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New degree grows next farming generation

A new degree has been launched in Richmond to breed and grow the next generation of farming experts.

A new degree has been launched in Richmond to breed and grow the next generation of farming experts.

On the heels of the one-year farm school program, which has been very successful, but provides no certification, Kwantlen Polytechnic University will offer a new bachelor of applied science in sustainable agriculture in the fall.

The program, which begins in September, is said to be the first of its kind in North America.

The curriculum combines classroom and field-based learning designed to prepare students for professions, including small-scale farming, community organization leadership, government, consulting and public service. After completing their courses, students will also be candidates for graduate studies, should they decide to continue their education.

"The sustainable agriculture program is an innovative degree program unique to North America," said Dr. Kent Mullinix, director of sustainable agriculture and food security, institute of sustainable agriculture at Kwantlen.

"We are very proud and excited to be offering this forward-thinking program, and the level of interest from prospective students has been encouraging. We already have many students accepted into the program."

All they need now is some land for the students to farm and carry out research on in their third year.

"We have a couple of years to find it, but we really need to identify soon where that will be," Mullinix added.

"That could possibly be based in Richmond, it will depend on where the students are coming from and who is going to help us out with the land.

"(The land) will have to be donated to us or provided through a co-operative agreement."

Mullinix acknowledged the success of the farm school in Richmond - itself in its infancy at a couple of years old - demonstrates the interest younger generations have in the farming industry.

"There is a niche and opportunity in the small-scale agriculture market that's human intensive," he said.

"This degree is designed to prepare food system builders and leaders, but it will also lead into the worlds of environmental and political science. It won't necessarily lead to farming."

The demand for healthy, locally produced foods and creating a robust regional food system is on the minds of the public and governments alike, added Mullinix.

The program offers a comprehensive perspective on sustainable food production, crop production, agro-ecosystems management, small farm business planning, and contemporary issues that face society and our food system.

Students will spend their first two years learning about fundamental dimensions of the natural and social environment, biology, ecology, geography, agriculture and food.

The second half of the program emphasizes hands-on learning where students will spend most of their time at a teaching and research farm.

So far, the course has attracted about a dozen confirmed enrollments, with another seven or eight waiting in the wings to get the proper accreditation for entry. Mullinix said they need just 15 students to make the program work, so they're well on their away to achieving their target.

To learn more about this program, visit, or contact Dr. Kent Mullinix at