Our Next Feeding Growth Coffee Session: Scaling Up - Manufacturing or Co-packing?

Our Next Feeding Growth Coffee Session: Scaling Up – Manufacturing or Co-packing?

Join us for our next session designed for small local food businesses. Meet your peers over ice cream and coffee and exchange experiences about how to scale the growth of your kitchen.

Researcher Profile: Sean Smukler, Assistant Professor

Sean Smukler, Assistant Professor, Applied Biology & Soil Science Junior Chair, Agriculture and the Environment
Departments:  Applied Biology, Integrated Studies in Land & Food Systems, Soil Science

What is your current research project and what is it all about?

My lab, the Sustainable Agriculture Lab, works on helping farmers in two specific ways: we help farmers reduce their environmental impact and we help farmers adapt to climate change.

What’s next for this project?

One of the projects we are now just launching is a five-year project to mitigate greenhouse gases; working with forage, potatoes and blueberries. We’re monitoring and quantifying greenhouse gases from those systems and evaluating how much carbon could be stored in farmers’ soils.  Our goal is to provide some management recommendations to those farmers. We’re also working on an assessment of how soil carbon is changing in the Fraser Valley depending on various land uses and soil management practices. Another project that we’re just launching is looking at how to better manage nutrients in organic farming systems. This means specifically identifying the challenges of meeting nutrient demands for organic vegetable production.

Why does this work matter to you?
I think understanding the intersection of the environment and agriculture is something that we really need to get a handle on. Considering the dual challenge of global food security and global environmental sustainability, agriculture is right in the nexus of that. Yet we, as a society, have not employed very effective strategies for incentivizing farmers to adopt practices that will improve their farms’ sustainability or reduce their environmental impact.

What surprises you about this work?
I’ve been a little surprised about how little support agriculture has from government in terms of research and development. For a sector of its importance, it is not getting as much support as it should. I don’t think that people have an awareness of the need for food production because it is so plentiful at the moment from places such as California, but give it ten years and BC’s agricultural landscape will look very different.

How important is the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm to your work?
It’s pretty essential, in terms of having a research facility. The Faculty of Land and Food Systems has two agricultural research facilities: the Dairy Research facility in Agassiz and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm. It is really important to have a controlled experimental setting to study some of the things that we’re interested in. We do a lot of on-farm work, and that is equally valuable, but without the controlled setting, it’s really hard to come up to the conclusions that can be applied in the field.

How valuable is it to engage your students with the UBC Farm?
I think it’s really critical for students to have hands on experience and to get exposure to a wide range of scientific fields. The UBC Farm offers an opportunity for me and my class to expose students to a bunch of methodologies for different fields. Agroecology really does encompass a wide variety of fields and gives students a sense if it is something that they’re interested in doing. Without getting your hands dirty, it’s really difficult to know that.

What should people know about the UBC Farm that they probably don’t know?
They should definitely know that whether it looks like it or not, it’s a really state of the art facility to do some important agricultural research. I think we’re pushing the boundaries in specific scientific ventures. It may not look like a typical classroom, but it definitely is one.

What’s your favourite thing to do at the UBC Farm?

I really like showing students examples of what I’ve been talking about in class. There’s nothing like talking about intercropping and then going out to the Farm and seeing clover or kale under sown. Under sowing involves sowing a crop after a main crop has been harvested to cover the soil and provide benefits such as nutrient retention and mitigates the harmful impacts of soil erosion. I enjoy explaining why the Farm is doing that, or why the Farm would like more information on that particular practice. It definitely feels good when the real world and the lecture intersects out there.

If you weren’t researching agriculture, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be a farmer. Or the other thing I’ve thought about doing is policy.

Anything else you would like to add?
The UBC Farm has the potential to connect researchers on campus, especially those who are interested in food systems, food production and the environment. It seems like it has the potential to be a real important hub of change. This project that we’re doing to improve nutrients on organic farms looks promising. We’re going to be trialing on 20 farms in the region. At some point, we’re going to get all the people together and develop some strategies. It’s really an opportunity to get a bunch of farmers and scientists together at the UBC Farm and start building connections.

We Are Hiring: Urban Farmers Volunteer Program Assistant

We are seeking an energetic and outgoing person to work with the UBC Farm team to support the Urban Farmers volunteer program and participate in the success of UBC Farm’s production and sales program.

The Urban Farmers Volunteer Assistant works in collaboration with the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, the Perennials and Biodiversity Coordinator and other UBC Farm staff to provide day-to-day field supervision to student and public community participants in the Urban Farmers Volunteer Program, as well as assisting with the UBC Farm’s crop production and general farms tasks.

This is a full time position for 9 months, with part time hours available in the winter season. The application deadline is February 28th, 2018.

Click here to see the full position and application information on our careers page.

Click here for more information about the UBC Farm Volunteer Program

UBC Students: please sign the Sustainable Food Access Fund petition

Are you a fan of affordable, organic, local, sustainable food on campus? We are in a race to get to 1000 signatures as fast as we can, so share this link!

This referendum will provide a student discount at Roots on the Roof & the UBC Farm, while keeping food prices low and increasing programming at Sprouts and Agora Eats Café!

Click this link for more details on the Sustainable Food Access Fund!


We Are Hiring: Practicum Field Mentor

We are seeking an energetic and inspired person to work with the UBC Farm team to support the growth of our Practicum students and participate in the success of UBC Farm’s production and sales program.

