Sunday, July 24, 2005

Saturday Market at the UBC Farm

Hidden behind Pacific Spirit Park and the urban sprawl we call Vancouver you will find this gem. This gem is uncovered after hours of turned soil, weeding and harvesting... it is called the UBC Farm. Every Saturday morning the community has the opportunity to remove themselves from the confines of the couch and stucco walls to inhale fresh air and try some of the freshest reasonably-priced organic produce grown right in their 9 acre backyard.

The ambiance draws all the right things for a market: a bustle of the 9am rush of customers, smiling faces, live guitarist, a swap of cooking techniques and secret recipes, a pot of brewing fresh coffee and a chance to learn about the food we eat. This week's line of harvest include red beets, turnips, carrots, apples and cabbage. As a first time volunteer, I pulled vegetables and free range eggs from the freezer in the back and placed them on the display tables. Brewed etico free-trade coffee in hand, I chatted with the other vendors selling honey and lavender - all pleased to be part of this initially student-led initiative.

I spoke to Mark Bomford, project manager and although the Saturday market does well and will always have its dedicated customers, the production side of the farm runs at loss as do most unsubsidized small farm operations. High turnover (a given working with students) means continuous training and this is just one of the aspects of costs. The difference is that some other small farm operations have some extra income falling from the owner's job saved as an accountant or financier to cover these costs. Save some taxes and hold some acres, not a bad deal for these folks. As for the UBC Farm, works to be a sustainable operation so that it can present a valid case to remain as an important component to the Faculty and the university as a whole. Come 2012, the land could be subject to residential development as seems to be happening to rest of this campus.

If you have a chance, go visit a local organic farm, make some purchases or volunteer. Perks of volunteering at the UBC Farm, good times, 25% of produce and might have some free leftovers or culled vegetables (produce not sold as it does not match market's quality standards - still good though), walk around the farm and see the free range chickens, and be part of one of the last spots of true "soil" treasure in our urban concrete jungle.

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