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Trent Research: Get Your Hands Dirty

At Trent University, we believe some of the best learning takes place by doing.

Trent Research: Get Your Hands Dirty
Trent Research: Get Your Hands Dirty

Through experiential education and hands-on research opportunities, students are encouraged to get their hands dirty working in the field, alongside their professors.

Our internationally-recognized faculty members ask big questions, and work with their students, to find the answers. In the laboratory, lecture hall, library, or out in the field, students test their own theories and gain incredible insight. They build relationships and connect to community; and reap the rewards of our unique collaborative learning environment.

Real-life learning - on the farm

Sinking their hands into the soil of Trent’s groundbreaking Sustainable Agriculture Experimental Farm, professors and students are taking learning to a whole new level.

The farm, a 33-acre living laboratory located right on Trent’s Symons Campus, was started by Dr. Mehdi Sharifi, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Agriculture, and a professor in the new Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program.

Prof. Sharifi and his students work together to cultivate the land and have exceptional hands-on experiences, as they work to advance the study of sustainable agriculture in real-time.

Underway at the farm, are studies examining the viability of new crops to Canada. And soon, Prof. Sharifi hopes to expose his students to all aspects of sustainable agriculture, including production, social, economic and environmental elements.  

These, are the links from farm to table; and it's this type of real-life research, we simply cannot live without. 

"Most conventional agriculture educational programs focus on food production, but the marketing, social and environmental sustainability aspects may be missing. These are what we bring into play with this program and the experimental farm."

Dr. Mehdi Sharifi, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Agriculture and manager of the experimental farm

Challenge the way we think about what we eat

Professors and their students, along with local farmers, and public- and private-sector partners, are working to challenge the way we think about the food we eat. Now these, are studies with significance.

  • Quinoa is a crop that's relatively new to Ontario, and while research shows it's viable, it has its challenges. There are two varieties growing on the farm. Prof. Sharifi and Trent alumnus, and president and CEO of Katan Kitchens, Jamie Draves have partnered to explore an array of approaches for improving organic quinoa production in the province.

It is Prof. Sharifi's hope, that the quinoa will be harvested and served on campus at organic vegetarian cafes.

  • As our country becomes more multicultural, the demand for new and non-traditional vegetables increases. Trent is part of a large project examining the viability of new crops production in Ontario.

The ethnic produce project, in partnership with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and Greenscience Technologies Inc., sees new and non-traditional vegetables like okra, round and long eggplants, and Chinese and Thai peppers planted organically using worm castings or local green bin compost on the farm.

  • In partnership with the Grain Farmers of Ontario and several local farmers, Prof. Sharifi and his research team including his graduate students and his postdoctoral fellow are growing corn, soybean and wheat, looking to optimize nitrogen fertilizer recommendations in Ontario.

"As an alum, I always wanted to go back and work with Trent University."

Jamie Draves, president and CEO of Katan Kitchens

Hear from our students...

  • "Helping out on the experimental farm gives depth to what I learn in the lectures and readings - it’s an extension to the classroom. "

Rachel Kuzmich is a second-year student in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program, and assists as a volunteer on the farm. She's interested in the redesign of cities to integrate agriculture, having lived in an urban centre where "so much" food is required.

  • "Getting hands-on experience in the field, interacting with farmers and being exposed to the reality of what it takes to feed people is an essential experience for anyone intending to work in agriculture." 

Anisah Madden is a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems student and summer research intern, who is interested in food sovereignty and rural communities   in an international context. She is learning Spanish, hoping to further her studies in Latin America.

  • "I wouldn't refer to soil as dirt, as it is so much more than that. One teaspoon of soil contains over one billion microorganisms, and is the foundation of life on our planet."

Jessica Stoeckli is protective of our soil, as she studies sustainable agriculture, organic farming and soil science as part of the Environmental and Life Sciences M. Sc. program. She grew up on an organic dairy farm and saw first-hand the challenges farmers face.

Learn from the leaders

  • Canada Research Chairholders (CRCs) are some of the world's most accomplished and promising minds, and Trent is proud to have 11 on faculty. Read about Prof. Sharifi and his fellow CRCs here.
  • Trent prides itself on its multidisciplinary approach, and our researchers not only collaborate with their students, but with each other.

Prof. Sharifi established the first sustainable agriculture laboratory in Eastern Ontario, funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. His research focuses on refining nutrient management practices within agroecosystems, to increase food production and improve environmental sustainability. These studies align with the work of researchers at the Water Quality Centre, the Institute for Watershed Science, the James McLean Oliver Ecological Centre and the Canadian Centre for Environmental Modelling and Chemistry. Trent’s Microenvironmental Laboratory and the Trent Centre for Biomaterials Research also complements Prof. Sharifi’s research.

Eat Fresh On Campus

It's typical for living and learning to come together for our students on campus.

  • The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program and Trent's new foodservice provider, are planning for a partnership. On the menu? An array of fresh produce grown on the experimental farm - to be served up on campus.
  • Trent proudly supports its student-run cooperative café, The Seasoned Spoon. The Spoon serves produce that is purchased from local farmers and grown in the vegetable gardens on campus, and offers healthy food that's affordable for students.

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

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