Considering a career change? Maybe farm school is for you

People learn about everything from bugs to beans at KPU's Farm Schools Programs

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Having established a career in software engineering, Vida Rose never imagined she would one day swap her laptop for a garden plot and eventually go to “farm school”.

      But that’s exactly what happened after Rose’s tech job ended in 2014.

      Before signing up for Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Farm School programs, Rose had acquired knowledge of food issues; the company she worked for imported and exported fresh vegetables and fruit. And having become a vegetarian several years prior, she had a keen interest in healthy eating.

      She loved using local and organic produce but found that store prices for it were high, and she often couldn’t find high-quality herbs she’d become so fond of, like tarragon and savoury. So she began puttering in her community garden.

      “With no experience at all, just by watching YouTube and searching the Internet, I started to do direct seeding in June of 2016,” Rose tells the Straight. “I planted different herbs, beans, and potatoes given to me by another gardener. I also bought tomato and cucumber seedlings. The first year went very well. I saved my seeds and used them for the next year; this time, I planted 60 different plants.

      “I had zero experience yet a strong will to grow food,” she adds. “Some other gardener told me I wouldn’t get any tomatoes or cucumbers since I hadn’t done it correctly, but at the end of the season, I had lots of cucumbers and tomatoes. The reason was I believed if I put my all effort into it and could think positively, it won’t fail—and it didn’t.”

      KPU Farm Schools.

      KPU’s Farm Schools consist of the 11-acre Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School (a partnership between KPU and Tsawwassen First Nation that integrates mixed vegetable production, an orchard, and livestock production) and the Richmond Farm School (which teaches small-scale, intensive, high-value crop production on plots ranging from a quarter to half an acre on municipal land). Each offers a seven-month-long experiential agriculture course with classroom and hands-on learning.

      It just so happened that Rose’s community garden was situated not far from one of the KPU farm lots. On Saturdays, students would be in the field, and, in 2018, one of the instructors, who had seen her in the garden regularly from morning till night, suggested she consider looking into the program.

      The following year, Rose enrolled.

      “I was no longer interested in a software-developer job, and growing food looked to me like a valuable job I could get into,” Rose says. “I started seeing how good food can play an important role not only in human life but in everything else: the animal kingdom, nature, global warming, local economy, mental health, the human immune system and more. I started to think about how my job can be really useful for people and the community in which I live.”

      At farm school, she learned about soil, compost, watering, bugs, bees, weeds, and many other related topics. Rose also enrolled in the school’s incubator program, where students can access up to half an acre of land to start their own farm business. She researched supply, fertilizers, seeds, plant planning, and more to come up with a business proposal.

      It was accepted, and this past March, Rose launched Vida Farm. A new vendor for the summer season at this year’s Vancouver Farmers Markets, Rose uses natural methods to grow tomatoes, cucumber, beets, bell pepper, carrots, lettuce, hard beans, green beans, parsley, potatoes, corn, and some leafy vegetables.

      There are no prerequisites for KPU’s Farm Schools. The programs are open to avid gardeners, novice farmers, and people who have never grown a vegetable before. For more information, visit the KPU website.