Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

The UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture is a four to six-month experiential learning program designed for aspiring farmers, environmental educators, gardeners, and students interested in applying knowledge about sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Students bring a diversity of backgrounds and life experience to the practicum. Our program graduates share a vision of livelihoods and lifestyles grounded in sustainable and community-based food systems. The program is open to all; you do not have to be a UBC student (see details below for minimum qualifications). Click here to see a few practicum alumni profiles!

Alisha M'Lot

2018 Graduate - UBC Farm Practicum Field Mentor & Field Lead

After completing the practicum in 2018, Alisha M'Lot jumped right back into the UBC Farm community as a Field Mentor and Brassicas lead. She recently added hoop houses and tunnels to her portfolio at the UBC Farm, and spends her down time cooking farm veggies and hanging out with her deep-ecology book club.

Brianna Thompson

2019 Graduate - Senior Plant Growth Operations Technician

After completing her practicum in 2019, Brianna Thompson went on to work with a research & technology company developing sustainable agriculture solutions. She also works as a coordinator for a produce and security initiative, coordinating yard gardens and purchasing excess produce from local farmers.

Amy Norgaard

2015 Graduate - UBC Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes Lab

Amy Norgaard wrapped up her practicum in 2015 while completing her BSc in Agroecology at UBC. From there, she went on to farmhand with Ice Cap Organics. In 2018, she returned to UBC to complete her MSc in Soil Science. On the side, Amy teaches sustainable soil management with the KPU - Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School and is articling in order to become a Professional Agrologist.

Gregg Ashby

2019 Graduate - Renewal Funds

After completing the practicum in 2019, Gregg Ashby went on to work for Renewal Funds, who invests in sustainable products and environmental technology. He also volunteers in urban agriculture, keeps bees, and serves on the Board of Richmond Beekeepers.

Cory Spencer

2009 Graduate - Haltwhistle Cheese Co.

After completing the practicum in 2009, Cory Spencer trained with cheese makers in the UK and France. When he returned to Canada, he started a 130-head goat dairy and cheese making operation called Haltwhistle Cheese Co.

Dave Semmelink

2014 Graduate - Lentelus Farms Comox Valley

Dave established Lentelus Farms about half way through UBC Farm’s Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture. The Practicum helped him build many strong connections including with Professor Emeritus and mentor Dr. Art Bomke. Dave now rents three farms in the Comox Valley. He grow grains on one farm to feed his heritage pastured hogs. He also grows certified organic garlic on another farm and this year, he leased a 3rd farm for his lambs and hogs.

Katie Selbee

2013 Graduate - Twin Island Cider

After completing the practicum in 2013, Katie went on to do a year of mixed-vegetable CSA farming at Farmers on 57th, as well as an orchard internship at UBC Farm. Katie has since moved to Pender Island, where she started Twin Island Cider, a farm-based cidery, with a fellow farm worker she met during her time at the UBC Farm.

About the Program

The UBC Farm encompasses 24 hectares of integrated farm and forest lands on UBC’s South Campus. The farm is managed by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, which offers a wide range of interdisciplinary learning, research, and community programs on the site. Together, these programs explore and exemplify new paradigms for sustainable communities. Situated within a 90-year old coastal hemlock forest, the UBC Farm comprises a mosaic of cultivated annual crop fields, perennial hedgerows and orchards, and successional forest stands. The farm is home to a range of research projects and university courses. Community involvement is integrated throughout its Children’s Learning Garden, Indigenous programming, farm markets, community workshops, and a robust volunteer program.

The Practicum program is hosted at the UBC Farm, a living laboratory of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. In a typical year, the UBC Farm is the site of the majority of farming activities, guest speaker presentations, and classroom sessions. In addition, Practicum students visit a number of local farm operations to provide a regionally grounded food system context, and to make personal connections with experienced food growers.

The Practicum is a hands-on educational program designed to provide a full growing season of food production experience to anyone with a strong interest in sustainable agriculture and food systems. The UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture curriculum is organized as a part-time, four to six-month program balanced through the season with approximately 70% seasonal field production and direct marketing activities and 30% classroom, farm field trips, faculty and guest speakers, group discussions and student presentations.

In a typical year, prospective students are encouraged to visit the farm prior to applying to the Practicum. This gives applicants a better understanding of the hands-on nature of the program, along with a better sense of the UBC Farm community. Interested participants are invited to register for a volunteer session or workshop, attend a Saturday Farmer's Market, or otherwise participate in the vibrant learning community we foster. Given the current public health situation, access to the Farm is more limited than typical, but we are still offering opportunities to volunteer and hosting markets. We are still operating Farmers' Markets on Tuesdays (4-6:30 pm) and Saturdays (10 am to 2 pm) - and the UBC Farm is currently open to the public on Saturdays between 10 am and 5 pm. Especially if you're local to Vancouver, coming to visit on a Saturday would be a great opportunity for you to learn more about our Market and walk around our fields.

