UBC Undergraduate Research

UBC Farm : contributions to a sustainable food system Goyal, Sarika; Hsi, Sharon; Law, Kenneth; Lu, Wendy; Mulligan, Rob; Spencer, Nicole; Weatherhead, Scott; Yin, Cindy 2002-04-03

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student Report       UBC Farm: Contributions to a Sustainable Food System Sarika Goyal, Sharon Hsi, Kenneth Law, Wendy Lu, Rob Mulligan, Nicole Spencer, Scott Weatherhead, Cindy Yin  University of British Columbia AGSC 450 April 3, 2002           Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”.   1      UBC Farm:  Contributions to a Sustainable Food System            AgSc 450, Group #16   S arika Go yal Sharon Hsi Kenneth Law Wend y Lu Rob Mulli gan Nicole Spence r Scott Weatherhead Cind y Yin         2  Abstract  As a workin g team, ou r group coll ecti vel y asses s e d the sustainabil it y of the UBC food s ystem and identifie d the wa ys in which the UBC South Campus Far m (UBC Farm) can contribut e to a sustai nable food s ystem.  Spec ificall y, we hav e ex ami ned the potenti al of the UBC Farm to supp l y he alt h y, dive rse food p roducts to various local UBC outl ets.  Through int e rviews we discovered that the produc ti ve capa cit y of th e farm can be increas ed to meet growin g dem and for loc al foods , eit her throu gh small -sca le anim al s ystems, greenhouse pro ducti on, or ex panding the UBC Mark et Gard en pro ject.  The barr iers which hinder the se ex pansion s were also i denti fied, and include the foll owing:  degraded or miss ing infr astructure, gov ernment regul ati ons conce rning m eat producti on, and limi ted market oppor tuni ti es for non -process e d food.   This document also serves as a “stepping stone” for future students to use by identif yin g areas for futu re res ear ch.  Futur e stude nts should ex ami ne the possi bil it y of processi n g food from UBC Farm, labeli n g the foo d as locall y or organi call y gro wn, incorporati n g wetl and an d forested areas in agricu lt ure producti on, and met hods of integrating animals back onto the farm. By examining where the “holes” (or weaknesses) in the current food s yste m lie, our group envisi oned the wa ys in which the UBC Farm c ould fill these “holes” and fulfill our utopian view of a sustainable food system.    Introduction  As a group, our memb ers were compos ed of stude nts from differ ent culture s and back grounds.  As such, each member brou ght wit h them different v alues and idea s to our discussi ons but our underl yin g values were primar il y from a comm unit y-b a sed, and ecoc entric pe rspecti ve.  These values helped us form a utopian view of what a sustainable  3  food s ystem shoul d en co mpass.  Of primar y conc ern was that all food pro ducti on shoul d be done in an ecolo gicall y sound mann er whe reb y producti on actuall y incr eases the quali t y of soil and water, without ex ploiti ng the natural resour ces.  Our id ea l food system would also rel y on local food producti on, processi ng, dist ributi on and m ark eti ng with the use of crops that are suite d to the environment.  We feel that h aving a local - based food s ystem not onl y all ows consum ers and produc ers to have a vested inte rest i n the land, but it also gives the comm un it y the powe r to self -r e gu late thei r food s ystem instead of rel yin g on ex ternal forces.  Thus, the central v alues of ind ependen ce, self -control, pride and beauty were all important in shaping our group’s vision for a sustainable food system.  It was felt b y some group members that if farmer s and consum ers were not able to make a reasonabl e profit in their food s ystem, it would be impossi ble for the food sys tem to be trul y sust ainable.  Thus, a high stand ard of livin g and wealt h were mention ed as important values in our food s ystem.  Currentl y, the UBC food s ystem has a number of weakness es which our gr oup has identified for improveme nt.  There is a decr eased variet y of food avail able to students, and litt le opportuni t y for local products to be sold on campus eit her throu gh market -places or as value- added products (ie. salads, soup s, sandwiches). Th e lack of local produc t choices in our fo od s ystem was ou r major concern and ther efor e, formed the basis for thi s group pape r .    Role of UBC Farm in the Food System: Productive Capacity of the Farm   Loc ated south of 16 t h  ave nue, the UBC South Campus Farm is the onl y fa r m in the Great er Vancouve r Area and is of vit al import ance to the UBC food s ystem.  