UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture
The UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture is a 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 profiles of Practicum alumni!
Applications for the 2023 cohort are now closed.
2009 Graduate of the UBC Farm Practicum - Founder of the Haltwhistle Cheese Company
A decade ago, Cory Spencer traded in his comfortable professional life as a software developer in Vancouver for a plot of land and a herd of goats. Now, nearly 11 years later, he wouldn’t change a thing.
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.
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.
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 and is articling in order to become a Professional Agrologist.
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.
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.
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.
2013 Graduate - Community Animator Farm to School BC
Samantha became a member of the UBC Farm family in the 2013 growing season. She transitioned straight from the UBC Farm Practicum to a Master's degree program in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, where she studied agricultural policy and food sovereignty in the BC dairy industry. Samantha graduated in the Spring of 2016 and by the end of summer, she had secured a job as Community Animator for Farm to School's Vancouver Area Regional Hub.
Simone McIsaac and Sarah Stewart
2008 Graduates - Rootdown Organic Farm
Simone and Sarah met during their practicum at the UBC Farm in 2008, and are now co-owners of Rootdown Organic Farm, a mixed vegetable farm serving restaurants, grocery stores and CSA members in the Pemberton and Whistler area. Since 2010, the farm has developed into a multiple-acre project, serving 20 restaurants and grocery stores, and over 70 CSA members, as well as raising Heritage pigs.
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. 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 currently hosting markets. We are operating on-site 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 fall a Practicum Open House is hosted before the application deadline. It is a forum to meet staff, ask questions, and receive a virtual Practicum farm tour. To stay informed of our latest updates regarding UBC Farm Programming (including the Practicum Program), please sign up for our weekly newsletter.
- 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 2023, we are planning to enroll a cohort size of 16. 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 8 - August 19).
Program fees for 2022 are $5,100 (Full Program); and $3,850 (Summer Option).
Accepted students must pay an initial $800 (non-refundable) deposit and the remainder of the fee in February 2023.
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 $2,000 award per year or two $1,000 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 instalments. 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 2023, we are hopeful that this arrangement with Choices Market will continue.
Student, staff, and community health and safety are of paramount importance. While acknowledging that there is uncertainty involved, we are currently anticipating and planning for an in-person program in 2023. That said, we reserve the right to modify the program as required 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 8, 2023 until October 20, 2023 (with the “Summer Option” beginning on April 8, 2023, and ending on August 19, 2023). 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.
Students must also 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 25-27 hours each week to complete the program.
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 2023 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 in-person attendance in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Furthermore, a special note for applicants that intend to ultimately return to practice agriculture in a country located in a sub-tropical or tropical region of the world: you are encouraged to thoughtfully and carefully consider the appropriateness of the Practicum program to your future goals, as Vancouver, BC is located in a temperate climate zone.
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.
We want to be clear that the fundamental nature of this program is introductory. The program serves a diverse demographic, and is not designed in such as way as to completely and fully prepare someone to immediately start their own operation upon completion of the program. While some graduates have, in fact, gone on to immediately launch successful farming businesses, other graduates continue their education in various ways, either by formal schooling, or gaining additional work experience. Much depends on prior agricultural experience, access to land and capital, entrepreneurial skills and ambitions, and numerous other factors. Broadly speaking, we expect that the majority of students would plan for additional training/experience prior to launching into a full-time entrepreneurial endeavour. That said, we believe the program provides a robust introductory training experience in small-scale organic vegetable production, as well as vast array of resources and local network to help facilitate someone's vocational journey into agriculture.
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: email@example.com
Specifically, we are seeking:
- funding to support our bursary program to increase program access
- 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)
- additional equipment and hand tools
If our webpage and the program overview did not fully answer your questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, here is a short video that features a practicum alum.
The Practicum program would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the following:
Art Bomke PhD, Choices Market, Endswell Foundation, Gregg Ashby, Groundswell, Vancity, Vancouver Urban Farming Society, West Coast Seeds, Young Agrarians, and Anonymous.
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