Blog written by Vivien Fong
July 31st, 2018
Blog written by Vivien Fong
July 31st, 2018
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.
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.
Blog written by Justine Gabias
July 10th, 2018
I grew up surrounded by plants and flowers. My grandfather was a flower grower and florist in 50’s Quebec. His greenhouses were filled with carnations, poinsettias, and chrysanthemums. My mom and her siblings spent their childhood running around those big greenhouses, and eventually all seven children got involved in the family business, which later became a flower shop and garden centre. My mom became manager of the flower shop, so my two sisters and I spent our early years in the company of roses, azaleas, baby’s breath, tulips and birds of paradise. To me, playing in empty boxes of fern and salal was normal, and often extremely boring. Flowers to me meant waiting for my mom to finish work so we could go home. It is only now that I realize how amazing my childhood was, how accessible beauty was to my sisters and I.
When I became a teenager, I started working in the garden centre in the summer, watering geraniums, weeding potted trees, moving bags of soil. And I have to tell you, I HATED it. I’d cry about it. Unlike my mom and sisters, I had no interest whatsoever in gardening; I was an artist, I couldn’t care less about begonias or tomatoes.
Life had set me up with everything I needed to become a grower, and yet I refused to even acknowledge it. So I took a different road, moved to Vancouver, studied art, worked in a University. And then, last winter, life cleared her throat and said hey, how about now? Are you ready now?
That little nudge was the moment I learned about the KPU Farm School program. I was sitting in my windowless office, realizing that, even though I loved my job and the financial security it brought me, I was just spinning my wheels. My career felt like this great pair of shoes you hang on to—the shoes are awesome, everybody tells you how great they are, but they’re half a size too small, and they’re just uncomfortable enough that you can’t walk very far with them. It just didn’t fit, no matter how hard I tried.
When I landed on the Tsawwassen Farm School website that November morning, something clicked. It was one of those rare moments of clarity when I knew exactly what I needed to do. So I contacted Caroline Chiu, the program coordinator, and she was extremely generous with her time. She gave me all the info I needed, answered all my questions, and gave me a tour of the farm. It was wonderful to have access to her knowledge and experience, as she had gone through the program herself and knew it inside out.
Fastforward to now—it is almost mid-July. And I have not an ounce of regret. I love it. I love every aspect of farming, and I have discovered that my personality is way better suited to it than I thought. I believe that humans have the natural ability to grow and nurture things. It requires no special talent. I am realizing that ‘having a green thumb’ is not an esoteric gift (which I never received); it is hard work, paying attention, learning the plants’ and animals’ languages, and having the capacity to learn and adapt. Farming requires organization, a creative mind, a knack for problem-solving, patience, a good work ethic, a big heart, a strong back, a large brim hat and tons of sunscreen. It is also extremely dependent on community and relationships. It has been so great meeting folks with different backgrounds, hopes and dreams. The farm staff is small, and the cohort is just shy of 15 students, so we get to know each other pretty well, especially when we are weeding side by side! My peers have become my second family, and I can’t wait to visit their farm one day to help them build tunnels, plant garlic or harvest new potatoes.
The 8-month program is a balanced mix of in-class lectures, fieldwork, and field trips to various farms. We learn everything we need to operate a small-scale farm, from crop production to business management, and everything in between. The instructors, guest lecturers and farmers we meet are all incredibly knowledgeable, humble, and supportive. I am still blown away by the spirit of generosity that permeates farming. All the young farmers we have been lucky to meet are happy to share their wisdom and experience with us future farmers. There seems to be no trade secrets, no signs of unhealthy competition—they are rooting for our success, hoping we make it, and that more people join the small-scale, organic growing movement.
After spending the Spring prepping the field and planting seeds, the farm is now in full swing; we are harvesting weekly and taking turns working the booth at the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market. I truly enjoy the market, where I can put my artistic skills to use and talk to amazing customers and vendors. It doesn’t beat giving the piglets belly scratches, pulling beautiful turnips out of the ground, or sharing a big post-harvest feast with my peers, but it’s close! Fresh food—the one you contribute to grow, and can share with people you care about—tastes magical. The act of eating has changed for me; nourishing yourself with vegetables and fruits you have grown sustainably feels and tastes SO. MUCH. BETTER. Especially the potatoes. Oh man.
That’s what food should taste like. And that’s how our food system should be: local, sustainable and accessible to all. It is not lost on me that I am here in BC as a guest, and as a guest I must make sure that I am a good steward of the unceded land I stand on. I want to learn how to contribute to the healing of the land, and nurture the beings I share it with. That is partly why I chose Tsawwassen Farm School—because of its focus on sustainability and connection to the Tsawwassen First Nation. I am so humbled and grateful to be able to learn from inspiring instructors, lecturers, and from my Tsawwassen First Nation peers. Their wisdom is a gift.
