Educational Farm

Educational Farm

Cultivate sustainability for tomorrow’s food systems

The Educational Farm is a place to learn creative solutions to sustainability challenges in food systems.

Central to the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS) programs (ubishops.ca/safs) established in 2019, the Educational Farm is a place to practice experiential learning by exploring, experimenting and modelling what future sustainable agroecosystems could look like.

As such, SAFS and its farm aim to develop critical thinking skills, instill passion for learning, drive agroecological science forward, and foster transformational change in our food system towards resilience and sustainability.

Bishop’s University is located in a pastoral setting in the heart of the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Unique in Quebec, our university farm is centrally-located within the farming community. The region is renowned for its agro-tourism, organic and community-supported food production, and for a growing culture of entrepreneurship within the context of sustainable agriculture. SAFS and its farm are set to become the educational hub of these activities.

Situated on traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki people, with 140 acres of rolling fields, forests and wetlands, the farm is of great cultural and ecological value. Until recently, the farm was mostly undeveloped with fields of hay, remnants of an old sugar bush, and apple and pear trees in need of rehabilitation.

We will post photos and videos, as the development of the farm proceeds.

Vision and Mission

Vision and Mission

VISION STATEMENT

The Educational Farm is a living land laboratory whose purpose is to instill passion for learning, drive agroecological science forward, and foster transformational change towards resilience and sustainability in our food system.

MISSION STATEMENT

The vision will be achieved through education, research and community outreach, as follows:

Education

The Educational Farm serves as a laboratory for field teaching, experiential learning, and exploration. Most of the SAFS courses include field components at the farm, as well as required practica. The goal is to train a new generation of students in ecological agriculture, permaculture design, market gardening, organic fruit production, animal husbandry, agroforestry, and other systems, while nurturing a transdisciplinary, systems-thinking perspective. The farm provides students with a diversity of learning experiences in a multitude of traditional and innovative growing systems and integrated approaches.

For more information on our programs, see the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS) Programs.

For more information on our courses, see the list of AGR-coded courses.

Research

The Educational Farm provides space for exploring and experimenting with solutions to agricultural and food systems challenges. It serves as a platform for participatory research in order to improve organic crop varieties and ecological farming techniques for cold-climate growing conditions.

See our current research projects below.

Community Outreach

At a later stage, the Educational Farm will be a place for community members of all ages to connect with each other, with nature, and with the food they eat. It will be the site of “Farm Day” events that are open to the public, alumni events, other special events for invited groups, and community workshops on a variety of topics (e.g. seed saving, no-till gardening, soil building, carbon sequestration, role of pollinators, mob grazing of animals, food transformation techniques, etc.).

The goal of outreach events will be to showcase the farm’s educational and research activities and to help community members acquire new skills – fostering an increased awareness of, and passion for, regenerative agriculture.

Agricultural Values and Approach

Agricultural Values and Approach


At Bishop’s University, we value agroecology and regenerative agriculture. The farm focuses on building and maintaining living soil, sequestering carbon, utilizing preventative pest and weed management strategies, and fostering the health and resilience of the entire agroecosystem.

We value permaculture design principles. Students will learn how to design food production spaces (e.g. farms, urban lots, schoolyards, hospital grounds, municipal parks, etc.) that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, and which are deeply rooted in the place in which they occur.

We value organic growing practices. We commit to avoiding the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. We recognize that healthy soil, integrated weed and pest management techniques, observation, and preventative measures are critical to maintaining efficient production and high yields.

We value biodiversity. This includes organisms both within and surrounding agricultural activities. Rather than focusing on specialized production, we promote polycultures, crop rotations, and diversified production with integrated systems. We commit to supporting pollinators and other wildlife with conservation of natural areas, pollinator gardens, and maintaining native perennials throughout the landscape.

We value the “closed-loop” approach. The farm will strive for self-sufficiency and minimal reliance on external inputs. We aim to produce resource needs internally and eliminate waste. For example, we plan to utilize food scraps from the Bishop’s cafeteria to create our own compost, to incorporate animal manure for soil fertility, and to grow diverse and nutrient-dense pastures to avoid or reduce the need for purchased animal feed and supplements.

