Kwantlen harvesting a degree in Sustainable Agriculture

By Kassandra Linklater [News Editor]

Courtesy Old Shoe Woman/flickr

While the addictive nature of Facebook’s Farmville app may be to blame for a few failed quizzes, Kwantlen Polytechnic University students may finally have a chance to see if they have what it takes to bring in a harvest.

Last month Kwantlen’s Senate approved the possible creation of a new and unique four-year bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture.

The program will involve hands-on training, literally in the field, as well as research and development with an emphasis on urban agricultural practices.

Students should not expect to see archaic classes like crop rotations; the program aims to be cutting edge, according to Kent Millinix, director of Kwantlen’s Institute of Sustainable Horticulture.

“This program will be unique in North America,” said Mullinix in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

Environmental, or green-washing, will not be in affect with this program. Mullinix explained that the program will focus on ‘human-intensive, smaller-scale farms that grow a mix of crops and livestock.’

“An important part of this degree will be experimental, so we will need to run experimental farms, teaching farms,” Mullinix said.

This will allow farmers to practice a form of “closed loop” agriculture that enhances the environment instead of the trend is commercial single crop farming across thousands of hectares causing environmental damage.

Although Kwantlen’s Institute of Sustainable Horticulture, ISH for short, is located in Langley and close to the Fraser Valley’s green belt, the bachelor program surprisingly will be centred around the Richmond campus.

The university is currently in talks with the City of Richmond, the Musqueam First Nation and the Canada Land Corp, to secure a vacant 55-hectare (136 acre) plot of land to create an urban agriculture research centre.

The city has also been tremendously supportive of the proposed program.  Richmond Councillor Harold Steves told the Vancouver Sun, “I think we have a tremendous opportunity. When we first started to talk about acquiring the [Garden City Lands] one of the things we were interested in was the Kwantlen farm school proposal.”

Despite the trend to urbanization and ‘downtown cores’ that most Metro Vancouver cities are experiencing, Richmond has shown its ‘commitment to preserving farmland by becoming the second largest owner of agricultural land within its municipal boundaries’ said Steve. The city is currently in possession of 119 hectares.

While students may eagerly be awaiting to enroll in this one-of-a-kind program, classes are not expected to be offered until the fall of 2011. Until then, there’s always Farmville.

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