The  4  farm is located on approx im atel y 55 hectar es of land, which includes lar ge, open and forested areas that support crop, anim al, fo rest, an d wetl and elements (UBC FAS, 2000).  The primar y mand ate of t he farm is the provisi on of learnin g fo r students, facult y, sta ff and comm unit y membe rs , and to produce sust aina bl y certified produ cts tha t enhance th e visual landscape (UBC F AS, 2000).  With these goals, the UBC Farm prov ides the perf ect sett ing for students to lea rn about a sustainable fo od s ystem as well as pro vidi ng products to the UBC food s ystem.    The stakeholders and pla ye r s in the UBC food s ys tem i nclude students, staf f, facult y, food produ cers, UBC food se rvices and t he UBC Farm.  But it is ulti matel y the consum ers who are the driving for ce for ch an ge. Through su rve ys, the stu dents and staff (more than 50% ) have in dicated that the y consi de r the var iety of food at UBC to be “fair to poor”, stating that there is not a huge selection, and that the food is mostly fast or gr eas y food (Farr ell Rese arch Group Lt d., 1996)  It has been identified that there is a gro wing demand fo r loca ll y produc ed or gani c fo o d that eli cit s a feeli n g tha t the food was “made just for me” rather than mass produced (Farrell Research Group Ltd., 1996).   The UBC Farm can fill this “hole” by growing healthy food for sale in local UBC food outl ets.  For thi s to occur, the producti ve cap acit y of the farm wil l nee d to be increased. Our group’s method of research relied on interviews with Derek Masselink (UBC Farm Proje ct Coordinator), and Ted C athca rt (UBC Farm Man a ge r) to provide us with a contex t of how UBC Farm fit s int o the UBC foo d s ystem.       5  Market Garden  C urrentl y, the UBC Farm has the cap acit y to prod uce for a ges, ve getables, berries, mush rooms, anim al products and forest r y product s. The Market Gard en pr oject at UBC Farm provid es a variet y of these produ cts and wa s identi fied by our group as a startin g point for increasing the farm’s productivity.  By producing products such as lettuce, beans, squash, cu cumber s, cabba ges, pumpkins , artichokes and co rn, this market could potentiall y suppl y lo cal p roducts to UBC mark ets.  The gar d en is onl y one acre in siz e and products are sold to limited markets such as Green College, St. John’s College, and directl y to consum ers at MacMi ll an buil ding, SU B, and on the farm.  Ther e is a lot of int erest from indivi duals who support this local prod ucti on as well as from Food Servic es to purchase gr eens and vegetables (M asselink, 2002).      With the past investm ent of mone y and labour on clearin g, ro ck pickin g, subsurfac e draina ge and i rrigation equipment (UBC FAS, 2000) future ex pansion of the market gard en looks pro mi sing. This coming sum mer two ac res will be cul ti vated and producti on incre ased b y over 100%.  After an ini t ial period of slow produc ti on due to start -up costs , and lea rni ng an ew, the farm has s e cured a market and ex pec ts to break -even aft er thre e ye ars (M asselink, 2002).  The far m does not rel y on pesti c ides but inst ead makes use of biol ogic al control (chi cken graz ing), companion plant ing, and crop rotati ons to handle all pe st problems.  The use of fertili z er is mainl y from d olom it ic lim e, sheep and chi cken manu r e, green m anure crops, and inorga nic sourc es.  By using these practi ces th e fa rm can co nti nue to be ecolo gicall y sust ainable and produc e a valuable product.   6  Livestock  As part of a sust ain able agricult ur al s yst em, the int egrati on of anim al components is crit ical.  Liv estock and poult r y help to c ycl e nut rients through the produc ti on and appli cati on of manur e, an d can make us e of non -p r oducti ve land for gr az ing.  Currentl y, the onl y anim al produ cts that leave the farm are eggs from chickens and qua il .  The chicken eggs are sold to dini ng societi es and stud ents, and quail eggs are s old to specialt y markets.  Other anim als on the farm include sh ee p for medical rese arch, and cows for student resea rch.  The ex pansion of anim al produc ti on would aim to get the anim als out of the ba rns and onto the field acco rdin g to Der ek Masseli nk.  There would be an emphasis on small -scale field -based s ystems wit h anim als being fed b y the land and using minim al inputs .  There is the possi bil it y of using s heep for milk, wo ol and meat, as well as pigs and poultry for slaughter.  