Archive for the ‘Mullinix vision’ Category

KPU outreach from research farm on Lands?

July 14, 2013

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.


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. 


Heeding the history of the Garden City Lands

June 27, 2013

History matters. That includes Garden City Lands history.

Mary Phillips, a past chair of the Richmond Poverty Response Committee, wrote the Richmond papers about it:

I am alarmed that the city’s website on planning for the Garden City Lands contains none of the recent history of the lands and the long fight to keep it in the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Richmond News and Richmond Review)

At the same time, the project team held a “stakeholders meeting.” Though very well led, it was sapped by symptoms of the blanked-out history. For instance, there were anti-ALR “stakeholders,” still bent on big buildings and dense residential on the lands.

For those who remember it, the history shows that as a costly path to nowhere. But, as Mary has alerted us, the history has been blanked out. It’s as though there were no mistakes to learn from. I’d best fill in the time (2005 on) when the community rallied to defend the lands.

People like you and me had to take on powerful parties that tried to take away the rightful ALR status of the Garden City Lands. We brought out the ALR values. The Agricultural Land Commission agreed with our view and rejected the other one.

Sounds simple, but the tasks were immense. Sadly, we had to overcome our own corporate city. It’s an instructive part of our history, and we need the city to heed it, not hide it.

Mary Phillips’ letter also recalled the genesis of the Sustainable Food Systems Park. I think the 2007 illustration (below) radiates the spirit of a unique central park that’s beautiful and bountiful. Note, though, that the uses shown were later refined for a better ALR fit.

Sustainable Food Systems Park concept for Garden City Lands, 2007 graphic (with uses that the proposal later revised)

Note: Updates to the 2007 Sustainable Food Systems Park proposal for the Garden City Lands have adapted some of the features in this early illustration for a better ALR fit. (For easier reading, just click on it to enlarge it.)

When poverty response and food security came together with ecology and open-land recreation to conserve the Garden City Lands, the people looked to enable all those ALR uses to succeed together. That’s seen in later updates to the proposal, which also goes well with Garden City Conservation’s PARC concept that respects nature as a wise guide to what’s best where.

The Sustainable Food Systems Park calls for education partners. Our local college, now Kwantlen Polytechnic University, stepped up in early 2008, and council asked staff to look into 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for the sustainable agriculture program. Director Kent Mullinix, PhD, recently wowed a Garden City gathering with his program’s vision. Along with education and research, its goals feature community outreach. That’s key.

Speaking of goals, have a look at the Sustainable Food Systems Park ones. If you don’t quite grasp the higher values that drove the community to save the Garden City Lands, that will help.

The goals are within reach, but the Garden City Lands would be just a sprawling construction site now if the people hadn’t acted, holding firm against all odds.

The spirit of the Sustainable Food Systems Park is harmonious. For example, one of the goals looks forward to the lands as “a community meeting space to counteract the isolation caused by immigration, age and poverty.” It’s salving, and to me it’s inspiring.

That park vision put our best foot forward. When we aim to do what’s right, it’s good for all of us.

Cultivating the culture of success

March 3, 2012

Kent Mullinix provided food for optimism at today’s Fantasy Gardens panel discussion at the Richmond Art Gallery.  Dr. Mullinix (instructing at left) is Director, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and his close work with the City of Richmond and community partners has resulted in the thriving Richmond Farm School.

The new agricultural park on the Fantasy Gardens site will include land for about fifteen Richmond Farm School students at a time to lease “incubator farms,” where they can put their skills into practice for three years to begin their farming careers. Furthermore, it’s anticipated that the park will provide a back route to the Highway to Heaven back acres for more incubator farms after arrangements are made with the church-group owners that use the front acres (on the east side of No. 5 Road) for assembly purposes.

Coun. Harold Steves, at right with one of his Belted Galloways, was one of the panelists, and he keeps working toward that. I should mention before going on that the other two panelists were Terry Crowe, who is Richmond’s Manager of Planning Policy, and community activist De Whalen, who long ago coordinated a large community garden on what later became Fantasy Gardens. Fittingly, the panelists interacted well with each other and the full house of citizens who came for the occasion.

