Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Last updated: 3 days ago

Sustainability college to be constructed at UBC Farm

Geoff Lister/The Ubyssey

It’s not quite raising a barn, but they’ll take it.

UBC is planning to construct two new buildings on the UBC Farm in South Campus: a replacement for the Farm Centre and a new residential college focused on sustainability.

“We’ve seen rapid and exponential growth for the Farm’s programming since it started up in its current form in 2000 and have thoroughly outgrown our current facilities and really can’t accommodate all the demand for use,” said Amy Frye, the Farm’s acting director.

Presently, buildings on the Farm include the Harvest Hut, where farm-grown food is processed and sold during Sunday farmer’s markets, and the current Farm Centre, which contains offices, a kitchen and one room described by Frye as “our small makeshift classroom that is kind of our only meeting space.”

“It’s pretty much time for something new, because there’s a lot of competition for space,” said Anelyse Weiler, communications coordinator for the Farm.

“A positive way of looking at it is you learn to share small spaces and small resources.”

“We’re doing the best we can to fit courses in, but for example, we get many course requests [from people] who want to come out to do even one session at the Farm and we don’t physically have the indoor space to house them,” Frye said. “It would really allow us to do so much more than we’re already doing.”

The Farm’s 2009 planning document, Cultivating Place, calls for the development of a Farm Centre and Sustainability College. The Centre would include classrooms, dry and wet labs, offices, kitchens, processing space, an area for the farmer’s market, a small retail space, café and student study spaces.

“One of the mottos of the Farm and the sayings is that ‘no one thing does just one thing.’ That’s what we use to describe a lot of the field activities that happen on site but also related to the buildings,” Frye said. “The idea that they’ll be kind of multifunctional facilities that integrate a whole variety of uses.”

The Sustainability College is proposed as a residential college similar to Green College and St John’s College, aimed at upper-level undergraduates, graduate students and visiting scholars. “The idea is that it would be a place where…[students] could really immerse themselves in a sustainability-themed academic experience,” said Frye.

The college would involve a dining society, scholarly events and “finding a way to incorporate the residents in hands-on meaningful practical participation at the Farm,” Frye said. “Kind of the idea of an intentional community around sustainability.”

The buildings passed through the first of six pre-construction UBC planning phases last summer, and the second stage is planned for early summer this year. Both buildings are in the package, but the Farm Centre is planned first. Funding for the package could come from the Start an Evolution campaign, as the plan is one of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems’s priority projects.

One challenge is carrying out construction without disturbing the farm. “How can we do things differently than on a regular construction site?” said Frye, who said there are stringent restrictions on building at the Farm.

The plan represents a change from the Farm’s fortunes in 2008, when plans were in place to replace the Farm with residential housing. That met with a letter-writing campaign and eventually the zoning was changed to Green Academic.

“We want to keep the momentum up and keep people involved at the Farm, and this will be a good way to keep that happening,” Frye said. “It’s really an indication that the Farm has a bright future and is being valued by the university, by the students, by the community.”

“It signals a dramatic change on the part of the university recognizing the values that the farm has,” said Weiler, who was the president of Friends of the Farm in 2009. “It’s really opened up our imagination in some ways.”