The future is exciting—there are so many interesting possibilities for next season, it is almost dizzying. I could start farming right away on one of the farm’s incubator plots, work on a ranch to learn more about sustainable meat production (and finally wear my ranch hat!), or perhaps start my own business relating to food security or education.
I also sometimes dream of following in my grandfather’s footsteps and grow flowers. Even though he’s not around to mentor me, I’d love to get to know him through farming, and maybe, finally, close the circle and carve my spot in the family business. Sometimes you have to go home to find out who you are.
The Farm School is an integral extension education program of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The program is dedicated to teaching people of all backgrounds, experience and professions the science and art of small-scale, biodiverse, ecologically sound organic farming. At the end of the program, students have the knowledge, skills and confidence to start their own farm operations and become important actors of the food system.
Watch our promotional video to see what our students do at the farm!
May 16th, 2018
2018 is an exciting year for our farm school programs as we have two programs with full cohorts. The Richmond Farm School was on hiatus for 2 years due to the restructuring of the curriculum. We launched the program this year and immediately received a full registration. Both programs, Richmond and Tsawwassen, have full cohort of 14 students each with a growing waiting list for 2019. This is increasing proof that the desire for people to be involved in the local food system, advance resiliency in the food system and to get reconnected with working on the land is growing.
What have the students been learning so far?
Brian Campbell teaching students about the anatomy of bees, the importance of bees and other natural pollinators for the ecosystem and food system, and our students taking turns in handling and inspecting bee hives. Our Richmond students also caught a swarm of bees for the first time!
Land preparation and planting
The farm is our classroom. Students setting up the caterpillar tunnels which will be planted with tomatoes and eggplant. They are also learning about crop planning, seeding, management of hogs and chickens. The year is just starting and they have so much to learn!
Not only is the program creating opportunity for people to take the first step in learning about the food system and growing food, we have an exceptional team of instructors who have extensive agriculture background and are passionate in transferring their knowledge.
Richmond Farm School Manager & Instructor
Daniel is is deeply passionate about food, farming, and community. He has been growing, cooking, and educating for nearly a decade. His dedication to the local food movement is highly contagious and evident through his work as a chef, Master Gardener, Beekeeper, Permaculturist, farmer, educator, and consultant. His non-conventional path of learning has led him to both applying and expanding his knowledge at multiple farms locally and abroad in search of new sustainable agriculture practices. Daniel is also the founder of Vancouver Farming Co., a non-profit farming organization dedicated to feeding the members
of our community who need it most, first.
Tsawwassen Farm School Market Crop Production & Practicum Instructor
Sarah’s formal food systems education began at UBC where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Land and Food Systems as well as the Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture at the UBC Farm. Sarah spent three seasons working at the UBC Farm as the Practicum Mentor, CSA manager, and manager of several production fields. She also worked for Victory Gardens Vancouver, building food gardens in the city and teaching people how to grow food in their own backyards. Sarah is passionate about growing local, sustainable food and hopes to empower BC’s next generation of organic farmers! In her spare time, she enjoys singing and playing fiddle in a bluegrass band.
Community Supported Agriculture Vegetable Boxes
**Get your weekly box of certified organic vegetables for the summer now!**
Both programs operate on a fully cost-recovery basis where all proceeds go back into supporting the operation, the students and the staff. On top of being an educational farm, we are also a working farm where we have various revenue streams including selling at the farmers markets, individual vegetable boxes and to restaurants around Metro Vancouver. These are important revenue streams for supporting the program and to demonstrate the business aspect of farming to students. Our students take part in attending the markets, harvesting and packing the vegetable boxes.
We deliver to three KPU campuses (Surrey, Richmond, Langley), East Vancouver and Tsawwassen. The subscription of these boxes run from mid-June to the end of October. Every week, you get a box of freshly harvested organic vegetables from the farm delivered right to your office! We are only one month away from the first box and spots are filling up very fast, so don’t miss out!
All our veggies are certified organic!
For more information and to sign up, visit our website.
If you have any questions regarding the programs or the vegetables boxes, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
Caroline, Farm School Manager
Blog written by Rosella
November 7th, 2017
Part of my retirement plan was and still is to pursue a higher education. While taking one of those classes at KPU in Langley, a video about KPU’s Tsawwassen Farm School showed up. Well, it sure got me intrigued. I have never heard of a farm school before.