The cooperation that the panel discussed (and embodied) is an example of Richmond’s leadership in integrating agriculture into the operation of cities. It is a practical means to food security. In Kent’s words, it also “connects people to the means of their sustenance,” and that has many beneficial effects for personal and community wellness.

This builds on the success of the Terra Nova Rural Park & Natural Area, including the Sharing Farm that hosts the Richmond Farm School. Terra Nova is a model of parkland for agriculture, recreation and conservation. The harmonious goodwill of the City of Richmond, community groups (including Kwantlen) and the public has generated wide appreciation for the Terra Nova parkland and a positive cycle of getting things right.

Like the Terra Nova parks, the Garden City Lands is parkland for agriculture, recreation and conservation, and I left today’s panel discussion with renewed optimism because I envision a further transfer of cooperative spirit, proven methods and culture of success to the Garden City Lands.

Garden City Lands practical visionary moves ahead

February 24, 2012

It’s great to see an article about financial support for Kent Mullinix and his leading-edge sustainable agriculture work with Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Yesterday’s announcement was for a major commitment from the Real Estate Foundation toward a sustainable agri-food model for Southwest British Columbia. The Garden City Lands would ideally play a key role by showing how the conceptual model is put into practice.

The City of Richmond has partnered with Dr. Mullinix and his program for the past four years, and council asked city parks staff to look into the possibility of using 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for urban agriculture education led by Kwantlen.

Note: It is said that the Musqueam lawsuit against the city to get more money from the Garden City Lands is delaying things, but I think (as one who has sifted through the lawsuit documents) that proceeding to plan with Kwantlen would be far more likely to help Richmond’s case than to hinder it.

It is very important that as many citizens as possible be aware of the value of the Kwantlen concept for part of the Garden City Lands. That’s not just for enabling food security for Richmond and for this part of the province but also for honoring the legacy that we’ve received in that unique parkland. The Kwantlen concept is one of the most promising ways to bring out the potential of the Garden City Lands in an ongoing legacy that we not only enjoy but also pass on to future generations.

Read “An amazing opportunity to lead the world.” If that article about the Kwantlen concept whets your appetite, you’ll find a link near the end that will open up many more facets of this unique situation for you.

An amazing opportunity clarified

August 22, 2011

Sarah Jackson’s recent article about Kwantlen’s sustainable agriculture program in the Richmond News adds further insight to “An amazing opportunity to lead the world,” the post right below this one.

The News article’s informative content indicates that the program now expects to begin taking in students in the spring 2012 semester, instead of in fall 2011. From the standpoint of a possible partnership between the City of Richmond and Kwantlen Polytechnic University on part of the Garden City Lands, that is not a problem. Whether or not the partnership is the best option for the parties, it will be a shame if the opportunity slips away without the serious exploration that council identified long ago as worth pursuing. In that context, having a bit more time for it is a good thing.

What seems evident is that the city needs a capable agricultural partner with relevant expertise and the commitment to use it for community benefit. It has had that in the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, a group that’s more impressive than its name, at the Sharing Farm at Terra Nova Rural Park. For the Garden City Lands, the tall order is for a community partner that will enable the same level of excellence on a larger scale in a central location that is under constant public scrutiny.

Kwantlen and its program director, Dr. Kent Mullinix, have established a high standard. Before it’s too late, I hope that the city will either negotiate a win-win agreement with Kwantlen or expeditiously come up with a better alternative.

An amazing opportunity to lead the world

August 15, 2011

Update: The Richmond Review has published this as a column,Council brilliance, Kwantlen and the Garden City Lands” (August 17). This post adds hyperlinks, and one at the end will lead you to six related posts.

A promising option for Richmond’s city centre is looking better than ever. It is urban-agriculture research and education led by a local university.

