SASA Plants Seeds of Community in Richmond
Culture / April 20, 2017
The Sustainable Agriculture Student Association moves into its second year
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor
The Sustainable Agriculture Student Association has been organizing extra-curricular events for students in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Sustainable Agriculture program for over three years. Through initiatives such as skill training, conference trips, and visits to farms, the Association fosters both professional opportunities and a sense of community for those interested in environmentally sound farming practices.
“The first year was very modest, the way we harvested and sold everything and learned the ropes,” says SASA President Grace Augustinowicz. “The second year we already had more experience and more produce, so I think it’s going to be getting better, but it’s also seasonal. We try to fundraise but we also rely on the generous support of the KSA, and the students also pay a portion.”
SASA is primarily based on the Richmond campus, where they have already turned terraced lawns into mini farms and gardens which produce seasonal fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The group sells their produce to students, keeping big business out of the exchange between consumer and producer, and offering locally and ethically grown foods to KPU students.
“It’s really beneficial to the student population and community on campus,” says Natasha Lopes, former VP Student Life for the Kwantlen Student Association. “If you have students making something, you can support your fellow students. You’re supporting students who want to become farmers, who want to work in sustainable agriculture.”
In her role as VP Student Life, Lopes contributed to SASA’s activity and progress, and now feels they are one of the most active clubs currently on campus. Lately, she has noticed them trying to “become more of a community” at KPU by hosting more events and reaching out to more members.
“With the growth of the sustainable agriculture degree or educational process, we’re going to see a growth in that club. They’re trying to get more involved with policy and advocacy, and I love seeing that students are taking initiative on those things, especially students that are so deeply involved in a specific niche of education,” says Lopes. “As they get more and more involved, they do more and more dope things.”
In the Fraser Valley, which is home to a huge amount of agricultural land, clubs like SASA can learn from sustainable farms nearby and recommend change to those that have not yet begin to grow sustainably. One method of working towards the latter is learning more about provincial policy, and the club’s membership did just that by attending the Certified Organic Associations of B.C.’s conference in February.
“It was a really good way to meet the organic industry,” says Will Bailey-Elkin, Vice President of SASA. “It’s hard to know where our students will go, whether it’s in actual production or, say, policy and non-production jobs, so it was really good to see those opportunities and how you could get into policy work or organic inspection.”
Augustinowicz also stresses the importance of conferences to SASA’s membership.
“When you’re in the classroom, you read about it, you talk about methods of production and marketing and distribution, but until you actually get to see it in real life, that’s when a lot of the learning takes place as well,” she says.
Lopes feels that, “because [KPU’s Sustainable Agriculture program] is a unique program, the club itself is unique.”
Bailey-Elkin agrees. “I think a really important part of SASA is that it just puts a name to a specific group of students and allows us to approach the KSA and potentially get group funding for [events like] COABC,” she says. “We have quite a few environmental clubs, but not like them. We have clubs that focus on policy, that focus on action, but none that focus on how you grow things sustainably. I think that’s where their uniqueness really lies.”