About

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The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS), located at UBC Farm, is a unique research centre that aims to understand and fundamentally transform local and global food systems towards a more sustainable, food secure future. The centre is a living laboratory, committed to finding solutions to both the local and global challenges facing food systems sustainability and translating solutions to improve personal, community, and environmental health. Through our Vision, Mission, and Guiding Principles, the Centre models new paradigms for sustainable communities.

The vision for the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm is encompassed in Cultivating Place, a strategic academic plan. Authored by the South Campus Academic Planning Committee in 2010, Cultivating Place integrates with UBC’s Sustainability Academic Strategy and, honouring the farm’s place on traditional Musqueam territory, UBC’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan. It arose from the UBC Board of Governors’ December 2008 directive to develop an “academically rigorous and globally significant” plan for the 24-ha area on UBC’s South Campus, addressing issues of sustainability.

Global Challenges

  • By 2050, the human population is forecast to surpass 9 billion people, and global food demand will increase by 70% if current consumption trajectories continue1.
  • All aspects of food security are affected by climate change. Heat and water stress could reduce crop yields by 25% between 2030 and 20492.
  • Nearly 24% of global land area is undergoing degradation. Almost one fifth of degrading land is arable cropland – more than 20% of all cultivated areas3.
  • Increases in yield, cultivated areas, and irrigation to address global risks to food systems are only possible through significant investments in agricultural research and new food production techniques4.

Local Challenges

  • Currently only 2.6 million of the 4.7 million hectares of Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia is actively farmed5.
  • The average age for farmers in British Columbia is 56 years of age6.
  • Nearly 82% of prospective local farmers were not from a farming background, and therefore had no access to succession or inherited land. Respondents identified the high cost of agricultural land as the biggest barrier to entering farming7.
  • Issues of agricultural land conversion into market development, an aging farming demographic, and economic barriers facing new farmers are local trends that are seen and felt in many regions internationally.

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm  will be a world-class academic resource and a central part of UBC’s sustainability aspirations, enabling UBC to explore and exemplify new globally significant paradigms for the design and function of sustainable communities and their ecological support systems.

To enable UBC to be a global leader in the creation of new patterns for sustainable and healthy communities integrated with their surrounding ecology, through exemplary, academically rigorous research, through transformative learning, through innovative cross-faculty and interdisciplinary collaboration, through socially responsible community engagement, and through international dialogue and knowledge-dissemination.

To implement this vision and mission, Cultivating Place is committed to creating an innovative living laboratory and a crucible for social change on South Campus. Within these cross-cutting themes, this initiative will:

Living Laboratory

  • Strive to demonstrate ways of understanding society’s reliance on ecological systems as well as ways of enhancing this relationship while promoting cultural and biological diversity, regeneration and resilience, and improving land productivity and stewardship practices;
  • Develop global best practices in the full range of ecosystem services, from provision (food, fibre, fuel, habitat, etc.) through end-product (waste, greenhouse gas) transformation and storage;

An Agent of Social Change

  • Cultivate knowledge in every aspect of sustainable practice and use that knowledge to enrich the UBC academic experience and to build sustainability literacy, locally, regionally and globally;
  • Provide an academically rigorous and environmentally healthy venue for inquiry and the intellectual space to share different ways of knowing, and, through activities physically rooted on South Campus, create and disseminate models for social engagement that generate innovation and that build bridges across perspectives, generations, and cultures;
  • Collaborate with community partners, governments, and other institutions in exploring and defining global best practices to support healthy and sustainable living.