We value a human-scale approach. The farm will consist of intensive plantings on only a few acres, avoiding vast fields of monocultures. Students will work with wheelbarrows, hand-operated tools and small two-wheeled walking tractors.

We value appropriate technologies that facilitate sustainable agriculture and reduce the farm’s ecological footprint. For example, we plan to use geothermally heated greenhouses, solar-powered lightweight electric net fencing, drone-driven remote sensing of soil and plant conditions, etc.

Current Research

Current Research

The following research projects are currently underway at the Educational Farm:

Measuring and Tracking Soil Organic Carbon

During the farm’s transition from hayfields to a productive, organic farm, beginning 2021, a research team will measure the soil organic carbon (SOC) content of the various plots. Funded by Bishop’s Senate Research Committee ($6,689), the project’s goal is to track changes in SOC over multiple growing seasons, as biomass is added to gradually improve the soils’ health. Ultimately the total carbon capacity of the farm’s soils will be determined, and the resulting data will permit a more accurate estimation of the carbon sequestration capacity of similar soils of Quebec and the northeast.

Research interest in increased SOC arises not only from its agro-ecological benefits: utilizing agricultural soil’s capacity as a natural carbon sink is a cost effective, potentially significant means to address climate change.

Team:  Dr. B. Willms, Dept. of Mathematics, Dr. D. Bardati, Dept. Environment & Geography, Dr. A. Drouin, Dept. Chemistry, Dr. M. Peros, and Prof. J. Downing, Dept. Environment & Geography.

Participatory organic potato seed breeding research

Funded by a $314,774 MAPAQ Innov’Action volet 1 research grant, Dr. Darren Bardati (Department of Environment and Geography), and Dr. Helen Jensen (national research manager of the Bauta Initiative on Seed Security, SeedChange, and Adjunct Professor in SAFS at Bishop’s) are pursuing a research project called “Développement de cultivars de pomme de terre adaptés à l’agriculture biologique et résistants au Phytophthora infestans par l’utilisation de marqueurs moléculaires dans un processus de sélection végétale participative”. Working in collaboration with the Consortium de Recherche sur la Pomme de Terre du Québec, the three-year (2021-2024) research project is aimed at working with farmers to develop and test organic breeds of potatoes that are pest resilient and adapted to cold climates. Part of the project will take place at the Educational Farm and will involve SAFS students.

Bio-indicators of agro-environmental quality

Dr. Darren Bardati, Department of Environment and Geography, received a Senate Teams Research Grant ($30,000 over 3 years) with Drs. Patrick Bergeron (team leader), Jade Savage and Michael Richardson of the Department of Biological Sciences. Joining forces with biology researchers Drs. Dany Garant and Denis Réale, respectively of the Université de Sherbooke and Université du Québec à Montréal, and Dr. Denis Petitclerc, retired research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the newly-formed “Agro-Biodiversity Team” will study how agricultural practices influence environmental quality by comparing bio-indicator species development between conventional/industrial and organic farms. The Educational Farm is one of the test sites for this project, and BU students will be involved in the research.

Improving the sustainability of agriculture in Quebec by evaluating local ecological approaches

Dr. Jane Morrison is in the early stages of planning for a project to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of current approaches and hypotheses in ecological farming, in response to the most common and urgent concerns of local farmers. The study will involve conducting a number of agricultural trials at the Educational Farm with the support of undergraduate student research assistants.

Master Plan

Master Plan

In October 2020, a Master Plan for the Educational Farm was completed with the help of the permaculture and agroecology design firm, Écomestible.

Master Plan for the Educational Farm (PDF – 26MB)

Map of Educational Farm
Map of Educational Farm (p. 21 of the Master Plan)

Connect

We are still in the design and early construction phases of the project. Unfortunately, it is not possible to visit the farm at this time.

