Growing up on a 220-acre farm in Delta, Jared Singh knows good soil from bad. But less familiar is the notion of towing mobile henhouses from field to field as part of crop rotation to enrich the soil.
“I’m learning that animal manure can be used to create valuable, high quality compost,” says Singh, who since March has been involved with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm.
Singh is one of 10 students in the Sustainable Agriculture Practicum Program that provides hands-on experience, from natural pest control to cleaning produce for food safety. They grow vegetables on a small personal plot of land and cultivate the larger UBC Farm fields. During the eight-month program, they also delve into business aspects such as different distribution models and networks.
“That’s why I came to UBC. I want to figure out how to make a living while doing it sustainably,” says Singh, whose family owns Hakim and Sons Farm Ltd. along the Fraser River.
Piloted in 2004 and officially launched in 2008, UBC’s Sustainable Agriculture Practicum Program has graduated four cohorts—a total of 35 students. More than half have gone on to start their own farms. For example, Sarah McMillan and Simone MacIsaac hit it off while doing their practicum in 2008. A year later, they set up Rootdown Organic Farm, a two-acre property near Pemberton.
Now entering their fourth growing season, Rootdown is more solid, says McMillan, with two apprentices and innovations like the “pig share” program. McMillan and MacIsaac are raising 16 Tamworth pigs, a breed known for its high quality meat. For a $150 deposit, customers invest in half or a whole pig which will be raised and then slaughtered in the fall.