KPU outreach from research farm on Lands?

This article is about a possible university farm on at least 20 acres of the Garden City Lands. The content in dark red type is background for readers who need it. One could skip to the main “dialogue about Kwantlen outreach on the lands,” with questions in green type, after that.

Dr. Kent Mullinix, Director, Sustainable Agriculture, Kwantlen Polytechnic UniverasityFor many years, Kwantlen Polytechnic University has collaborated with the City of Richmond in sustainable agriculture efforts. Kent Mullinix, PhD, director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program, has a leading role.

KPU and the city have long discussed locating the program’s main research farm in Richmond, and in 2008 City Council directed staff to look at the possibility of a 48-acre site on the Garden City Lands. Logically it would be on the west side and would include the northwest corner, an elevated area of clean fill. (For more background, see “An amazing opportunity to lead the world.”)

Besides research, the goals of the farm are education and community outreach. Naturally, there would be community input, especially in the outreach aspect.

The outreach could go beyond that. Dialogue with the community at a recent Garden City Conservation Society gathering (17 June 2013) and other conversations provided examples. All of the following questions and answers are based on dialogue with the community, mainly at that gathering.

Note: Our questions to Dr. Kent Mullinix about Kwantlen’s research farm tend to assume it will be on the Garden City Lands. However, he has been clear that he is not assuming that, although it would be a good location. On request, he has done a quick check of the answers that appear below.

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Question: KPU has indicated that outreach programs for the public and industry might include workshops, field days, tours and on-farm volunteering opportunities. Could KPU also find a way to engage school students?

Answer: Yes, we are open to exploring these engagement opportunities with local school boards and other organizations. Interpretive features, probably worked out with city parks staff, would be designed for a wide range of people, including children. There could be class activities, perhaps along the lines of what is offered at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

Question: Will KPU’s farm be able to work with community farms and gardens on the site?

Answer: Yes. They are compatible and perhaps we could work together. Farm staff and students would be more than happy to provide advice and assistance to community groups.

Question: So the community outreach will help with education goals. Will it compete with the research?

Answer: Applied research supports teaching and outreach and we would look to share what we learn with industry and community.

Question: Will the outreach go to a larger community than Richmond?

Answer: Yes, although Richmond is the focus. For example, research publications, bulletins, reports and manuals on technical aspects of near-urban agriculture would be published.

Question: What kinds of growers is KPU targeting in the educational goals?

Answer: Our students come from all walks of life to learn to become the builders and leaders of our agricultural communities. They will be ready to engage in agriculture as producers, researchers, government employees, or community organization representatives in many levels of society. Local growers we engage would be involved in many scales of agriculture (at home or in commercial business) but interested in the same important principles as our Department.

Question: Will crops grown on the farm be culturally appropriate for Richmond’s Asian population?

Answer: We would grow crops appropriate to Richmond’s climate, soils and community, and this includes exploring crop varieties and demonstrating production methods.

Question: Does it matter if the soils of the KPU research farm will not be Class 1 or 2 to begin with?

Answer: The students need to develop knowledge and skill to grow crops successfully on the farm. We would be committed to soil building and managing this ALR land sustainably.

Question: How will the appearance of the farm affect the Garden City Lands?

Answer: All buildings/structures/management would be aesthetically pleasing. We aim for a beautiful farm that looks like a well looked-after farm. It would add to the views on and from the park.

Question: Will there be public access to see the KPU farm?

Answer: We would work to have some trails through the farm with interpretive features. We want the community to have some access and interaction in a situation that would add to public appreciation for agriculture and encourage people to participate in agriculture in one way or another.

Question: Will the KPU Farm be hiring local people?

Answer: Yes. Help will be needed, and the preference is to hire local people as one of the ways to interact with other members of the community.

Question: What kind of facilities will be needed for produce marketing and preparation?

Answer: We will have some basic structures onsite to support operations and there might be some value-added food processing and preparation on site. However, if we have a farm on the Garden City Lands, we will be using as many KPU facilities on the nearby campus as possible so that the footprint on the lands would be small.

Question: What about interaction with neighbours (across Garden City Road, for example)?

Answer: We expect that the farm would be an asset from their perspective, but we would have open dialogue with neighbours, not just assume that.

Question: What are your plans for community input?

Answer: We will be interacting with the community as we develop over time.

Question: Would KPU share in the use of any buildings for groups using the park?

Answer: We would explore potential opportunities with these groups over time.

Question: Would a gathering place like the Red Barn be permitted in the Agricultural Land Reserve?

Answer: We strongly support the ALR, and all of our activities and structures on an ALR site would be compliant with ALR regulations.

Question: Are there any limits to the community outreach of your research farm?

Answer: We will seek to engage in outreach wherever we can and respond to public interest in our work with opportunities to share and learn. 

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