Poultry also play a role in “cleaning up the land” after crop produ cti on and can help control p est populations .  Working horses could replac e tra ctor use and a small number of catt le co uld be used for milk prod ucti on (Masselink, 2002).   Marketing  B y redu cin g the number of int ermediaries betwe e n producti on and consum pti on of food, the UBC food s ystem can achi eve a hi gh e r level of sust ainabili t y. This allows farmers, consum ers, and pro cessors to hav e rel ati onshi ps through dire ct con tact and emphasiz es strong comm unit ies based on fairn ess and equit y inst e ad of mot ivation for profit s (Kloppenbur g et al ., 2000).  Currentl y, th e UBC Farm sell s products to Green College, St. John’s College, and to students at Ma cMi ll an buil ding and the SUB.    7   When selecti ng a mark et, the UBC Farm sell s to the high est bidder, and the r efore outl ets such as Agora an d the Ba rn ar e not opt ions. Inste ad, UBC Fa rm wa nts to target high-end retaile rs such as Sage Bis tro, and the Pen dulum , which are fo cuse d on food quali t y and are will in g to pa y a premi um pric e for the produce (Masselink, 2002).  Howeve r, these outl ets se ll their food at high er pri ces and ma y not be affo r dable b y all students.  As an indi cator of susta inabili t y, all peo ple should have equal ac cess to healt h y food, and our group do es not think that selli ng solel y to hi gh -end retaile rs meets this criteria.    Barriers to Expansion  The major bar rier facin g meat producti on on UBC South Campus Farm is that anim al slaughte r and han dli ng methods must meet feder al inspecti on standa rds to ensure human healt h and anim al welfar e (Cathc art, 2002) .  Meeti ng thes e requi re ments can prove to be labour and ca pit al intensive.  In addit ion, since the prim ar y ma ndate of th e farm is focuse d on educ a ti on instead of producti on, there is an emph asis on the quali t y of learnin g ex perienc e rath e r than the quanti t y of out put (Masselink, 2002).  Therefo re, a majorit y of anim al s yste ms might be ineffici ent in terms of suppl yin g pro du cts to the food s ystem.   Although ther e is a dema nd for local produ cts fro m Green Col le ge and dini ng outl ets, there is reluctan c e amon g inst it uti ons such as Food Servic es to bu y non -processed food from UBC Farm due to costs and labour iss ues.  Currentl y, UBC Farm does not have the facil it ies to prepar e food and thi s is preventi ng them fro m sell ing to such outl ets as Food Serv ices .     8   In order to suppl y the sea sonal demand of the flu ctuating student popul ati on , the farm must be producti ve during the fall and winter mont hs and find alt ernat ive markets during summer mont hs. During th e winter it is ha rd to gro w crops outsi de due to ex treme rain, mini mal sunl ight, and low temperatur es.  An d in the summer, stud ent popul ati on is low and farm projects oft en become abandon ed.  Maintaining int er est in UBC Farm is essential to gu arante e tha t the producti ve cap abil it ies of the land ar e reali z ed.  It is hoped that the UBC Farm can feed 2000 people per ye ar (Masseli nk, 2002), but in order to do so these barri ers must be overcome.  Future Directions for Research  As our group’s vision for a sustainable food system took shape, we realized that there were man y wa ys fo r UBC Farm to contribut e, but wit h limi ted tim e and resourc es these ideas were not full y developed in thi s paper.  Therefo re we would like to offer thes e ideas for futur e students to start where we le ft off.    Greenhous e producti on of vegetables du ring th e wint er months is a way for products to be grown ye a r -round at school to me et demands and maintain st udent i nterest in the farm.  Students co uld look at how ex ist ing infrastructur e could be up gr aded and th e t ype of products gr eenho use producti on could con tribut e to the food s ystem .  Our group identified the lack of pro cessi n g as a major barri er to sell ing foo d t o places like Food Se rvices .  A cost -bene fit anal ysis could be per formed b y agro economi c students to determi ne the feasibi li t y of a food pro c essi ng pro gram at UBC Farm, and whether the re is a lar ge market demand for pro ce ssed foods.  With niche markets ope n ing up for or ganic and hu manel y produced food products, there is the opp ortuni t y for the farm to fi ll these niches.  