I arranged for a visit to the farm in February 2017. The moment I stepped onto the farm, I knew that I was going to attend Farm School. This was when I met Archie, the red-coloured piglet. The farm school staff got us immersed into helping right away.
I learned so much, and still, I want to learn more. What Farm School has taught me is being a farmer is a lot more enjoyable than being in an office. Farmers are generally more happy even with the ups and downs of weather (we had a wet spring), the pests (flea beetles, loopers, etc.), and trying figure out what is happening to the plants (not enough nutrition, powdery mildew, too much water, not enough water, etc.).
I have more appreciation of what farmers do in order to get vegetables and fruits ready for us to enjoy. I never knew what a CSA was until this year (Community Support Agriculture). If I really had known what that entailed, I would’ve signed up for one of these weekly boxes for a season’s worth of vegetables and fruits a long, long time ago. Organic vegetables sure do taste good!
Farm school has shown me what farmers need to know in order to run a successful farm. Direct seeding or in trays, what kind of soil the seeds like to germinate in, the biggest thing I wanted to know was why my home garden did so well the first year and not the next. It was the nutrition of the soil! Whatever was taken away should be put back. This was something I wish I knew a long time ago.
I have learned about:
So many new vegetables I got to try, I did not know you could eat so many parts of the plants, like the scapes, before they bloomed, from garlic. I did try most of everything, even the ones I wasn’t very fond of (beans).
We visited quite a few places to see how they farmed, some of which gave me a good idea of how I could continue with the farming experience.
Even though this was a Farm School, learning how to become a farmer, I felt more alive and a part of a community. One of my favourite things to do on the farm was weeding.
I am feeling a sense of loss with farm school coming to an end. I have met a lot of very nice people. Overall it was an enjoyable experience. I am so glad I took the time out of my retirement plan of furthering my education to include attending KPU’s Tsawwassen Farm School.
Blog written by Nancy
Writing this post as farm school winds down is giving me a chance to reflect on the year. What a year! I can honestly say that this has been one of the the best of my life. I came to farm school after several years of volunteering on a farm, experimenting with organic growing in my own garden, and completing a permaculture design certificate. Farm school seemed like the next step in my learning journey. I wasn’t sure where it would lead but I knew that I needed to nurture my interconnectedness with nature. This is where I learned and practiced how to steward the land in a regenerative way.
While it’s hard to summarize an experience like this, here are some highlights:
And then there is the oasis that the 20-acre Tsawwassen Farm School is becoming. Amongst the conventional potato and blueberry farms here exists a parcel of land that is reclaiming the soil through sustainable farming practices. The soil is coming back to life. This is evident not only in the numbers of bumblebees and ladybugs (and caterpillars) that showed up this year, but also in the numbers of birds feasting on the abundance and finding homes to raise their offspring. We found a tree swallow nest in the spring, the sunflowers provided a fall feast for a local flock of red winged blackbirds, and raptors overhead regularly scan for rabbits and voles.
Farm school hasn’t changed my perspectives on food and the earth. I think I was already in the process of making those changes; of seeing the value in small-scale, local, regenerative food production. What it has done has deepened my resolve to become a steward of the land. I’m not alone in my longing to have a more intimate connection to the earth. It has brought me into contact with other people who also see the value in taking care of the earth so that it in turn can take care of us.
Blog written by Janine
My Opa, while making supper one night, said “if you can’t cook, how can you look after yourself?” That stuck with me. Striving to be more self-sufficient and wanting to see a sustainable food future, I took his advice a bit further – if you can’t grow food, how can you look after yourself, and those around you? I have been dreaming of farming for many years, but growing up in the city it seemed so out of reach.
I couldn’t find a farm job where previous experience wasn’t required and I was hoping for an educational setting. After hearing about the Tsawwassen Farm School I took the leap to learn how food is grown.
Every day at farm school is eventful, unpredictable, and full of teaching opportunities. I have learned to drive a tractor, predict the lifecycles of common insects, catch and wash a chicken, melt metal with welding equipment, identify a queen bee amid a buzzing hive, eat and use new parts of plants, and build healthy, life-sustaining soil.
I still have so much more to learn. Most importantly, I’m developing the attitude farming requires – be open to change, any day could through you a curve ball.
I am so grateful for the knowledge, confidence, and friendship that this experience has given me. I have met many people who inspire me with their passion for sustainable agriculture. Thank you! A shout out to my fellow farmers-in-training for building such a supportive atmosphere. I’m so excited to see how we all continue to grow.
I look forward to a future of farming!