Every year a Practicum Open House is hosted at the beginning of the fall season before the application deadline.  In 2020, our Open House will be conducted virtually on Saturday, September 19th, 12 pm – 1 pm; and will be a forum to meet staff and alumni, ask questions, and receive a virtual farm tour (from the perspective of the program).  If you miss our September Open House, fear not - we will host another virtual Open House on Wednesday, October 7th, 5:30 - 7:00 pm. Registration is required to attend our Open House. Please click to register at the following link: register for virtual Practicum Open House. To stay informed of our latest updates regarding UBC Farm Programming (including the Practicum Program), please sign up for our weekly newsletter.  .

Click here to access the 2021 online application. A $25 CAD application fee is required, to be paid online once the application form is submitted. For the 2021 program, we have three application pools:

  • Early Admission (Full Program)
  • Regular Deadline (Full Program)
  • Regular Deadline (Summer Option)

The Early Admission pool offers highly competitive applicants an opportunity for a quicker decision to be made on their status. Every application received on or before September 22nd will be automatically considered for Early Admission.  All early applicants not receiving Early Admission offers of admission will be added to the Regular pool of applicants.

All applications for the Regular Deadline pool are due by October 18th. All applications received after midnight October 18th (Pacific Standard Time) will be considered “Late” and may or may not be considered.

  • A subset of the Regular Deadline pool is the “Summer Option”.  We reserve very limited spaces for this option, so we encourage you to only apply for this option if your schedule truly prohibits you from attending the full program.  The dates of enrollment for the “Summer Option” are April 15th to August 21st.  Students completing the “Summer Option” are eligible (additional action is required) to receive academic credit (6 credits via APBI 365).
  • Basic English fluency (as determined via the interview)
  • Minimum age of 19
  • Physical stamina to perform basic farming tasks over the course of the season
  • Ability to stay and study in Canada for the entire duration of the program.

Although no prior experience in farming or gardening is necessary, it is looked upon favorably. Successful applicants are usually strongly committed to exploring food production or food sustainability education as a central part of their future.  To be clear, you do not need to be UBC student, or a student at all.  We welcome international applicants.  It is common for students in the practicum cohort to be between the ages of 20-45, though we certainly welcome (and have had several) older students as well.

Acceptance rates vary from year to year.  Over the past several years, our acceptance percentage has ranged from roughly 20% to 40%.  In 2021, we are planning to enroll a cohort size of 15. We look at a wide range of factors when selecting the incoming cohort.  Applicants that have already demonstrated at least some prior commitment to developing skills and knowledge related to sustainable food and farming/gardening usually have a higher chance of acceptance; however, we also sometimes make offers to applicants with very little to no experience.  Although many successful applicants don't necessarily have a clear vision for their path beyond the Practicum program, this can also be a helpful asset.

Students completing the full program are eligible to receive up to 9 academic credits (6 credits via APBI 365 and 3 credits via APBI 465).  “Summer Option” students are eligible to receive 6 academic credits (via APBI 365).  Further action is required to obtain credits.  If interested, please let us know in your application.  Note: APBI 260 or APBI 265 is a prerequisite for enrolling in APBI 365; and APBI 365 is a prerequisite for enrolling in APBI 465.

No.  In fact, recently, the majority of our practicum students have not been UBC students.  Moreover, although the UBC Farm hosts the majority of activities for the practicum program, acceptance to the UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture does not imply acceptance or enrollment at UBC.  Practicum students do not pay UBC student fees, receive a student card, or UBC benefits.

Enrolled UBC students are certainly welcomed and encouraged to participate in the Practicum program provided the program schedule works with their academic commitments.  To make the practicum program even more accessible to students, we offer a "Summer Option" (April 15 - August 21).

Program fees for 2021 are $4,500 (Full Program); and $3250 (Summer Option).

Accepted students must pay an initial $500 (non-refundable) deposit and the remainder of the fee in February 2021.

Participating in the UBC Farm Practicum program does not provide eligibility for student financial aid.  We are, however, pleased to announce a new Bursary made possible by a generous donation from 2019 Practicum alumnus Gregg Ashby.  The Bursary is intended to make the program more accessible to applicants with limited financial means. Bursary awards will consist of either one $1800 award per year or two $900 awards. The application for the Bursary is separate from the application to the program. To be clear, completing the Bursary application will have no bearing on the admissions process, as admissions decisions will be made prior to viewing the applications for the Bursary. In other words, Bursary applications will only be evaluated among applicants already accepted to the program. To learn more about the Bursary and to apply online, please visit the following link: Bursary Application.

In addition, we have worked to accommodate students of limited means to pay the program fee in two installments. If interested in this option, please notify us after acceptance into the program.