In ord er to be  9  successful, a labeli n g pro gr am must identi f y UBC products as bein g unique.  Future students could look at the acc eptanc e from consum ers for lab eled foods as well as the costs of a labeli n g pro gr a m.    Our group identified live stock operati ons as a major weakn ess in the cur ren t food s ystem.  We would like to know what kind of live stock would be best suit ed to the farm, what would be an opti ma l stocking densit y, what t yp e of for a ges would ne e d to be gro wn, how to proc ess and market animal produ c ts, and what the costs of upgr adin g the anim al facil it ies wil l be.  The farm is also compos ed of wetl and and for este d areas and we would like to know how these resourc e s could be incorpor ated into a sustainable food s ystem. What t ypes of products could t he y produce, and wh at is their ecolo gical si gnific a nce to the farm?  With the impending thre at of dev elopm ent , it is important that we have a good idea of the  ecolo gical val ue of the land and not rel y on mar ket value as the sole indi cator of the land’s worth.  The diversity of species within the area should be monitored to determi ne the impact that our farmin g pr acti ces h a ve on the land.  Recommendations  As a group we offe r the foll owing re comm endati o ns to the UBC Farm for contribut ing to the UBC food s ystem in a sust aina ble manner:   1.  Our group beli ev es that a labeli ng pro gram would be a valuabl e tool for identif yin g UBC product s.  A label sh ould inform bu ye rs of wh ere and how the food was produ ced and i denti f y the dist an ce tr ave led from fa rm to market. The label shou ld also include information on how to prepare th e food, and recip es for eati ng with the seasons.     10  2.  C urrentl y, UBC Farm has neit her the capacit y nor facil it ies to suppl y lar ge amount s of process ed fo od to UBC Food Servi ce s.  Our group feels that UBC Farm would b e bett er ser ved to sell their products to small er outlets that prepare their own food and can afford to pa y hi ghe r prices for the produ ce.  Food shoul d continue to be made available through direct channels such as farmer’s markets, but future ex pansion could include a local ma rketp lace at the SU B, food co - ops, subscript ion farming, foo d stamps, or letti ng peopl e grow their ow n food in garden plot s at UBC Far m.  This will achieve a wider dist ributi on and equit able acc ess to food.  3  Our group feels that the l ivestock component of UBC farm is unde rutili z ed and that a return to small -sc ale anim al producti on wou ld diversif y the farm and suppl y products for the UBC foo d s ystem.  Anim als such as horses, pi gs, sheep, ca tt le and poult r y shoul d be int egrated into the food s yst em wit h the focus of pro vidi ng secondar y anim al produc ts such as milk, wool, and eggs. Animals such as pigs and ch ickens could also be used to assim il ate foo d wastes and cull ed prod uce.  4  P rocessi ng of locall y gro wn food can create valu e -added produ cts for sal e to UBC Food Servic es or dire ctl y to custom ers.  UBC Far m facil it ies should be upgr aded to provide such products as wine, pickled ve getabl es, flower bouqu ets, mea t products, or apple cider.  This wil l require the coo perati on of Food, Nutrit ion, and Healt h Scienc e students.   As agricult ure is be comi ng more sp ecializ ed ther e is a growin g con cern among consum ers to know whe r e and how their food is produced.  This plac es great pressure on the farme r to not onl y su ppl y a pr oduct which is s ustainabl y gro wn but, wh ich can also be competit ivel y pric ed and suppl ied ye ar - round to sa ti sf y custom er pref eren ce s.  By following our group’s recommendations, the UBC Farm can become a sustainable participant in the revival of our local food s ystem.  11    References:  C athcart, T.  2002.  Perso nal Comm unicati on.  March 26, 2002.  Far rell Resea rch Group Ltd.  1996.  UBC Food S ervices Summ ar y Report.  Kloppenbur g, J ., Lez ber g, S., De Master, K., Steve nson, G., and J . Hendrick son.  2000.    “Tasting Food, Tasting Sustainability: Defining the Attributes of an Alternative   Food System with Competent, Ordinary People”.  Human Organizations , 59 (2):     177-186.  Masse li nk, D.  2002.  Per sonal Com muni cati on.  March 25, 2002.  UBC Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (UBCFAS), 2000.  “Reinventing the UBC Farm:  Urban Agriculture and Forestry on the Point Grey Campus”.                         


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