When Dr. Kent Mullinix presented the concept in February 2008, Richmond council’s planning committee liked it enough to direct staff to look at 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for it. (For details, see item 3 in the minutes.)  That was the entire acreage not slated for a trade centre and other big buildings at the time.

Kent is a researcher and educator with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where he is Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Since 2008, Kwantlen has teamed with the city and local groups in the innovatively successful Richmond Farm School. The university has a new sustainable agriculture degree program, and Kent directed its development.

At my suggestion, we met on the Garden City Lands, since I wondered if the research-and-education concept and that Agricultural Land Reserve parkland are still meant for each other. I now think there could be a solid partnership for mutual benefit.

Kent wasn’t looking for perfect soil. For the “land laboratory” the program needs, the fields might include the raised clay fill in the northwest corner. From there, they might extend east along Alderbridge Way to peatland and/or south in the disturbed area along Garden City Road. “We have to learn to make the most of what we’ve got in British Columbia,” he said.

Much of the parkland is likely to go to ecological habitat, trails, playgrounds, etc., within the single ALR unit, but any part of it can become suitable for urban agriculture education and for community gardens and farms. For the Kwantlen program, a small barn would serve as the research centre, and classes would be at the nearby campus on Lansdowne Road.

Since the Garden City Lands will be a popular park destination, I suggested interpretive signs about the research and education along trails between the fields. “A valuable element,” said Kent. In his view of agriculture, “You can’t ask people to appreciate who and what you are if you shun them. Invite them in! You’ve got to be part of their lives.”

Similarly, he said, “Doing world-class research and education here doesn’t mean we can’t work with community groups and community gardeners. In fact, the curriculum will necessitate the students doing that.”

Kent mentioned that farms that function well also look well maintained. No doubt the faculty, along with the city’s excellent parks staff, would ensure that the Garden City Lands are kept up in a first-rate way.

All of this costs money, and Kent foresaw the university and city pursuing a joint strategy together to bring in federal and provincial funding.

Kent said, “Jim, in the next three years we’re likely hiring several agriculture faculty focused on urban and near-urban agriculture, teaching soils and pest management and cropping systems. . . .” With Kwantlen, the time to partner in that sort of thing is now.

Any concept has flaws. Personally, though, I think Richmond council members were brilliant to encourage the urban agriculture education concept. Way back in February 2008, they somehow looked ahead to when it would be feasible in the city centre on the Garden City Lands.

This post builds on a six-post series. There is so much on the topic because Kent Mullinix has put so much thought into education about sustainable agriculture, which essentially means urban and near-urban agriculture. Click on this Mullinix vision link for an overview of the series.

Urban agriculture education, Post 6

April 26, 2010

Starting with Carol Day, many citizens have referred to the Garden City Lands as “Richmond’s Stanley Park.” I’ll review that idea before relating it to urban agriculture education, especially the concept put forward by Dr. Kent Mullinix, in this final post in a series of six.

The Garden City Lands are city centre green space that expresses Richmond’s traditional identity, just as Stanley Park is city centre green space that expresses Vancouver’s traditional identity. The Garden City Lands agricultural and bog theme is parallel to the Stanley Park forest and harbour theme. Naturally, Stanley Park is much further along in its development, and we can learn from it.

When a windstorm leveled a forest of trees in December 2006, threatening the identity and future of Stanley Park, citizens turned the devastation into an opportunity. All levels of government, business, and organizations joined in. As the Vancouver parks board says in “Stanley Park Restoration”:

Out of the tangled chaos left in the wake of the storm, opportunities to renew, restore and improve the park were created. Important lessons on topics ranging from forestry to fundraising were learned that will have far-reaching application and value.

The storm that threatened the future of Richmond’s Garden City Lands was federal mistakes in 2004 and early 2005 that would have torn up most of the bog and thrown up towers of concrete. Here, as in Vancouver, citizens have turned devastating events into an opportunity. We too have had remarkable grassroots action, and we too have visions of renewal. So far, though, it seems that none has been sufficiently unifying and inspiring.

