This week’s topic is Growing New Farmers. This coincides with our Kid’s Day at the Market this Sunday. Children will be hosting their own booths and selling items they have made, baked, or grown. This experience may sow the seeds for some of the next generation of farmers and other entrepreneurs. There is a renewed interest in farming as a profession and as a lifestyle with individuals questioning the sustainability of this world of mass consumption and incredible waste.
The pathways for new farmers are many, and opportunities to learn the necessary skills are abundant. There are so many organizations and learning institutions that are involved in agriculture, some will likely be omitted here.
One of the early groups that was intent on passing along important farming skills and building community-minded youth was the 4-H. “Clubs were originally known as Boys and Girls clubs until they were renamed 4-H clubs in 1952 to more clearly represent the four H’s – head, heart, hands and health.” British Columbia 4-H is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, and currently has 142 clubs, with 2,240 members, and 638 leaders.
A new group that has emerged is the Young Agrarians. “Young Agrarians are the movers and shakers of a new agrarian movement: young agriculturalists, farmers, urban farmers, market and community gardeners, community groups and academics, organizations and the public who want to ecologically rebuild, promote and inspire the agriculture of our country.” They are at the forefront of moving agriculture into more sustainable practices, and engaging people in the reshaping of our food system.
There are several other organizations that offer courses in urban agriculture, container gardening, and food preservation. These groups are building skills for those that don’t have the time or money to pursue an education in the field. There are several post-secondary institutions that have a variety of sustainable agriculture programs.
UBC Farm offers an eight month Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture. “The UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture curriculum is organized as a part-time, eight-month program balanced through the season with 70% seasonal field production and direct marketing activities and 30% classroom, farm field trips, faculty and guest speakers, student seminars and workshops.” The course is offered at The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, a 24 hectare research centre at the UBC Farm.
Kwantlen University also offers a sustainable agriculture course at their Richmond Farm School. The farm school offers a ten-month program where students learn about the full spectrum of the local food system. “The purpose of the Farm School is to prepare people from all walks of life to engage in human scale, urban-focused agriculture enterprises including production, processing, adding value, distribution, marketing and sales.” The exciting part of this program is that it includes an opportunity for graduates to lease city-owned incubator farms in Richmond where shared resources make entry into the profession more affordable.
These are just a few of the many opportunities for people who are thinking of getting into farming. With the prohibitive cost of land, we need to find new ways of putting idle land in our region into production.