Applications are now open for the Comox Valley Market Gardener training, which runs from early spring until October 2020.
“The whole premise for it is looking at food security,” said Bob Haugen, manager of contract and training services for NIC’s Continuing Education department. “With the cost of fuel and the added carbon footprint of transporting vegetables from California to the Island, the cost-benefit analysis for local market gardening has never been stronger.”
The training will see students learn the fundamentals of greenhouse propagation, crop planning, soil and plant science, weed and pest control and irrigation technologies. Students will also learn business management, marketing and budgeting.
“In the Comox Valley, only about 30 per cent of arable land is being used to grow food,” said Haugen. “So there are huge opportunities here to build local food security and take advantage of a growing foodie culture already here in the valley. That’s what gets me excited about this program.”
The course is modelled after the approach of Jean-Martin Fortier, author of the award-winning book The Market Gardener — a handbook for small-scale, organic farming that has taken the world of agriculture by storm. The economic and social potential for market gardener farming means fertile ground – literally and figuratively – for new farmers in the industry.
By the end of the training, students will have completed a full cycle of farming and will have the skillset to immediately start their own ‘cash crop.’
“Ultimately, our students will be able to sell fresh produce throughout the season,” he added.
Market Gardener training has been running in Port Alberni since March in partnership with the Port Alberni Shelter Society. Students will continue farming land leased by the society once that program ends this fall.
Those interested in learning more are encouraged to attend the upcoming information session, which is happening at NIC’s Comox Valley campus on Oct. 29 from 6:30-7:30 pm. Pre-registration is required. For details, visit www.nic.bc.ca/market-gardener.