The University of the Fraser Valley has launched a global food security project that will turn a central green space on the university’s Abbotsford campus into arable land.
The Food Opportunity & Operational Land centre at UFV will transform the large open grass area in the middle of the UFV grounds into a research site that hosts crop development, experimental agricultural processes, and new crop testing beds.
The plan will see the central 1.5 hectare green planted with several high-yield crops including corn, potatoes, and rice. Student researchers will take an active role in assisting with crop production on campus and the project will be overseen by the UFV Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies Office and Dr. Garry Fehr, Associate Vice-President.
“This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the use of unconventional spaces for food production. And while COVID means work will be done in physically distanced ways, the opportunity to be involved in this leading edge research is exciting and a wonderful chance for students to gain career skills and knowledge right here on campus,” said Fehr.
The field is located in the midst of UFV buildings and will be planted with corn plus select crops not usually produced in the Fraser Valley including bananas, rice, and a small well-contained section of carnivorous plants. Dr. Fehr assures the public that students will be well protected when dealing with these latter species. These rare meat-eating plants are an organic approach to pest control that will supplement the use of air cannons typically used to frighten birds with small explosions during daylight hours.
The project is timed to mesh with the upcoming planting and growing season, but also synchronizes well with a campus quieted by COVID restrictions.
“UFV is well positioned to plant a field of crops within our boundaries while there are fewer people on campus,” said Dr. Joanne MacLean, President of UFV. “The green is usually a very busy place, but it’s exciting to think about growing a lot of food in our back yard. In my case, quite literally.”
As the planning wraps up, tractors, seeders and spreaders will appear on campus to begin farming, with a major harvest scheduled as a welcome-back activity for students in September.
“We see the Food Opportunity & Operational Land centre, or FOOL as it is known, as the nexus of opportunity that will likely be a passing but productive phase that hopefully people will enjoy today and today only,” said Dave Pinton, Director of Communications at UFV. “It’s likely the FOOL project will die after the first day of April,” he mused.