Long Term Agroecological Research Station Infrastructure Development

Long Term Agroecological Research Station Infrastructure Development

In the first two years of our research cluster, we have laid crucial groundwork for developing the UBC Farm as a Long Term Agroecological Research Station; this strong foundation has enabled its use as a living laboratory for developing long-term experimental protocols to examine trade-offs and synergies in diversified agroecosystems, and places it as the central hub in a Coordinated Distributed Experimental Network (CDEN) of diversified research farms around the world.

In February 2019, we welcomed a visiting MSc student from Wageningen University, Adrien Kroese, who conducted an integrated sustainability assessment of UBC Farm over the course of his six-month visit. Adrien applied five sustainability assessment frameworks to the UBC Farm to examine both the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic) as well as the properties of sustainability (productivity, adaptability, resilience and reliability, equity, and self-reliance). This case study not only provides a valuable assessment of the sustainability of UBC Farm, but also demonstrates the applicability of multiple commonly-used sustainability assessment tools to a diversified small-scale farming context.

In coordination with the UBC Farm Field Manager, Tim Carter, we have developed a baseline crop rotation report which documents our historic crop rotation and cover cropping scheme. This report sets the stage for us to design and implement a long-term crop rotation and farm management study similar to Russell Ranch’s Century Experiment at the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, but in the context of a small-scale, diversified, organic integrated production farm. Tim is also working with his team to document the harvest and processing guidelines for each of the 200+ crops cultivated at UBC Farm, and we will provide this information to the public in 2020.

After consultation with CSFS researchers, external affiliates, and UBC staff, we have developed a data infrastructure proposal for the CSFS which encompasses how CSFS and UBC Farm research, operations, and long-term monitoring data will be managed and shared. In collaboration with the UBC Library, we are managing a repository on the open-source academic platform, Scholars Portal Dataverse, which will house CSFS datasets (check back soon for updates!). Read the summary of the data infrastructure proposal here.

Multiple initiatives have catalyzed long-term student-led monitoring of socio-ecological outcomes at the UBC Farm. The water innovations node for UBC’s Campus as a Living Laboratory (CLL) initiative is in its second year, and the biodiversity monitoring program received funding and started its first year of recording critical ecological data in 2019; the success of both programs depends upon student work-learns and research assistants. The newly established Conservation Agriculture course in LFS (APBI 490), led by cluster member Juli Carrillo, will continue to train students in field techniques for biodiversity monitoring, using the UBC Farm as a living laboratory, and provide data for the program. Dr. Carrillo is also leading a large TLEF proposal, submitted in 2019, which aims to create new pathways for undergraduate courses’ involvement in the research, learning, and community engagement activities of UBC Farm, with the goal to enhance students’ cultural competencies and understanding of place with practical application of key concepts in agricultural and environmental sustainability. Finally, cluster member and new Forestry professor Terry Sunderland is co-leading the development of a land plan for the UBC Farm Forest through his graduate course, Nature Resources Planning (FRST 559).

We are working with cluster members, CSFS Associates, and UBC Farm staff to envision and streamline operational management and governance of UBC Farm. Initiatives to help facilitate this include: updated research and land-based activities protocols, a streamlined land-based activity proposal process, updated site access protocols and land fee schedules, a formalized CSFS associate membership agreement, and enhanced communications and knowledge mobilization support–including through key resources such as the BC Food Web, the CSFS publications database, and the CSFS research projects database.