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Christine Hardie writes about her experiences at the UBC Farm Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture on her Urban Zucchini blog. She’s an EGP volunteer at Loutet Farm, and has kindly allowed us to share her blog posts and stories with you here!

 March 10, 2013

I could not believe my luck last fall when I discovered the Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture at the UBC Farm. A practical program that would give me the opportunity to work a growing season at the farm and have the chance to learn about sustainable food systems? Seemed too good to be true, it was exactly what I was looking for. To my good fortune I was accepted and had been eagerly awaiting my first day at UBC since Decemeber. I could hardly sleep Friday night because I was so excited to get going.

Were we ever lucky with the weather for our first day, sunny and 10 degrees without a cloud in the sky. There are eleven practicum students in total and it was fantastic to meet others who are also so keen on learning to grow food.

We spent the morning on a tour of the farm and were reminded of all the amazing educational programs and volunteer opportunities that take place on this 24 hectare south campus space. It was great to really get a sense of what we will be working on for the duration of the program as well as all the learning opportunities that await us. As part of the practicum we are each assigned a 1 meter x 20 meter plot that we will be responsible for planning, planting, maintaining and harvesting. We will also have a shared plot that we will work on together as a group.

In the afternoon we had a short lecture about the fundamentals of soil. Soil is so complex! This combination of water, air, minerals and organic matter is truly the foundation of everything we understand to be alive. The difference between soil and dirt is that dirt is simply soil that no longer has the characteristics that support life. I get it now.

A soil texture workshop gave us the opportunity to feel different soil compositions and attempt to identify them using a soil texture decision chart. It proved rather difficult to really tell the difference between some of the classifications ( “is it a loamy sand or a sandy loam?”) but we were reassured that it can take years to develop the sensitivity and expertise to decipher the difference.

To end the day we had a seedling mix workshop where we cleaned and sterilized trays, followed a recipe for seedling mix and then filled the trays with the mix and planted some kale seeds. This will give the kale a head start on the season. All in all it was a super day and I am really looking forward to next week, so much to learn…….