Meet KPU: Michael Bomford

Bomford brings knowledge and passion to his interactions with students

Micheal Bomford joined the KPU community in 2014 and has been teaching in its sustainable agriculture and food systems program ever since. (Submitted)

Michael Bomford joined the KPU community in 2014 and has been teaching in its sustainable agriculture and food systems program ever since. (Submitted)

Michael Bomford has been teaching in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s sustainable agriculture and food systems program for almost 10 years. He’s often responsible for teaching courses in vegetable production, ecologically-based pest management, agriculture and energy, and agroecosystem management. He also leads a series of research courses for upper-level students. 

Bomford holds many credentials including a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of British Columbia, a masters of pest management from Simon Fraser University, and Doctorate of Philosophy in plant and soil science from West Virginia University. Despite his many years in research, he’s most passionate about teaching students and working with natural elements, one of his main interests being the intersection between food and energy. 


When did you join the KPU community, and why? 

I came here in October of 2014 for a number of different reasons. These are not necessarily an order of priority, but one was to get back closer to family. I am Canadian, and my parents live in Victoria and have lived there for about 30 years, but I was in the United States. I did my Ph.D at West Virginia University, and then I worked for 10 years at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. I got married during that time and had three kids in Kentucky. We wanted to get closer to family, so that was appealing to me. I really enjoyed the work that I was doing in Kentucky, but I was overwhelmed. I had a mix of research, teaching, and extension responsibilities. It was exciting, challenging work, but it was more than one person could possibly do. So moving to KPU allowed me to focus on teaching, which is something I really enjoy. I’m still eager to have a research component to what I do, but it’s a much smaller piece. The expectations surrounding research are not nearly as big and so it really allows me to teach. 


What is your favourite story of your time at KPU? 

My favorite is a story that hasn’t finished yet. It’s an ongoing story, and it’s the story of the development of the farm at the Garden City Lands. We have our farm, where our students get most of their practical experiences, just east of the Richmond campus. We didn’t start off at the Garden City Lands until 2018, and it just looked like a moonscape. Soil was brought in and layered over top of the peat, the native soil at the site. So there was just nothing growing on that imported soil, and actually, the soil was quite poor, it needed to be improved dramatically. 

Watching it go from that moonscape to an incredibly lush and productive farm over these years has been really rewarding. I feel like every time I go back, something else has changed. I love to look back at the old pictures of what it was like even five years ago, and then follow the progress as this story evolves. It’s exciting, and it’s certainly not finished. Right now we’re farming about eight acres of that site, but we have a license to use 20 acres. So we have a lot of expansion yet to do, and there’s a lot of exciting changes that will be happening in the years ahead.


What is something that you’d like to say to people new to the community? 

I think it really is a community, and when you’re new, it really helps to try to engage with that community, to try to become a part of the community. I think that KPU is challenged to some extent because we don’t have residences. We don’t have anybody living on campus, and it’s tempting to just come into campus, attend your classes, and leave. I think the ones that get involved with their peers are the ones that stick around and they get the most out of their experience. When you’re just coming in for class, you miss a lot of the university experience. Join clubs, take advantage of opportunities to connect with your cohort and with your peers, and really feel like you’re a part of something. 


What are you working on right now?

I run our student research series. So the research series for sustainable agriculture students is a full year and takes place in their third and fourth year. They learn fundamentals of experimental designs and the accompanying statistical analysis that goes with each of those designs. I have about nine students this summer doing research projects. I’ve got a couple of students doing research on rice, a student doing work on agrivoltaics, which is using solar panels as a source of shade for vegetable production, one will be looking at mulches in an orchard environment, and another looking at mulches and blueberries. I’ve also got a student looking at microgreens production in a controlled environment. So there’s a lot of different research projects that are getting going, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens with those. 

In December, we have a student research symposium, so the sustainable agriculture students and the physics students who are all based on the Richmond campus get together and give talks. They present their work to one another, to the faculty, but also to our collaborators or the general public. Anybody can come to the research symposium and hear about the projects that have been going on the year prior. I then archive all of those results on the KPU website. I’m really interested to see what we’re going to get out of this year’s cohort. 


What is something you would like people to know about you?

When I was a high school student, I got into dinghy sailing. I really enjoy sailing, and I bought myself a boat back then and had a lot of fun. I went off to university, and after a few years, it was clear that the boat was just sitting back at home. I wasn’t able to get out onto the water anymore. So I’m back in Canada, in Richmond by the water, and I just recently bought a sailing dinghy. I’m really excited about getting out this summer and sailing again for the first time in a long time.

The way that we’re approaching agriculture is all about working with the environment, taking advantage of what nature can offer us, trying to work with the sun, wind, and rain, and then foster these crops that grow in an agroecosystem. We’re really trying to take an ecological approach to farming through our practice. So part of what appeals to me about dinghy sailing or sailing in general, is that you’re working with the environment to go somewhere. We’re not having to burn fossil fuels, there’s nothing high tech about it, it’s just trying to take advantage of what nature has to offer.