If one vision can be unifying for the whole community, including Richmond’s fractious council and the two senior levels of government, it is most likely the urban agriculture education vision. Dr. Kent Mullinix of Kwantlen Polytechnic University rightly calls food “the great common denominator,” and learning to produce local food together for a sustainable community could easily become a common mission. There’s strong momentum already, and we could build from that to implement the vision.

Community groups have been doing a terrific job of educating the community in local food growing, drawing out people’s potential through experiential learning. However, the Mullinix proposal could take us to another level. Furthermore, Kwantlen has already gained council support, is deeply involved in the community, and has shown collaborative leadership. Going with proven success is the simple way to more success.

Talking to Dr. Mullinix, I’m inspired by the way he sees Kwantlen horticulture faculty and students working with community gardeners and farmers on the Garden City Lands, as well as beyond the lands in Richmond. Much more is inspiring, but I won’t repeat here what’s been said in Post 2 and the rest of this series. I’ll just suggest that the effect on the community could be truly transformative.

I hope that council will finally act on its good intentions at the 2008 meeting where Kent Mullinix presented the urban agriculture education concept. There would be challenges to overcome, including the ten I listed in Post 4, but a wonderful Garden City Lands should be just as motivating for us as a wonderful Stanley Park is for our northern neighbour. Even if it turns out not to be the very best vision, investigating it will help us to finally get out of the tangled mess.


A few notes:

  • Along with Dr. Kent Mullinix, the local Kwantlen leadership is coming from Dr. Arthur Fallick, Director, Sustainable Urban Systems, an urban geographer who brings significant experience in open learning, which is very relevant to the urban agriculture education concept.
  • One sign of Kent Mullinix’s leadership is the support he received from his students for his presentation to Richmond council. We learned about it in the follow-up presentation by Shane McMillan, speaking on behalf of the Kwantlen horticulture students.
  • Besides Shane McMillan’s presentation, Dr. Mullinix’s “Kwantlen Urban Agriculture Research and Education Centre” concept paper may be of interest if you’d like to delve further.

Urban agriculture education, Post 5

April 25, 2010

Ready for a pep talk about the benefits of urban agriculture? It’s from Kent Mullinix, PhD.

If you think back a week or two or scroll down, you’ll have a sense of urban agriculture education from the first four posts in this series. In one vision for the Garden City Lands, that would be central in a remarkable future for the lands on the leading edge of urban agriculture on this planet. It was primarily the vision of Dr. Mullinix, Director, Sustainable Food Systems for Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

As a bit of an aside, there are other ways to achieve the vision, e.g., with SFU or UBC or beyond the big educational bodies. However, it was Kwantlen that took the trouble to bring it to Richmond council. Also, Kwantlen has its Richmond campus a stone’s throw from the lands, and, of greatest importance, Kwantlen has the personnel who have shown the requisite passion, expertise, and ability to get things done.

Getting back to the  presentation to council by Kent Mullinix in 2008, here are his twelve reasons to advance urban agriculture:

  1. More sustainable, stable food supplies.
  2. Ready access to high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Less need for processing, packaging, transportation—opportunities to reduce waste and energy use and improve the ecological footprint of the agri-food system.
  4. Closed nutrient cycles—with urban organic wastes composted and used in agriculture, reducing the pressure on landfills.
  5. Enhanced biodiversity through creation of habitat and refugia for various organisms.
  6. Use and retention of regionally adapted cultivars, protecting genetic diversity.
  7. Decreased dependence on fossil fuels and the global agri-food system.
  8. Citizenry reconnected to this vital human endeavour.
  9. Agriculturists connected to urbanites.
  10. Stronger regionalized economy resulting from a substantial new economic sector.
  11. Greater community knowledge about the larger issue of sustainability.
  12. Food, the great common denominator, as the possible centre of the sustainable community.

In Post 6, the last in the series, we’ll revisit the big picture of the urban agriculture education vision.