For more information, please contact:

Photo of Dr. Darren Bardati

Dr. Darren Bardati

Full Professor – Department Chairperson

Dr. Bardati earned his PhD and Master’s degrees at McGill University, and a BA Honours in Geography from Bishop’s. Since 1996, he has taught resource and environmental management courses in the Department of Environment and Geography. His research interests revolve around agroecology and sustainable foods systems, adaptation to climate change, and water management. He and his family enjoy living on a small farm where they tend large gardens, save heirloom seeds, and raise a variety of animals.…Contact Information and full bio
Phone: 819-822-9600 ext. 2462

Dr. Bardati earned his PhD and Master’s degrees at McGill University, and a BA Honours in Geography from Bishop’s. Since 1996, he has taught resource and environmental management courses in the Department of Environment and Geography. His research interests revolve around agroecology and sustainable foods systems, adaptation to climate change, and water management. He and his family enjoy living on a small farm where they tend large gardens, save heirloom seeds, and raise a variety of animals.

Dr. Bardati’s website

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Photo of Dr. Jane Morrison

Dr. Jane Morrison

Assistant Professor

Dr. Morrison earned her PhD at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (BarcelonaTech) in Agroecology and her MSc at McGill University in Integrated Water Resources Management. She holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with an Environmental Engineering Minor, also from McGill University. She undertook a year of funded post-doctoral research at Bishop’s University (supervisor: Dr. D. Bardati), and won the prestigious NSERC and FRQNT awards, before being hired as BU’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program’s Strategic Innovation Faculty member.…Contact Information and full bio
Phone: 819-822-9600 ext. 2352

Dr. Morrison earned her PhD at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (BarcelonaTech) in Agroecology and her MSc at McGill University in Integrated Water Resources Management. She holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with an Environmental Engineering Minor, also from McGill University. She undertook a year of funded post-doctoral research at Bishop’s University (supervisor: Dr. D. Bardati), and won the prestigious NSERC and FRQNT awards, before being hired as BU’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program’s Strategic Innovation Faculty member. Dr. Morrison’s research interests include: sustainable agriculture, agroecology and resilient food systems. Dr. Morrison’s current research aims to improve the sustainability of the agricultural sector by connecting with the local organic farming community in order to understand the current state of the industry, share and mobilize knowledge about best practices, highlight the greatest obstacles for farmers, and determine how farmers can be better supported.

Publications

Blaix, C., Moonen, A. C., Dostatny, D. F., Izquierdo, J., Le Corff, J., Morrison, J., Von Redwitz, C., Schumacher, M., & Westerman, P. R. (2018). Quantification of regulating ecosystem services provided by weeds in annual cropping systems using a systematic map approach. Weed Research, 58(3), 151-164. DOI:10.1111/wre.12303

Morrison, J., Izquierdo, J., Plaza, E. H., & González-Andújar, J. L. (2017). The role of field margins in supporting wild bees in Mediterranean cereal agroecosystems: Which biotic and abiotic factors are important? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment247, 216-224. DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2017.06.047

Morrison, J., Izquierdo, J., Hernández Plaza, M. E., & González Andújar, J. L. (2017). The role of weeds in field margins in supporting wild pollinators in Mediterranean cereal agroecosystems. In M. R. Hernando & A. Z. Aznárez (Eds.), Proceedings of the XVI Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Malherbología: Pamplona-Iruña, October 25-27, 2017. Universidad Pública de Navarra/Nafarroako Unibertsitate Publikoa, 2017. ISBN: 978-84-9769-327-1

Morrison, J., & Friedler, E. (2015). A critical review of methods used to obtain flow patterns and volumes of individual domestic water using appliances. Urban Water Journal, 12(4), 328-343. DOI: 10.1080/1573062X.2014.900090

Morrison, J., Madramootoo, C. A., & Chikhaoui, M. (2014). Modeling agricultural land drainage under spring snowmelt conditions with DRAINMOD. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering41(4), 275-284. DOI: 10.1139/cjce-2013-0416

Morrison, J., Madramootoo, C. A., & Chikhaoui, M. (2013). Modeling the influence of tile drainage flow and tile spacing on phosphorus losses from two agricultural fields in southern Québec. Water Quality Research Journal48(3), 279-293. DOI: 10.2166/wqrjc.2013.053

Madramootoo, C. A., & Morrison, J. (2013). Advances and challenges with micro-irrigation. Irrigation and Drainage62(3), 255-261. DOI: 10.1002/ird.1704

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