We are, moreover, very appreciative that through the generous support of Choices Market, we have, in recent years, been able to provide approximately $100 for seed purchases for each practicum student.  In addition, Choices Market has offered one practicum student an opportunity for part-time employment.  Although these two features have not yet been confirmed for 2021, we are hopeful that this arrangement with Choices Market will continue.

Student, staff, and community health and safety are of paramount importance. It's hard for us to know in August of 2020 what the public health situation will be at the time our practicum is scheduled to begin in April of 2021. Considering the uncertainty involved, we are choosing to err on the side of caution by planning for a "hybrid" program in 2021. To be clear, this will be a very different format from our previous programs, which have always been conducted entirely in-person.

Our approach for 2021, in anticipation of continued COVID-19 restrictions, is for the practicum program to follow a "hybrid" format such that, on average, roughly 25-35% of the program is conducted online and, on average, roughly 65-75% of the program is conducted in-person. In April and May a much higher % of the program is expected to be conducted online; starting in June, however, we're likely to reduce online programming to about 10-15% of weekly program hours.

There are numerous related impacts of this change in format: for example, most, if not all, field trips may need to be done remotely. Given that at the time of this writing, we're still 8+ months away from the scheduled start of the program, we're hesitant to go into extensive detail regarding COVID-19 program adjustments. Given the rapidly changing nature of the public health situation, it is possible that the program could revert back to a fully in-person program, in accordance with provincial and university health and safety protocols.

Yes. Because of the high-cost of living in the Vancouver area, most UBC Farm Practicum students do hold part-time jobs or pursue seasonal employment while participating in the program.  We have structured the program schedule to accommodate this reality.  That said, to get the most out of the program, many students plan for limited work hours during the busiest and most physically demanding June-September portion of the schedule.

The program meets from April 15, 2021 until October 23, 2021 (with the “Summer Option” beginning on April 15, 2021, and ending on August 21, 2021). During this time period, the program meets Thursday-Saturday, for approximately 20 hours per week.

To successfully complete the Practicum, we require 90% attendance of scheduled program hours.

We have found that students benefit the most when they plan for and commit to an average of 5-7 hours/week in additional off-program time to establish, care for, and maintain their individual and shared plot spaces, and to complete assignments. This extra time commitment is most crucial between May and August. Therefore, students should allocate, in total, roughly 25-28 hours each week to complete the program.

Yes!  We certainly welcome applications from international applicants, but unfortunately we do not have the staff availability or resources to provide information or support regarding immigration, visa requirements, or housing. If you live outside Canada and have family here who can provide support, or if you are already a currently enrolled UBC international student with up-to-date visa credentials, you will find the process less complicated. The current health situation has added a great deal of complexity regarding international travel into Canada. Before applying to the 2021 Practicum program, we'd strongly advise you to consult current policy regarding international arrivals into Canada. See https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/travel-restrictions-exemptions.html for more information. If there are severe restrictions on international arrivals from your country of origin into Canada at the time that we make our admissions decisions (November in most cases), we will have to seriously consider that as a potential obstacle for enrollment, as the program does require 65-75% in-person attendance in Vancouver, British Columbia.

No. At this time, we do not have any possibility of on-farm housing.  If you are considering this program and are not from the Vancouver area, we recommend checking online rental boards and shared housing options. See http://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/other-housing/off-campus-housing/ for resources.

Although the Practicum is not a degree program, students who complete all program requirements will receive a Certificate.  In addition to the knowledge and skills obtained through the program, students often indicate that the program presented a valuable opportunity to integrate into the Vancouver and regional farming community.

Alumni start their own farming operations, obtain jobs on farms, pursue advanced degrees related to agriculture and food systems, work in an educational capacity on farms and gardens, or work off-farm jobs related to creating a sustainable and socially just food system. Others pursue homesteading projects or other career paths. Long after they've graduated, we continue to support our alumni by sharing job and land access opportunities with them. View the above slides for specific examples of the paths of a few of our alumni.

We are always open and eager to hear from allied organizations and individuals.  If you or your company/organization would like to support the Practicum program, please contact us: ubcfarm.practicum@ubc.ca

Specifically, we are seeking:

  • funding to support future need-based scholarships for incoming students
  • land access opportunities for program alumni
  • funding to support purchase (or donation of):
    • 15-passenger van (for field trips)
    • farming / food system books & journals (for student library)
    • portable classroom (such as a trailer, for consistent access to on-farm indoor classroom space)
    • various hand tools, including broadforks, spades, digging forks

If our webpage and the program overview did not fully answer your questions, please send an email to the Practicum Coordinator, Seth Friedman at ubcfarm.practicum@ubc.ca.  In addition, here is a short video that features a practicum alum.

The Practicum would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the following: West Coast Seeds, Choices Market, Young Agrarians, Vancouver Urban Farming Society, Groundswell, Vancity, GDr. Art Bomke, Gregg Ashby, and Anonymous.

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