UBC Farm receives $2M from founders of Nature’s Path Foods

UBC Farm receives $2M from founders of Nature’s Path Foods

The donation from Arran and Ratana Stephens, co-founders of North America’s largest organic breakfast and snack foods company, is a personal gift to the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm.

Researcher Profile: Craig Borowiak, Visiting Researcher

What is the focus of your research?
I am an associate professor and chair of the political science department at Haverford College in Philadelphia. I study alternative political economies and for the past eight years have been focusing my studies on what is known as the ‘solidarity economy’. This refers to economic practices that depart from mainstream capitalist forms by prioritizing collectivist values such as cooperation, democratic decision-making, mutual aid, and community development. My research has a transnational dimension but takes place primarily in Philadelphia.

On a national level (in the U.S.), we have generated a series of maps of the solidarity economy. We’ve been collecting data on social initiatives such as worker cooperatives, credit unions, and community gardens. The mapping platform we have created to facilitate this dataset can be found at www.solidarityeconomy.us. These maps are designed to help the public locate such initiatives. We are also using them to study how demographic factors, such as race and class, relate to solidarity economy initiatives.

Why does this work interest you?
A recurring theme in my work is that communities today face multiple crises, whether they are financial, environmental, or security-related. Frequently, capitalist structures can be found behind these crises. I have a strong belief that in order to create a more vibrant and sustainable society we must find alternatives to the harmful structures of capitalism. But the thought of taking on capitalism is really overwhelming for a lot of people. It is really dis-empowering to think that in order to have alternative options, you’d have to overcome the entire system. At the same time, my work has shown me that maybe our economy is not so capitalist after all. When you begin to notice the cooperative efforts of our society such as public schools, public parks, community gardens, and bike shares, you realize that half of the challenge of coming up with alternatives is learning to recognize them. Once we collectively begin to acknowledge the alternatives that already exist, it becomes possible to leverage them to bring about more systemic change.

When I first taught my students about the idea of reading the economy differently so as to identify non-capitalist practices, many felt that a burden was lifted off of their shoulders. They began to see that there is value in micro-interventions. They began to see such interventions as part of something bigger.

What is your link to sustainable food?
For a long time, my work focused on transnational politics. Once I became more self-conscious about my lack of knowledge in relation to my own city of Philadelphia, I redirected my work away from the transnational angle and towards my local community. I began to immerse myself in local cooperatives, which then led me to the community garden movement. I found this movement fascinating and began speaking with community partners who were struggling to find and maintain data on gardens. I became very involved with this data, discovering that only a fraction of the 1,200 supposed community gardens in the city actually existed. Many of these were merely abandoned, vacant lots. On the other hand, many actual gardens weren’t recorded at all. The detective work of looking into these entries became a major research project. We have now produced comprehensive datasets of community gardens in the city, including data on land ownership and neighborhood demographics. These datasets are currently being used by community partners and the city to help preserve gardens at risk due to gentrification.

When you started your research, did you expect to become so involved in community gardens?
I was surprised that I became so involved. My original goal was to paint a picture of Philadelphia’s solidarity economy, which required a completed list of community garden entries. Upon my involvement, I realized that these gardens are a way of alleviating the existing racialized poverty that is concentrated in Philadelphia. These gardens are a means for underdeveloped communities to beautify their neighbourhoods, enhance their food security, and drive out harmful, illicit activity.

What have you gained from visiting the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS)?
One of my primary motivations for visiting the CSFS was that I wanted to be around people who understand these community-based food systems better than I did and who could help me understand how to assess the impact of community gardens. Being in this supportive environment has been incredibly helpful, as I’m surrounded by people who are interested in these questions that I have surrounding community gardens. I’ve also gained perspective about my own city – Philadelphia is a racially segregated city, whereas Vancouver is very different. In Vancouver, there are a completely different set of issues and questions surrounding community gardens. Vancouver struggles with finding space for new community gardens, whereas Philadelphia has trouble planting existing lots.

