Surrounded by a 90-year old coastal hemlock forest, the UBC Farm encompasses a 24-hectare mosaic of cultivated field areas, hedgerows, orchards, and successional forest stands. The diversity of the landscape provides valuable habitat for a range of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles not found elsewhere in the city. The gently sloping southern aspect of the site and moderate maritime climate allow for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops year round. In a gradient of intensive and extensive management, the farm cultivates a range of annual and perennial crops mixed with animal production.
Innovative sustainability learning and research is at the heart of the UBC Farm’s programs. The farm provides a unique outdoor classroom where learners of all ages can immerse themselves in the stewardship of a working, productive landscape, linking society’s most pressing global challenges to relevant, practical solutions.
In addition to hosting a students in over 60 UBC courses, the UBC Farm includes elementary school garden projects, an Indigenous food hub, on-site and campus markets, a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) box program, a practicum in sustainable agriculture, and an array of research projects.
The site supports a mixed, working farm operation with academic programs integrated throughout. The 12-ha section cleared in 1965 has extensive irrigation, sub-surface drainage, and other utility infrastructure, and well-drained soils that have benefited from forty years of continued stone removal and amendments with organic matter.
The mix of crops and livestock at the farm is intended to represent the diversity of food, fibre, and fuel production that is possible in the pacific northwest. Specific research projects and gardens continually change and grow in accordance with the farm’s longer-term guiding principles for land management, which are founded on an agroecological framework. All areas of the farm that are used for market production are voluntarily managed to follow the COABC standards for organic agriculture.
A gentle slope that bisects the farm is planted in perennial crops, including over 70 different varieties of apples in a heritage orchard, as well as grapes, raspberries, blueberries, hops, and truffles. Level fields on either side of the slope are managed as part of a multi-year annual crop rotation. The intensively cultivated fields are increasingly being connected by a network of hedgerows, and livestock are integrated through rotational management. A basic complement of powered field equipment, including two tractors with a range of implements, and hand tools are stored in several toolsheds and a machine shed on site. With two small, multi-purpose field buildings on site, the farm has classroom, kitchen, office, workshop, storage, and processing areas.
Two glass greenhouses and three poly houses provide facilities for plant propagation and season extension. An on-site 300 cubic metre-capacity compost facility processes organic waste from the farm, local produce wholesalers, and UBC’s animal care facility, and incorporates it as a soil amendment on the fields.
Several garden areas with specific teaching or community service objectives sit at the edge of the forest. Marked by a decorative cob archway, the Children’s Learning Garden comprises raised beds, an adobe oven, small teaching shelters, and a greenhouse. The Indigenous Food Hub includes more raised beds, a smokehouse, shelters and outdoor food preparation areas, and a ceremonial fire circle. In addition, the farm is home to two medicinal plant gardens, a Christmas Tree Farm, individual and shared plots for practicum students, and teaching gardens for specific UBC courses.
Two trailers provide housing for live-in staff caretakers to ensure 24-hour animal care. On a seasonal basis, the farm has incorporated grazing cattle on rotating pastures, including two Belted Galloway cattle in 2010 and 2011 as part of a Master’s student’s thesis research. The farm typically houses several free range poultry flocks in movable coops. In addition to managing honeybee colonies for pollination services and research purposes, the farm supports native pollinators through insectary plantings, constructed homes, and natural habitat set-asides. In recognition of the important agroecological functions of integrated farm animals, there is a strong interest in diversifying this component of the farm.
The UBC Farm prioritizes teaching and research activities that also produce high-quality fresh food, which enters the UBC campus food system through a range of direct marketing channels. This characterizes the UBC Farm as a “working” farm, and the majority of the farm’s revenue is generated from produce sales.
The UBC Farm is open Monday - Friday from 9am - 5pm.