the teachers were there to guide us when we didn’t know what to do. The Tsawwassen Farm school is an opportunity I encourage anyone who has ever had a slight interest in agriculture, as even if you don’t get specifically what you want from this program, you gain the memories and the community that will influence your future, no matter where you end up.

It will be hard work and sometimes a struggle getting up so early, but every day you will return home thinking it was a day well spent. Also, the food they make is super delicious and you get to bring a lot of food home, which is nice.

From Seed to Sauerkraut

Blog post written by Bryce Suttie
Tsawwassen Farm School Graduate 2019

From seed to sauerkraut, from piglet to sausage, this sustainable agriculture course provides education and guidance to the whole food system. We covered animal agriculture, perennial orchards as well annuals. Since we worked on an organic farm, pest control and soil biology were a focus. We had a specialist in each field teach us through out the growing season. We went on farm tours to surrounding areas of the Lower Mainland and Lillooet which gave us a great perspective of what is possible.

All the teachers were very knowledgeable, giving me the tools I need to become a successful farmer. Because I graduated, I have the opportunity to lease an incubator plot for the next 3 years. This will support further growth and experience with the land before eventually taking the intimidating yet exciting plunge of buying my own.

I am extremely grateful to have had this experience. Although I was there to learn, my time with the teachers and my fellow students was very personal and I’ll always cherish my time with them.

I highly recommend the course!

My Life Journey Along with Farm School!!

Blog post written by Manni Sengar
Tsawwassen Farm School Graduate 2019

This is my first ever blog about me and my experience at the farm school.  I’m a little unsure of how to write but here goes! Let me just give you some background… I am from India and have studied Agriculture and worked for a seed company in India for nearly two years before I immigrated to Canada in year 2012 to be with the love of my life, my husband. Life was pretty good and I had seen all successes with my career at an early age before, but the real life struggle began when nobody recognized my overseas credentials or work experience. I soon realized that I had to first look for a livelihood to support my family and worked different jobs at different places before I got my permanent residency status in Canada. We ( myself and husband), after a long wait, were blessed with a baby boy in year 2017. He was a blessing to us and our life changed immensely after having him. My husband’s business grew at an exponential rate while we took care of our son. Soon I didn’t had to think about bread and butter and also realized that I could no longer just sit at home & can now live my dream again of being able to work in Agriculture related fields. I never thought to become a farmer but I really wanted to work in the Agri-sector only as this was the thing I wanted to do that will make me happy and satisfied. I made a plan to grow some veggies at my friend’s backyard to try my skills in farming and my friend was really helpful at all times. I started looking into getting some Canadian education in Agriculture and learned about the Farm school through my Internet search. Watching the brief video about the farm school made me want to explore more about it and after meeting Mike ( Farm Manager at TFS) & Caroline (Course Advisor), I was pretty sure that this is what I am looking for. I was not sure if I can commit to be a student while being a mom of a  1 year old, but I had lots of family support from my husband, brother and others. The farm school instructors were also so accommodating that I was able to juggle between my family, my veggie garden and the farm school.

My experience with the farm school was a very rewarding experience. I made good friends who lent their ears when I needed someone to listen to me and not judge. The instructors Sarah, Mike and Daniel always boosted my morale and brought the confidence in me about my farming skills. They are the best instructors and people willing to share every piece of knowledge they have. I should say that farming is a hard working experience, but with all good people around YOU, you enjoy it more than being tired. The great things I have learned were operating a tractor, the logistics of selling at a farmers market (I didn’t know anything about it), CSA boxes, business planning and all the hard work that goes in farming makes you appreciate the food that you eat. Learning to grow flowers and the business opportunities that they bring changed my business plan.

We had so many opportunities to learn about various types of farm operations during our farm visits. The farming community is very supportive and fun to meet and learn from. The course is very well planned and balanced. You get to study in class, grow things in farm, harvest them, sell in market, learn about profits and get to compare it with different farms around.

I loved the farm school and will surely miss it. I was fortunate enough to get a great job opportunity in an organic greenhouse even before the completion of farm school, but still I will be coming back next year to learn more by doing incubator plot in 2020. Oh how can I forget Kent’s words “Once a farm school student, always a farm school student”.  😊

Farm school experience is the best farming experience that one can have and I wish anyone looking for more knowledge to take this course as an opportunity to learn more about farming and themselves.

Farming and Community

Blog written by Myah (Richmond Farm School Cohort ’18)
September 21st, 2018

First of all, I loovve farm school. I super enjoyed all of field trips and seeing and meeting all the awesome animals! I super enjoyed hanging out and laughing with all of my TFS and RFS friends😊😊😊.

