Guiding Principles: Cultivating Place

Cultivating Place

Guiding Principles: Cultivating Place


In a world straining under the weight of human development, UBC has a unique opportunity and a responsibility to model the kind of sustainable communities that we all must urgently adopt. UBC has the resources, both physical and intellectual, to find ways for people and nature to thrive together – indefinitely. If humans on the global scale are to reduce our footprint, support the ecosystems that nourish us, and make room for that which is wild, good and sustaining in the natural world, we first have to learn how to do so in microcosm. That microcosm is rooted in the UBC Farm[1].

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This Academic Plan is a visionary document. It is not simply a word map to enhance a particular patch of land, but rather, an ambitious plan to weave a culture of sustainability, rooted in stewardship of place, into the intellectual and physical fabric of the University. The idea is not merely to bring more of UBC’s intellectual resources to the productive fields and forests of South Campus. It is to cultivate a Place of Mind: to plant, nurture and harvest the elements of integrated social, economic and ecological sustainability in every aspect of what we do, in our fields, our labs, our classrooms, and our extended communities[2].

The plan rises naturally from the year 2000 initiative to reinvent the UBC Farm, a living laboratory that we are fortunate to have retained from the days when agriculture, one of UBC’s first faculties, was also one of its principal pursuits. This document, from the South Campus Academic Planning Committee, updates and expands that vision. It also integrates with UBC’s Sustainability Academic Strategy and, honouring our place on traditional Musqueam territory, UBC’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan. Finally, Cultivating Place arises from the UBC Board of Governors’ December 2008 directive to develop an “academically rigorous and globally significant” plan for the 24-ha area on South Campus addressing issues of sustainability. This document aims to provide a vision for academic programming that uses this 24-ha site to its fullest. There is no better time to be shaping the future of this unique asset. The UBC Farm and its surrounding areas on South Campus provide UBC with both a head start and a distinct advantage in meeting its commitments and aspirations to be a world leader in sustainability.

In the short term, this is a five-year work plan that will ensure that our land-based assets have the academic, social, and cultural integration – and the high-level support – necessary to reach their full potential. In the longer term, this plan will serve as a sustainability guarantee embedded in the integration of land, laboratories, and life at UBC. As academic and social needs continue to drive development in and around the physical Farm, this document will serve as a touchstone that ensures development always occurs in a way that preserves and improves the quality and capacity of the land, and the integrity and viability of the ecological systems and social networks embedded within and around it. This will provide ongoing and far-reaching opportunities for cutting-edge sustainability learning, research, and innovation.

Cultivating Place was prepared by a 12-member south campus academic planning (SCAP) committee, established at the direction of UBC Provost David Farrar in April 2009. Representing eight UBC Faculties, the committee met every 2 weeks through the summer of 2009 to develop this plan.

In a parallel process, a committee co-chair sat as a member of the sustainability academic strategy working group (SAS-WG) to maintain strong links between the two planning processes. The SCAP co-chairs collected and reviewed nearly a decade of formal and informal planning and consultation work focused on the UBC Farm, including student theses, internal vision documents and program strategic plans, external academic reviews, public feedback from consultation during the various campus planning processes, technical studies, and the substantial body of work created as part of a large public design and visioning workshop held in November 2008.

Once the committee began meeting in April, further feedback was collected and reflected through the SAS community consultations, comment boards at public and student events, and through online comments on specific sections of the draft plan.

During the month of August 2009, a draft version of the plan was shared with selected stakeholders for further comment. The committee aimed to ensure that the plan reflected the academic goals of their particular Faculties as well as the university as a whole.

Cultivating Place was developed by the south campus academic planning committee as a visionary document that portrays, in broad strokes, future academic activity centered on south campus. As described in the their terms of reference, the committee will continue to function to develop specific implementation strategies for this over-arching plan.


The UBC Farm and surrounding areas on South Campus will be a world-class academic resource and a central part of UBC’s sustainability aspirations, enabling UBC to explore and exemplify new globally significant paradigms for the design and function of sustainable communities and their ecological support systems.


To enable UBC to be a global leader in the creation of new patterns for sustainable and healthy communities integrated with their surrounding ecology, through exemplary, academically rigorous research, through transformative learning, through innovative cross-faculty and interdisciplinary collaboration, through socially responsible community engagement, and through international dialogue and knowledge-dissemination.

Guiding Principles

To implement this vision and mission, Cultivating Place is committed to creating an innovative living laboratory and a crucible for social change on South Campus. Within these cross-cutting themes, this initiative will:

A Living Laboratory
  • Strive to demonstrate ways of understanding society’s reliance on ecological systems as well as ways of enhancing this relationship while promoting cultural and biological diversity, regeneration and resilience, and improving land productivity and stewardship practices;
  • Develop global best practices in the full range of ecosystem services, from provision (food, fibre, fuel, habitat, etc.) through end-product (waste, greenhouse gas) transformation and storage;
An Agent of Social Change
  • Cultivate knowledge in every aspect of sustainable practice and use that knowledge to enrich the UBC academic experience and to build sustainability literacy, locally, regionally and globally;
  • Provide an academically rigorous and environmentally healthy venue for inquiry and the intellectual space to share different ways of knowing, and, through activities physically rooted on South Campus, create and disseminate models for social engagement that generate innovation and that build bridges across perspectives, generations, and cultures;
  • Collaborate with community partners, governments, and other institutions in exploring and defining global best practices to support healthy and sustainable living.

UBC is committed and positioned to be a leader in creating exceptional learning environments that foster global citizenship, advance sustainable societies, and support outstanding research. This academic plan is a critical component to realizing this vision. Its time is now. With UBC’s far-reaching commitment to sustainability, the ground is fertile to allow this bold idea to grow and flourish into a truly unique and globally relevant resource.

As many respected universities scramble to find suitable land to address fundamental connections among land, community, and health, UBC is fortunate to already have this critical piece of the infrastructure puzzle in place. Through the enhancement of this true living laboratory, UBC will be able to create, test, and promote new paradigms of how we view and live within the ecosystems that support us. South Campus will serve as an effective agent of change to both local and distant communities through advancing sustainability agendas, increasing public literacy, and reconnecting people with place.

Within economic constraints, bold ideas are often lost due to the preconceived notion that bold equals expensive, however, this is not the case for this plan. This fiscally responsible plan builds on the many successful self-funded initiatives already established at the UBC Farm. In the longer term, targeted development campaigns will help to provide the resources for an economically sustainable future.

Integrating into themes articulated in the Sustainability Academic Strategy and the Aboriginal Strategic Plan, the recommendations of this plan encapsulate a unique and broad-reaching way for the university to showcase its innovation in sustainability research and learning and its commitment to community service. Creating opportunities for all disciplines to engage in handson, place-based learning on key sustainability issues, Cultivating Place will help to truly cultivate UBC as A Place of Mind.

[1] “UBC Farm” and the “Farm” (uppercase) are used throughout this plan to refer both to (i) a place, bounded by the 24-ha designated academic reserve land on South Campus and (ii) the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, an academic centre within the Faculty of Land and Food Systems that has been primarily responsible for the delivery of academic programming that is directly linked to activities at the physical UBC Farm. The “Centre for Sustainable Food Systems” name has not been used extensively in this document, as there is recognition from the committee that the Centre’s name could be expanded to encompass the breadth of activity associated with the Farm.

[2] This explicit aim to expand the scope of South Campus’ academic programs is captured in the term “Cultivating Place.” This plan, its call to action, and the initiatives that stem from its recommendations will be referred to throughout this document as Cultivating Place(italics).