Where do you see this research heading?
When I set out on this research project, I had wanted to create an estimate of the economic value that we might attribute to community gardens’ produce. Such quantitative metrics are important for policymakers. I have come to appreciate that much of the impact of community gardens is not reflected in the shadow economic value. It’s instead about the human connection, the cultural preservation, the reconnection with nature – qualitative stuff. So what can we do to make these somewhat abstract things legitimate in the eyes of the people in power? Part of the challenge with thinking about alternative food systems is confronting dominant discourses and modes of representation. It’s not that things like community gardens are wholly invisible, it’s that their full value is not legible to policymakers, academics, and the public because of the way we think about the economy and society. Addressing this is the next step of this work.

Researcher Profile: Lisa Powell, Postdoctoral Researcher

What is your title?

I am a postdoctoral researcher jointly appointed at UBC in the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and at the University of the Fraser Valley.

What does your research with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm focus on?

One of the main focus areas of my research through CSFS is on “farm to school” programs and how they may contribute to fostering sustainable food systems. My research in this area started off looking at how institutional sourcing of local food can support farms and economic development. We have ended up also investigating farm to school programs as food literacy education initiatives and comparing how these programs have manifested in BC to other parts of the world. Even in BC schools that do not have a cafeteria to serve local food at, we still often see a lot of work with school gardens and other programs that support food literacy education, which has the potential for long term food systems impacts.

Another significant aspect of my work with the CSFS is translating research into usable formats that can be made available to farmers, food processors, and others working with food systems. In addition to being a researcher myself, I help to facilitate the sharing of the broad range of research coming out of CSFS, as well as work from our collaborators and partners. I am currently helping to build a web portal to support increased public access to research results and other resources related to food and agriculture in BC.

Why does this work matter to you?
I grew up on, and remain involved in, my family’s farm, where I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience with food systems and in particular food production. There I developed an understanding of farming’s economic realities and its relationship to environmental conditions. Because of this, I’m interested in research that can be used to help agricultural communities prosper, while also seeing the value and the need for the general public to acquire as much knowledge about food systems as possible. Even if people aren’t growing food themselves, they are still stakeholders as people who eat or engage with the food system in other ways.

What surprises you about this work?
It’s been a pleasant surprise to learn about the enthusiasm from people who are working in the farm to school movement. Seeing the passion in community members and organizations has been exciting and wonderful.

How important is the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems to your work?
The CSFS provides a valuable network that involves both researchers and those who are practitioners or working in the field. It’s great to be a part of that hub. The UBC Farm itself provides a lot of food literacy education programming. The UBC Farm is also a great model and learning tool for institutional sourcing of local food as they sell produce to UBC Food Services, which prepares meals in campus cafeterias.

What should people know about the CSFS at the UBC Farm that they probably don’t know?
They should know that the UBC Farm isn’t only a physical space. It also represents a larger network of researchers and outreach activities going on – both activities happening on the ground at the farm but also those related to sustainable food systems happening beyond the farm itself.

What’s your favourite thing to do at the UBC Farm?
Any given day, within a couple minutes walk, there may be internationally-known researchers installing new monitoring equipment in a field, children potting little seedlings, undergraduate classes recording soil sample data, field staff weighing harvests, and people of multiple generations talking and working together in the Indigenous Gardens. It’s really inspiring to be able to take a short walk and see so many people of different ages, interests and backgrounds all doing activities related to food systems in this one pretty small space.

New Food Systems Internships Available – Apply Now!

Gain credit and work experience with positions on or off-campus. Open to all UBC students. See postings and apply now for January start.

New Community Kitchen Program at UBC Farm

The UBC Farm is starting a monthly community kitchen where community members (including students, faculty, staff and neighbours) come together to prepare a meal as a group.  We will accept donations for the meal, whatever you are able to pay…

You Are Invited: Sculpture Welcome Fire Ceremony

Dave Robinson, Anishinaabe from the Timiskaming First Nation, accompinied by Shane Point, Musqueam Elder and VSB Knowledge Keeper, would like to invite you to a “Sculpture Welcoming Fire Ceremony”. They invite you to witness, learn about Indigenous Pedagogies, and take part in the ceremonial first wood chip burning from Dave’s most recent 24′ Red Cedar Sculpture. Everyone who would like to engage, learn and connect with our land is welcome to be a part of this ceremony and carry the wood chips to the fire with us.

