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UNB continues connecting students with sustainable experiential educational opportunities

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Oct 16, 2020

Category: myUNB , UNB Fredericton

Community-engaged learning, a form of experiential education, helps students connect what they’re learning in the classroom to what’s happening in their communities and give them skills to think about solutions to some of the grand challenges in our world. Environmental, economic and social sustainability are just a few of these challenges, and students from the University of New Brunswick Fredericton are bringing their skills and knowledge into the community to help create a more sustainable future.

Located on a site that was previously a 200-acre dairy farm, Hayes Farm is a community teaching farm located on the northside of Fredericton. Their mission is to inspire and mobilize New Brunswickers toward a resilient and thriving food system by providing them with the skills, expertise and support needed to practice human-scale regenerative agriculture. The Hayes farm model addresses local food security, financial responsibility, personal and spiritual fulfillment for individuals and food production in the local community. Incorporated into the Hayes Farm is the spirit of honouring Indigenous culture and food ways, integrative principles of land-based learning and reconnection.

"The importance of urban agriculture is not that it's urban, but that it's accessible,” says Claire May, coordinator at Hayes Farm. “As a society, we are getting more and more disconnected from our food system, and that isn't just knowing where our food comes from. It's also about knowing who grew it, understanding growing practices, being part of the conversation about what and how you eat, and even taking part in production if you so choose. At Hayes Farm we are trying to be present for the community to engage with us either through conversation or on-farm so that people can see themselves as part of the system, and not outside of it.”

Several students from a number of UNB faculties were enrolled in the Regenerative Farming Certificate (RFC) program put on by Hayes Farm this past summer. The RFC is an 18-week course that teaches students how to grow sustainably on a small scale, using regenerative and climate-friendly agricultural methods.

"We've now completed three seasons of the RFC program, and holy smokes are we ever learning a lot,” says May. “We're working to strike a balance between flexibility and structure with our interns, and they continue to help guide us toward a program that can be relevant and important to folks with various backgrounds, experiences and aspirations. We include industry- and intern-driven topics, loads of in-field experience, Indigenous teachings and practices, field trips, classroom discussion and more. Though we need the winter to refine our program offering, we are already taking names of those interested in next year's RFC adventure.”

Matthew Golding, a recent graduate from the faculty of forestry and environmental management, was one of the students enrolled in the RFC program this past summer.

“The program provided a great opportunity to learn about our food system both in the classroom and in the field. I learned a lot from the instructors, but just as much from the other participants. Working in the field together really created a sense of unity, with everyone working towards a common goal.

“There is a need for transformational change in our current food system away from large scale, chemical-intensive farming. A major step in that is people growing their own food, and people need to be aware of how to maintain the health of their soil. This helps to strengthen our communities by improving food security and improving the environment in which we live.”

Dr. Sarah King, UNB’s director of experiential education, recognizes Hayes Farm as a key partner in experiential learning at UNB and in New Brunswick.

“Hayes Farm was nominated for an award at last year’s FutureNB gala to celebrate the incredible impact their regenerative farming programs have had on our students and our communities. We are always thrilled to partner with Hayes Farm and help contribute to the sustainability of food systems in our community and our province.”

Join UNB in celebrating its third annual Sustainability Week from Oct. 12-16. For full details and event schedule, see unb.ca/sustainabilityweek.

Media contact: Angie Deveau

Photo: Matthew Golding at Hayes Farm