The Practicum Field Mentor works in collaboration with the Practicum Coordinator and UBC Farm Staff to provide day-to-day field instruction and supervision to the UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (UBC Farm Practicum Program) students as well as assisting with annual and/or perennial crop production. The goal of the UBC Farm Practicum Program is to
inspire and cultivate new farmers and food sustainability leaders who will transform their communities and their food systems through initiatives and enterprises that are economically, socially, and ecologically healthy and viable.

This is a full time position for 9 months, with part time hours available in the winter season. The application deadline is February 19th, 2018.

Click here to see the full position and application information on our careers page.

Click here for more information about the UBC Farm Practicum Program.

Teachers: Join us at UBC Farm for Pro-D Day Feb 19

Cross Pollination: School Gardens Connect Curriculum And Colleagues

Hey are you a teacher? Do you know a teacher? We are hosting a Pro-D day of mini workshops at UBC Farm. Workshop themes will feature hands-on gardening basics (including the new Vancouver School Board beginner gardening workshop, Rooted in Place), cooking and food waste, and integrating gardening and food into the curriculum.

Monday, 19 February 2018 | 8:45 am – 2:00 pm | UBC Farm

The day is hosted by Think&EatGreen@SchoolFarm to School BC, and the Vancouver School Food Network, a group of non-profits, educators and administrators working towards advancing food knowledge in Vancouver schools and beyond.

Registration is available via VSB here.

Applications Open for 2018 UBC Farm Market Vendors

2018 UBC Farm Market Open for Vendor Applications

We are excited to share the news that the 2018 UBC Farm Market is now open for vendor applications! Grow your business, build community and strengthen the local food economy with us this season at the only farmers market located on a working farm in Vancouver.

Our market, serving the local food economy since 2004, offers great opportunities for new and returning vendors with a growing and untapped customer base, ease of access, promotional support, low fees, fantastic community, and an unparalleled experience on a beautiful farm setting in the city. Join the market and see for yourself why vendors and shoppers alike love spending their Saturdays on this picturesque farm, with all the amenities and activities of a bustling city market alongside berry and pumpkin u-picks, chef demos, live music, and fun activities for kids and families.

The market takes place every Saturday from June 2 – October 27 at UBC Farm, 3461 Ross Drive, from 10:00AM-2:00PM (note: our market hours have changed from last year). We are looking for recurring and weekly vendors selling produce, dairy, meat/seafood, beverages, prepared food, food trucks, crafts, nursery products, alcohol, and services. We are limited in the number of vendors in certain product categories that we can accept to the market, so please apply as soon as possible to ensure the dates you want.

Important links:

Preparing UBC graduates for the food systems workplace

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) launched a new wave of LFS Career Development Internships (LFS 496) in 2016, as a way to increase student access to for-credit, mentored learning experiences with a food business or organization.

“This internship program came as a result of students telling us they wanted to get their hands dirty. They wanted practical experience in the workplace,” says Véronik Campbell, Academic Programs Manager at the CSFS at UBC Farm.
Internship positions are posted on the CSFS website, allowing students to apply and interview just as they would for a regular job posting. Students earn 3-6 credits in the internship, working directly with a workplace mentor over one or two semesters. Interns also form a cohort engaging in professional development activities such as the Strengthfinders assessment, a food values exercise, and a session on improving workplace communication.

“The goal of this program is to prepare our graduates both professionally and academically for future careers in the food system,” says Hannah Wittman, LFS Professor and CSFS Academic Director. “Interns actively apply the theory they have received in their undergraduate courses in a conscious, practical way, through on-the-ground food system-related work.”

For some internships, students literally get their hands dirty in the fields of the UBC Farm, working with poultry or perennial crops, while other positions focus on food system opportunities such as curriculum creation for children’s food literacy programs or engagement with BC progressive food businesses.

“Interning at UBC Farm showed me how food and sustainability are integral to good health which made me see the UBC Farm as a home of solutions for local challenges that will eventually lead to global changes,” said Sigbrit Søchting, Biodiversity and Perennial Crops Intern

Internship positions are also growing off campus, where food systems organizations can apply to mentor an intern. Previous interns have worked with Inner City Farms, the Richmond Food Security Society, and the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

“We also created the program to respond to the needs of BC food systems” adds Ms. Campbell. “We wanted to build resources and empower organizations, and to have this program become an asset for the BC food system, providing highly-qualified UBC graduates that are ready to hit the ground running.”

This article was originally published in the Land and Food System magazine Reach Out, Issue 28 Fall 2017.

How our internship program helped prepare Jeffery Kwok for the workplace

Jeffrey Kwok, Outreach and Community Engagement Intern, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm

As part of the LFS Career Development Internship (LFS 496) program, Jeffrey Kwok, a fourth year student in the Applied Animal Biology program, worked with the outreach team at UBC Farm. His role included creating, delivering, and facilitating educational curricula about food system sustainability to school age children and youth. He also worked with stakeholders and community partners exploring the multifunctional role of food and its environmental, social, and cultural implications.

How do you think this internship prepares you for the work world?

I think this internship has prepared me for the work world because it has many components that characterize our modern working environment. There is a focus on communication, collaborative work, use of electronic communication as a facilitation tool, dealing with uncertainties, and working with stakeholders with different goals and interests.

How would you like to be involved in the food system after you graduate?

I would like to work in promoting food security and food systems sustainability in our local communities. My internship gave me the opportunity to immerse myself into the community of people in Vancouver who work to creating a better food system and I want to be a part of that change.

How has the internship influenced your choices or future path?

My internship has fuelled my interest in working in the local food system. It has also opened my eyes to the different career avenues that I can take after I graduate, which elucidated the kinds of jobs that align well with my passion and interests.

This article was originally published in the Land and Food System magazine Reach Out, Issue 28 Fall 2017.