Annual Report now available

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems 2016 Annual Report presents highlights of the diverse activities of CSFS for the 2016 calendar year, as we work towards understanding and transforming local and global food systems.

Undergraduate Student Survey

Are you an undergraduate at UBC? Fill out this survey on ways to increase student driven engagement at the UBC Farm and be entered to win a free workshop!

November Winter Markets

Our regular Saturday market season ends on the last Saturday of October.

Enjoy the bounty of year-’round local eating at our Winter Markets! We have a variety of our certified organic and farm-fresh eggs and vegetables such as squash, pumpkins, potatoes, beets, onions, garlic, dried herbs and teas, and greens for sale. At our Winter Markets we are joined by a number of local food vendors from our summer Saturday Markets selling products such as fresh baked goods, local meat, mushrooms, hot coffee and tea, preserves, and more! Check out the market map to see which vendors will be at our winter markets.

We may extend our Winter Markets beyond the end of November, dependent on produce availability. If you want to be the first to know about any future market dates, join our newsletter here.

U-Pick Pumpkin Piles 2017

It’s that time of year again, time for squash, pumpkins, pies, and jack-o-lanterns. Stock up on all your pumpkin needs at the UBC Farm!

Our U-Pick Pumpkin Piles are now open. We have many varieties and sizes of pumpkins available – some are great for baking, while others are perfect for carving. Piles are sorted by size and price, and are located next to the Harvest Hut.

Please bring exact change, pumpkins range from $5,$10, $15, and $20, and we are open Monday-Saturday, 9am to 5pm. We are closed on Sundays.

The Winning Pie Recipe of the UBC Farm Fall Fair Pie Contest – by Jaylin M

Homemade pie crust (my recipe makes 2 crusts; 1 for bottom and 1 for lattice top)

  • homemade salted caramel sauce
  • 6 large apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced (approx 10-12 cups total – use a variety for better flavor, such as Pink Lady, Granny Smith, or Honey Crisp)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk
  • optional: coarse sugar for sprinkling on crust


  1. Read all of the directions that I wrote in this post before beginning the following recipe. It will help you!
  2. The crust: Prepare my pie crust recipe through step 5.
  3. Make the caramel using my step-by-step photos as a visual guide. You can do this as you wait for the pie dough to chill.
  4. Next, make the apple filling as the dough is still chilling: Place apple slices into a very large bowl. Add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Gently toss to combine. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the chilled pie dough: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. With a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang of crust and discard.
  6. Fill the pie crust with the apples. There are a lot of apples, but pile them tightly and very high. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the salted caramel, reserving the rest for topping.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  8. Make the lattice crust: Remove the other disc of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough out, 12 inches diameter. Using a pastry wheel, sharp knife, or pizza cutter, cut 16 strips 1/2 inch wide. I always use a clean measuring tape or ruler as a guide to assure the lines are straight. Carefully thread the strips over and under one another, pulling back strips as necessary to weave. Using a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang. Crimp the edges of the dough with a fork or your fingers.
  9. Lightly brush the lattice top with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  10. Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Keeping the pie in the oven, turn the temperature down to 375°F (190°C) and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes. If the top of your pie is getting too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. The pie will be done when the caramel begins to bubble up. A small knife inserted inside should come out relatively clean.
  11. Allow the pie to cool for 4 hours before serving. Drizzle the pie with the extra caramel sauce to serve.

Salted butter caramel sauce

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces1
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added
  4. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar.
  5. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.
  6. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
  8. Make ahead tip: You can make this caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe. This caramel is OK at room temperature for a day if you’re traveling or gifting it.