The College of the Rockies is seeking input on an agriculture program that will debut in February. An open house for the Columbia Basin Trust-funded Community Agriculture Learning Needs Assessment (CALNA) will run 4-5:30 p.m. June 17 at the Creston campus, allowing a chance to ask questions and offer suggestions.
“The meeting will offer people of all ages the chance to share their perspectives on the kinds of agriculture/food security learning supports that would most benefit them,” said Laura Hannant, COTR facilitator of partnerships for community development.
The 10-month program, funded with seed money from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation, and Technology, will start in February 2014, and will be one of four in Canada. Its purpose will be to prepare people from all walks of life to engage in human-scale agriculture enterprises.
“We’re looking to focus on the needs of people who don’t come from farming backgrounds,” said Nigel Francis, COTR facilitator of education for food security. “People who don’t inherit a farm are looking for insights and skills for living off the land.”
“It’s for people who basically want a crash course in farming,” said Hannant. “We’re looking at it as a way of attracting vibrant young people to the valley.”
COTR’s Kootenay Farm School will teach agriculture as an applied art and science, combining classroom learning and hands-on community-based education.
Half of the program will be classroom-based, “but a big chunk will be working in the field,” said Hannant.
The program will be a rural counterpart to that being offered in the Lower Mainland by Richmond Farm School at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
“They really focus on sustainable urban farming,” said Hannant. “We will be a sister program in small-scale rural farming.”
The course will offer no certificate and no tests, but land access is typically a barrier, so the program will give new farmers access to an ‘incubator plot’, a piece of land where they can get some hands-on practice; the college is currently looking for a site in the valley.
That, in turn, will allow the local farming tradition to continue, creating food security, as well as another way to put Creston on the map.
“It doesn’t feel like there’s a shortage of good land in the valley,” said Hannant. “There’s a real opportunity for the valley to be a destination and a leader.”
For more information or to provide input, contact Hannant or Francis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-428-5332 ext. 4181.