Urban agriculture education, Post 4

April 14, 2010

Put aside those rose-coloured glasses. There’s little use for them here in Post 4 of this series about urban agriculture education:

  • It’s great but not enough that the Garden City Lands are an ideal location for world-leader urban agriculture education.
  • It’s promising but not enough that there has been significant interest from Richmond city council.
  • It’s encouraging but not enough that the most enthusiastic university has a campus almost next door and has demonstrated its commitment to urban agriculture in the community.

It’s a complex task to go from a state of promising potential to a full urban agriculture program flourishing on the Garden City Lands. I’m just going to brainstorm a few of the challenges:

  1. Richmond council would have to be thoroughly assured of a range of benefits for the community that would merit the business arrangement of making 35 percent (48 acres) of the lands available to the university in a long-term agreement.
  2. The community would want to ensure that potential benefits that would enhance citizens’ quality of life would actually occur:
    – How much student help would be available for farmers and gardeners on and beyond the lands?
    – Would faculty and students work with Ian Lai of the Terra Nova Schoolyard Project to develop a similar but much larger program?
    – Would the program be a model of self-sustainability in such matters as footprint (minimal permanent foundations?), heating sources (thermal?), and irrigation system (reservoir lakes)?
    – To what extent would the faculty and students be involved in the agri-tourism industry on the lands?
    – Would the students help develop community awareness about urban agriculture, e.g., its potential and respect for ownership of crops within reach of covetous hands?
  3. Other elements in the community would want to ensure that the program would respect and enhance the ecology of the lands and their environmental value as a peatland carbon sink.
  4. MP-arranged assistance from the federal government, which is significantly involved in leading-edge agriculture and agri-foods, could easily be hindered if council members who have created obstacles continue to do so.
  5. MLA-arranged assistance from the provincial government, which is responsible for education, will be challenged by the province’s post-recession financial difficulties, although it should be able to find a way to fund the program.
  6. The Richmond council dysfunction that Musqueam Chief Ernest Campbell wrote about recently could make effective action by the city much more difficult.
  7. Other educational institutions such as UBC and SFU might need to be given an opportunity to make proposals, even though Kwantlen’s initiative would count for a lot.
  8. The suitable areas for urban agriculture education would need to be worked out in a vision for the whole lands, taking into account the very different qualities of raised clay-soil fill areas, deep bog areas, etc.
  9. Since some areas would most likely be conserved for habitat, with indigenous species encouraged, it would need to be determined whether the management of such areas would be worked into the urban agriculture program or managed separately.
  10. There would need to be a partnership system enabling the whole Garden City Lands to function as much like one large farm as possible.

No doubt you readers can come up with a longer and better list.

Pretty much everything worthwhile is challenging. Naturally, motivation to overcome the challenges is dependent on envisioning the attractiveness of the goals. In Post 5, we’ll review the benefits of the goal of flourishing urban agriculture. In Post 6, the last in the series, I’ll offer you a new view of the big picture.

Urban agriculture education, Post 3

April 13, 2010

Can Richmond get its act together to be the world leader in urban agriculture education?

In this series, we’re drawing on a presentation to Richmond council by Kent Mullinix, PhD, of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. His position as Director, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, suggests that he knows what he’s talking about. I can add from experience that listening to him confirms that. He is also familiar with Richmond, where he is doing research with the apple orchard near the community garden at the South Dyke and collaborating with the community and city staff at the Richmond Farm School.

In this “Urban agriculture education” series:

  • In Post 1, Dr. Mullinix showed why the time has come for urban agriculture.
  • In Post 2, he described his vision for urban agriculture education.
  • Here in Post 3, we consider whether and where the vision would be a great reality.

Richmond council has been fortunate to receive several suitable visions for the Garden City Lands, but the one from Kent Mullinix got the best reception. It became even better when Dr. Mullinix informed Coun. Bill McNulty that the president of Kwantlen had encouraged him to bring the concept forward to the city, since it helps a lot when there’s support from the top.

