Okanagan College ‘food forest’ taking root this fall

A community farm at Okanagan College in Coldstream is close to planting its first seeds.

A year in the making since being talked about by the Partners in Action committee, the farm and a demonstration garden have been toiled on at the college, and hope to be ready to plant its “food forest” in the fall.

“There’s two acres below the parking lot and this is not interfering with the (new) track project,” said Jane Lister, Okanagan College principal, to Vernon council. “It’s developing into a demonstration garden and a community farm. The purpose of the farm is to demonstrate sustainable agricultural practises, and offer different educational programming at the college.”

The site has been prepared over the last year, which includes new drainage and topsoil, while site and business plans for the farm have been prepared.

The farm will have community partnerships which includes Armstrong-based Kindale Developmental Association helping to develop the farm, and Wendy Aasen, longtime local food advocate in Vernon, has been hired as the farm coordinator.

“We have community gardens which are an allotment style and are privately guarded,” said Aasen. “The concept behind the farm is different. We’ll take a collective approach and have everybody growing together.”

The plan calls for having a staff person on-site at the farm, someone with an agricultural background who can deliver programs and be available to the broader community.

“We’re going to rely on experts to put this together, to follow best practises along every step of the way,” said Aasen.

Fundraising for the farm continues, but those involved hope to have their infrastructure in place by September, start to plant the farm’s food forest in the fall, and launch the community farm in the spring.

There is talk about possibly expanding the farm in the future to such sites as O’Keefe Ranch.

While working with the community is one aspect of the farm, another big component is agriculture education.

Lister has been visiting other colleges and communities around the province.

“We’re looking at things like half-day workshops to a 10-month new farmers’ program,” said Lister.

Vernon Coun. Juliette Cunningham sees huge potential in the community farm being based at the college.

“The education and those kind of things could be a huge economic driver for our community,” said Cunningham. “We should capitalize on that.”

Coun. Patrick Nicol praised Lister for her work on fighting the Agricultural Land Commission to have the property removed from ALC lands.



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