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Community-Based Research

Community-based researchers working in vegetable garden.

Community-Based Research

Trent University Masters Student Proposes a Farm Incubator for Peterborough

This graduate degree means getting your hands dirty

When you hear the word “incubator” you might not immediately think “farm” – but that’s what Willow Denis thinks.

She has been thinking so much about it that she decided to move to Peterborough from Ottawa to go back to school after working in veterinary medicine for eight years. Now in her first-year of the masters program in Sustainable Studies at Trent, Willow is proposing a unique start-up business for the Peterborough area – a farm incubator.

“I proposed a farm incubator in Peterborough as a collaborative project between Trent and the agricultural community as a means of creating space for new farmers,” she says. “Peterborough is uniquely situated to fill this gap as there is a vibrant agricultural history, a desire at the community level to create and support a localized food system, and formal institutional training in sustainable agriculture and food systems here at Trent.”

Creating Opportunities for Aspiring Farmers

A farm incubator, in a nutshell, is a piece of farmable land subdivided into small spaces leased to new farmers at below market prices to provide a space for them to enact their business plan with reduced risk, while also providing equipment sharing and mentorship in collaboration with existing farmers.

“Formal education in sustainable agriculture and food systems provides the theoretical knowledge base, but does not expose students to the complex ecological, social and economic aspects of life on a farm,” she says, adding that her research focuses on the creation of opportunities to help aspiring farmers acquire the place-based knowledge they need to get into local agriculture.

Designing her own Education

The BC native says coming to Trent was about getting the place-based knowledge she needs to succeed. “I saw this as a way to create my own path towards experiential learning, while also working towards the creation of more opportunities for future students in the sustainable agriculture field.”

Willow has had numerous experiences on campus working in food production. Currently she

coordinates a project that involves growing food on campus and at a local elementary school to grow vegetables to donate to local community support organizations, while also providing garden education on food literacy and food security to elementary students.

Learn more about the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program at Trent.

Posted on June 14, 2018