Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Farm Schools program is accepting applications for new students for the next season.
The KPU Farm Schools program is a part of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems’ (ISFS) Extension Unit and is made up of the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School (TFNFS) and the Richmond Farm School (RFS).
The Richmond Farm School is located on city-owned agricultural land and focuses on “semi-urban, regenerative farming, small-scale, intensive, high value, and cost-effective crop production with minimal infrastructure and capital investment,” reads the school’s webpage.
The RFS is also near the Richmond Incubator Plots, where Farm School alumni can apply for a quarter acre of arable land at the Richmond Farm School, or up to a half acre at the TFNFS site that they can work for up to three years and use to start their own farm business.
Daniel Garfinkel was a farm school student six years ago at KPU’s Tsawwassen program. After the KPU Farm Schools program went on a two year hiatus, he got hired as its program manager to “relaunch the program in a new direction” four years ago.
“The best thing about this program is … the hands-on, real-time learning of it. The students get to stay with us for an entire season — they plant, they seed, they [harvest]. The other thing is the diversity of students that we get, it really encourages a positive, strong community here,” he says.
“Without that, we’d be nothing, and our students are everything to us.”
There are no requirements or prerequisites to register for the Farm School. Students can range from having basic gardening experience to being novice farmers.
Classes take place once a week on Saturdays or Sundays through the seven-month program, where students will cover a variety of subjects from soil science to pest management.
“Our program is constantly changing and growing every year based on what the students’ needs are, what students’ wants are. This program is a living organism that continuously grows. It changes to what we think students should learn,” Garfinkel says.
The program is taught by a diverse group of instructors who are experts in their field.
“Based on what the students’ needs are, what their wants are, that all informs a program for next year. We have that freedom and creativity aspect that we can just thrive off of.”
“All of them just want that sense of community, and [want] to talk about seeds and nerd out about vegetable varieties. It’s really amazing seeing how much the students enjoy it, seeing their growth,” Paige Leslie says, sales, communications and program coordinator for KPU Farm Schools
“It takes work to build a community’s food system and we rely on our students to help us create that — we can’t do it alone. And we value the diversity and individualism that each student brings,” says Garfinkel.