At the meeting, which was in February 2008, council members expressed interest in implementing the concept on the Garden City Lands. Staff was directed to look at a 48-acre parcel of the Garden City Lands as one option. At that time, February 2008, the City was in an agreement in which 65% of the lands would go to high-density development and a convention centre, leaving only 35%, which is 48 acres. That is significant for two reasons:

  • It means that staff was asked to look into the possibility of using the entire property that the city hoped to have available at that time.
  • Even when the City was expecting to have so little land available, it was open to providing the ideal amount of land, which Dr. Mullinix had stated as 40–50 acres.

Besides being large enough, the Garden City Lands is ideal for other reasons:

  1. It is only a hundred metres from Kwantlen’s Richmond campus, which would supply parking and classroom space.
  2. The students would help the community gardeners, food bank farmers, and entry-level farmers right there on the lands, with the symbiotic relationship enabling unique practical learning opportunities for the students at the same time.
  3. It is expected to include one or more reservoir lakes. That water collected from the city centre would supply irrigation in addition to helping the drainage.
  4. It is as urban as possible, which is as fitting as possible for urban agriculture education.
  5. As a world-leading initiative, it would attract agri-tourists and become an agri-tourism hub adjoining the Golden Village and near much of the city’s hospitality industry.
  6. Besides attracting tourists, the central location surrounded by four arterial roads would give tremendous attractive visibility to learning and practising urban agriculture. That would encourage citizens throughout Richmond (and beyond) to become involved and perhaps help the community return to what it used to be, the Garden City.
  7. The whole lands could be one agricultural park (with habitat areas). It would be essentially one farm—perhaps with the city, university, and community partnering to manage it. That is in keeping with the Agricultural Land Commission’s assessment in its 2006 decision about the suitability of the lands to be a complete farming unit.

In short, Richmond council seemed to love Kent Mullinix’s concept, and the concept and the Garden City Lands seem to fit well together. (For details about council’s response, see item 3 in the minutes of council’s planning committee on February 5, 2008.)

So what’s the catch? There must be a catch somewhere. “Show me the catch!” you say. Maybe we can find one in Post 4.

Urban agriculture education, Post 2

April 12, 2010

We envision a world class centre and programs. The uniqueness and breadth of programs will be unprecedented. The partnership will be very powerful (for grant acquisition, support, etc.) and will serve to build community. Community is the foundation of sustainability.

Post 1 (below this post) is Kent Mullinix’s explanation of the importance of urban agriculture. Post 2 is Dr. Mullinix’s vision for urban agriculture education, as expressed to Richmond council, including the above quote. The presentation did not specify the Garden City Lands, but there is no better location, and council seemed to recognize that, as we’ll see in Post 3.

Dr. Mullinix told council, “Kwantlen proposes to partner with the City of Richmond and community organizations/citizens to develop North America’s first academic centre devoted to research, education and development expressly focused on urban agriculture.”

Before turning over the rest of this post to Kent Mullinix’s concept, I should mention that the Garden City Lands Coalition does not specifically support any particular institution as a partner in urban agriculture education. (Individuals do, but the coalition as a group is more interested in encouraging and sharing promising ideas.) Besides Kwantlen Polytechnic University, other institutions like UBC and SFU could, for example, be possible partners. However, Kwantlen, through Dr. Mullinix, took the trouble to make its vision available. Here’s more of it in his words:

The scope of the centre will be inclusive:

  • It will encompass technical, social and economic aspects of urban agriculture.
  • It will serve the breadth of aspiring and practising urban agriculturists from commercial to garden plot and backyard producers.
  • The aspects will include cultivation, production management, post-harvest storage and handling, processing, business management, promotion, distribution and sales.

