Nestled away just across the road from Elk and Beaver Lake sits Victoria’s own Haliburton Community Organic Farm. This farm strives to provide education to those looking to help create a more sustainable future. This January they’re formalizing their workshops into an educational program in partnership with Royal Roads University by creating their new EcoFarm School.
The EcoFarm School is a series of four five-day sessions—one for each season. Students can sign up for as few or as many as they’d like. “The sessions are self-contained but also complementary,” says Ann Eastman, Volunteer Board Member and EcoFarm School Coordinator for Haliburton. The seasonal aspect is very important. Students are able to learn what a commercial farmer would be doing at that time.
In the upcoming winter session students will learn about food quality, edible native plants, growing and handling food, farming infrastructures, ecosystem restoration, holistic nutrition and more. In addition to learning about gardening itself, students learn how to run commercial farms, develop a brand, and market their products. “Many people want to farm but are not sure where to begin—we are so disconnected from our food systems,” says Eastman. “We want to bridge that divide.”
Though Haliburton has held workshops and courses in the past, the development of the new Ecofarm School marks the beginning of their formalized educational opportunities. Run through the department of continuing studies at RRU, the EcoFarm School is designed for students serious about working for or running their own commercial farms. Students are even eligible for internships on the farms at Haliburton after their course for more practical experience.
“We want to reach more people, grow more farmers than we can now with the farm businesses, interns, and occasional workshop,” says Eastman of the new formalized education system. “Hali is run entirely by volunteers and projects are funded by grants—not sustainable,” she adds. “We want to offer an ongoing program, pay the instructors, and invest in educational resources.”
Part of what makes this program so special is the instructors. “They are Haliburton,” replied Eastman when asked why they chose the teachers they did. “They are us.” All the teachers have taught Haliburton workshops before and have farmed on the land and worked with it for a long time.
Another defining feature of this school? The farm itself. “Education at Haliburton Farm, including at the EcoFarm School, is premised on respect for the place,” Eastman says. “We want to grow good food in harmony with the land, respecting it’s past, present, and future. Our aim is to demonstrate how essential it is to observe and listen carefully to the specific place—feel the soil, watch the flow of water, the path of light—to learn what crops are right,” she says.
The first session of the EcoFarm School will run Friday January 19 to Tuesday January 23, 2018. Haliburton received funding from the Victoria Foundation to help create this new program, and thanks to donations from sponsors like the British Columbia Women’s Institute, students can recover up to 50 percent of their tuition fees.
Prospective students are encouraged to register by the end of December 2017 for the winter session. The program will accept between 15 and 20 students to ensure a hands-on and customizable experience.
For more information, visit the Haliburton website, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the EcoFarm booth at Haliburton’s Seedy Saturday, January 13, 10:00 AM- 2:00 PM at the Gardens AT HCP (505 Quayle Rd. Victoria, B.C.)
Spring Session: May 4-8, 2018
Summer Session: July 13-17, 2018
Fall Session: October 12-16, 2018
– Ryann Anderson