36137401_10215952991885020_3875599263220105216_n

Before farm school I was pretty sure I wanted to go into farming as a career but I still had my doubts whether or not I was fully committed in my choice. After a few months of farming however, and especially since the end of farm school is looming☹, I now realize I couldn’t imaging my life any other way and that this is what I really want to do. I loovve getting dirty and loovve the fact that you get super fresh, yummy and local food! My fav! Good for me and good for the planet, win win😊. For the past 5 years I’ve been an apartment dweller with no yard or balcony space, meaning I’ve been potting my plants for the past 5 years. Farm school has re-opened my eyes to all of precautions and other stuff that could go wrong when farming and/or gardening, like planting extra seeds in case one of them get eaten or diseased and to mulch your plot when it is super hot and dry so that your soil keeps water in for longer and doesn’t dry out. I learned and am learning sooo much from my peers. I’m learning a lot about different techniques and still how to be sustainable, which is really important to me. I’m learning a lot about bees, which I never been a big fan of. Now I’m learning all the different type, I didn’t there were so many! I’m learning how to live with them and wasps without being stung, most of time, haha, and now I’m appreciating them more and more now.

I’m excited to learn more and to hang out with the lovely people I have met in these next two months. I will miss farming and the people that I have met in our months together though.

My farm school journey

Blog written by Aman Sanghera
September 4th, 2018

After a few years of considering quitting my full time job and wanting to become a farmer, I finally made the choice to do so and enrolled in the Tsawwassen Farm School. At TFS I have learned so much in such little time and is giving me the confidence to start my own farm operation one day which will consist of growing garlic, hops and planting a cherry orchard. It is fun coming to TFS to learn all there is about farming and Sarah and Mike do such a great job in teaching and creating a comfortable learning environment and my fellow students are also a great bunch and really fun to learn with.

You learn so much everyday whether its about soils, bees, pests or animals and the experience thus far has been so valuable. I find the field trips to other farms as such a great learning tool and always come away with a few nuggets of important information. The overnight camping trip to Spray Creek Ranch was so cool and allowed me to reconnect with my old home town of Lillooet, BC which would not been possible if I hadn’t enrolled at the TFS.

 

Going to TFS has allowed me to educate my kids on the importance of eating healthy and growing local organic fruits/veggies. My daughter Aleesya is now so keen on farming that she asks me all the time, “When are we going to buy a farm dad?”  I also had the pleasure of bringing Aleesya to the farm on a harvest day where she had a blast spending the day playing with the cat, checking out the animals and getting a feel of what it would be like growing up on a farm.

I am hoping to get as much out of TFS in the next couple months as the end of the farm season is approaching fast as well as my time as a student at such a great educational farm. I am truly going to miss it.

Always learning

Blog written by Jessie Yip
July 24th, 2018

I don’t remember how I found out about Farm School, but I signed up wanting to work with animals. I’d always wanted to be a vet, but I’m not very good at academics. I figured even if Farm School could give me even a little bit of exposure to working with animals, it was worth a shot. Now it’s halfway through the year and I am learning lots and having so much fun!

The livestock and apiculture components are my favourite courses in the program. We have pigs, chickens, ducks, two farm cats, and so many visiting dogs on the farm! I have learned practical, hands-on skills to manage and care for the animals. I’ve really enjoyed going on field trips to see all the different organic livestock operations. The animals on the farms are happy and healthy. The operations are not harmful to the environment and the farmers we met have so much integrity. Raising pastured animals and ranching is definitely something I can see myself pursuing down the road.

Before Farm School I had wanted to get into beekeeping, but was too hesitant to try it on my own. I am very happy that beekeeping is part of the curriculum. My first experience with hives was during one of the classes and it went very smoothly. The second time with the hives was a little more hectic. I got stung twice that day. First time on my pinky, and second time right on the tip of my nose! Getting stung on my finger wasn’t so bad, but my nose hurt pretty bad. On the bright side, I’m definitely not allergic to bees! I want to have my own bees in the near future. First as a hobby and maybe eventually as a business.

It’s been amazing learning about all the different crops and their varieties. I’ve enjoyed seeing the process from seeding in the beginning all the way to harvesting. Harvest day is my favourite practicum day on the farm. Learning how to harvest different crops during the season has been such a useful skill. Working in the fields has really changed the way I see food. I’d never appreciated how much time and work went into planting a single head of cabbage, or bunch of carrots.

Time has gone by so fast since Farm School started. Thinking about the end of the program makes me sad sometimes, but there’s still things I’m looking forward to. I’m excited to learn about the fall harvest crops and food preservation for the winter months. It will be satisfying to wrap up the growing season and learn about the kind of work that needs to be done in preparation for the following year. I hope we will also learn how to harvest honey and wax during our next few beekeeping classes.

I’m not sure if I am going to start my own farm business anytime soon when school is done, but I do want to be a farmer! I want to work on different farms first because there is still so much to learn. I’m hoping to use farming as a means of travelling and seeing new places for the next few years. I’m interested in possibly going to school for ranching and livestock operations when the time comes.

jessie5
Me and seedlings

Recently, my sister and I were talking about school. She asked me, “What’s your end goal?” I told her I didn’t know. Not having an “end goal” to work towards would have made me nervous before, but going to farm school has changed that. Now, I think it’s okay that I don’t have everything mapped out. I am actually really excited that I have so many different opportunities and pathways I could take instead of one rigid road. I’ve learned that farming is full of surprises and unpredictable changes that happen without notice. Many farmers we have met on field trips and visits are all unanimous about one thing: You never stop learning. I hope I never stop learning new things about farming and go down every and any road that I can.