Island research farm transition continues

UBC's Faculty of Agricultural Sciences will support an Intensive Grazing Seasonal Production trial currently being proposed for the Oyster River Research Farm during the consolidation of the faculty's dairy cattle research at Agassiz.

The faculty has been working with the Vancouver Island Dairymen's Association and the B.C. Milk Marketing Board to leave infrastructure in place to support the grazing trial proposed by the Dairymen's Association and to be funded by Investment Agriculture. The trial is to help assess ecologically and economically sustainable grazing practices.

The faculty has agreed to retain cows, quota and staff to continue the grazing trial at Oyster River until Oct. 31.

Last November, the faculty announced that it is consolidating its dairy cattle research activities at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre at Agassiz as part of a recently established collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The need to develop significantly improved research infrastructure, focus limited resources, and the distance between the UBC campus and the farm are among the factors that prompted the reorganization.

"The critical mass of dairy cattle scientists at this site will help the faculty and its researchers to more effectively serve the needs of industry on the Island and throughout the province," said Dr. Jim Thompson, associate dean of research.

The Vancouver Island community has voiced its concern over the farm's future and proposals will be requested from the agricultural community during the next few months to develop a leasing arrangement for specific areas of the farm.

This request for proposals will be in parallel with a public process to discuss different models of community partnerships for the future of the farm that will allow the strengths of the community, its citizens, its public institutions, its industries and the university to support one another.

Current and possible expanded uses include:

Recently, there has been considerable interest in the farm for a variety of agricultural purposes -- from organic farming to dairying to viticulture to small niche market crops.

As part of the shift in the role of the farm, staff involved with the dairy operation have been given seven months' notice, and will continue to work until Oct. 31.

"Our dairy research has been in the process of consolidation since 1994 and our faculty has been in transformation since July 1997," said Moura Quayle, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

"It hasn't been easy to make some of the necessary changes for the faculty to more effectively contribute to agriculture in B.C. Despite the changes we are now making, we see Oyster River Farm as an incredible opportunity for partnering with and contributing to the community in new and innovative ways."