The program will have these four elements:

  • Research. It will address the breadth of challenges faced by the Lower Mainland urban agriculture sector, including technology/methodology, economics, marketing, and promotion. All research will be applied and interdisciplinary in nature.
  • Formal education. The degrees, diplomas and certificates will be the first of their kind in North America. All will include substantial experiential components. They will seek to appeal to and cultivate a new generation and type of agriculturist. They will contribute to the reinvention of agriculture as part of the development of sustainable communities. Such educational programs will undoubtedly attract students from across British Columbia and Canada as well as from around the world.
  • Professional/continuing education. Workshops, seminars, conferences, field days, and demonstrations will support and enhance the knowledge and skills of practising urban agriculturists. These could be linked to credit classes. Mentoring and incubator plots could also be an integral element of support for aspiring urban agriculturists.
  • Outreach. Research publications, bulletins, reports and manuals on technical aspects of urban agriculture will be produced. Another outreach effort might be the creation of a clearinghouse to match aspiring agriculturists with mentors and/or landowners.

All research, education and outreach efforts would focus on agriculture and community sustainability. All elements will be linked to one another.

Is this a good fit for the Garden City Lands? Good question for Post 3!

Urban agriculture education, Post 1

April 11, 2010

This is the first in a six-post series on the urban agriculture education proposal from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

On Feb. 5, 2008, Kent Mullinix, PhD, presented a Garden City Lands vision that is at least as relevant today. Even though the ideal place to implement it has not been available, it has been put into practice in initial ways and showing some promise.

Dr. Mullinix is Director, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, Kwantlen Polytechnic University. His audience was the planning committee of Richmond council and many interested citizens, including Dr. Alice Wong, the future MP.

This post features the beginning of the presentation. It is a foundation for understanding the need for urban agriculture, and it is also the foundation for a vision of urban agriculture education that fits well with the Garden City Lands. Here’s what the expert had to say:

Urban agriculture has great potential to address many issues pertinent to the achievement of sustainable society. It’s time has come. Allow me to share some background information.

  1. For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population is urbanized. Seventy-five percent of the population in developed countries is urbanized.
  2. Three percent of Canadians reside on farms, with 1.4% of the population engaged in farming. This means that 97% of Canadians have limited or no connection to agriculture.
  3. Cheap, high-quality food is expected and taken for granted.  We in North America spend approximately 11% of our disposable income on food (compared to 20+ % in Europe), and for our agriculture sector the return to management is increasingly marginal.
  4. In the name of “economic efficiency,” agricultural land must compete with other uses (parking lots, shopping centers, housing, etc.). There is increasing pressure on agricultural land.  Since 1971 in Canada, 12,000 square kilometres of cropland, half the dependable agricultural land (class 1, 2 or 3), has been lost to urban sprawl.
  5. Globally, cropland has been reduced by 86 million hectares since the mid-1980s (equal to twice Canada’s total cropland).
  6. Most of the world’s arable land is in production, and Green Revolution technological gains have been fully exploited (maximized).  No technologies to increase yield are forthcoming.
  7. The world population is growing: 6.5 billion today, with 9.5 to 14 billion anticipated by mid-century.
  8. Global affluence is growing, resulting in a tightening between food supply and demand. Croplands are increasingly devoted to production of high-value export crops instead of regional food production.
  9. The ecological, social and economic limitations and negative consequences of the modern, global agri-food system are increasingly evident and problematic.
  10. Exacerbating this is global industrial agriculture’s complete dependence on and excessive use of fossil fuels. Many experts foresee an imminent end to the global agri-food system and call for reinvention of regionalized agri-food systems.

Thus the sustainability of our cities (in terms of the agri-food systems urban dwellers are dependent on) is called into question.  Urban agriculture can and will play a preeminent role in addressing the issue of sustainability.

Urban agriculture, the production of food for cities, in or near cities, is a way of reducing vulnerability and dependence on an ecologically unsound system. It is a significant means to contribute to the advancement of sustainable urban communities—socially, economically and environmentally. It can be argued that urban agriculture should be an expected and inherent element of urban land use planning and sustainable development. 

The next post in this six-post series is here.