Supporting Farm Worker Engagement Through Continuing Education
Pure Roots Urban Farms
Related Course Concepts
Food justice, Food security
Pure Roots Urban Farms
Mission and Vision of Organization
Mission: Connecting people to their food and their farmer while bringing pure, sustainable and nutrient rich foods to communities around the world. Vision: To make a positive global impact on the nutrition and availability of local produce in the most sustainable way possible.
Guiding Principles + Values
Sustainability, traceability, innovation, honesty, science
- Primary Contact Person(s): Lena Syrovy; Bailey Fischl
- Email: []; []
- Phone: (306)290-8786 (Lena cell)
- Address: 230-111 Research Drive, Saskatoon, SK
- Website: https://www.purerootsfarms.com/
Preferred Method of Contact
- Best method(s) to contact: Email
- Best day(s) to contact:Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays
- Best time(s) to contact: Mornings, Afternoons
Preferred Platform(s) for Remote Collaboration
- Email, Zoom
Horticultural crop production in Canada is highly dependent on temporary foreign workers, due in part to the short growing season, unpredictable hours, physically demanding nature, and relatively low financial compensation of the work. Shortages of farm labour endanger the horticulture industry, and provincial and federal campaigns like “Feeding your Future” and “Step up to the Plate” have emerged recently to attract Canadian workers to the fields since COVID-19 has limited the flow of temporary foreign workers. Creating and showcasing attractive jobs for local workers helps Canada’s horticultural industry buffer against labour shortages, ensuring we can continue growing produce domestically.
Highly skilled crop production workers are needed both in the short and long term, however the needs of the horticulture industry are changing over time. While production workers are an asset, horticultural labour is also an expense for farmers. Indoor and especially vertical farming has relatively high labour costs compared to outdoor farming, creating a price discrepancy between indoor-grown domestic, and outdoor-grown imported produce for consumers. Furthermore, the repetitive, physically demanding tasks that both outdoor and indoor farm workers often perform are increasingly being automated for both cost and food safety reasons. While there will always be a need for skilled growers, many future agricultural and horticultural jobs may lie in research, development, and application of automation and other technologies for food production, or provision of services relating to food and human health.
Pure Roots Urban Farms uses indoor, vertical aeroponic farming technology to grow vegetables and small fruits locally in urban centres, creating year-round, full-time jobs with stable working hours. Our first urban farm is planned in Surrey, BC. We aim to cultivate a workplace culture of engagement, curiosity, respect, and activism that will attract and retain employees who enjoy horticultural work. To assist with accomplishing this goal, we will provide skills-based training and experience in indoor crop production, while offering our staff opportunities to continue developing their career paths in an evolving industry. We are particularly interested in offering our employees optional food systems education to support them in:
- Developing broader awareness around issues of food system sustainability and community food security
- Examining their location in and contributions to regional and global food systems as a citizen and a Pure Roots employee
- Exploring future career possibilities in technology-based farming, agriculture, and food more broadly
Our learning management system currently hosts theme-based online modules we have created to train our workers to perform routine tasks such as seeding, harvesting, pollination, and pest monitoring. Through this LFS 350 project we are interested in complementing our existing skills-based training with broader food systems curricula, and exploring the possibility of supporting our workers’ individual interests with a special interest project. The new curricula would be delivered as a complete internship program and organized in such a way that our permanent employees could choose to study different components of the program virtually over time alongside their regular duties. We are aware that some farms already offer internships including learning modules and reflection components, and that there are some existing online learning resources about food systems and food justice.
Context: What challenge or issue does the project aim to address?
Pure Roots Urban Farms uses indoor vertical aeroponic growing methods to grow high quality pesticide-free vegetables and small fruits in urban areas year-round. Our aeroponic method reduces water and fertilizer inputs by 95 and 85% respectively while growing an equivalent amount of produce annually on less than 5% of the land compared with outdoor growing. Furthermore, kale grown on our planned farm in Surrey, BC will have a lower carbon footprint than outdoor-grown Chinese kale, with additional energy efficiency improvements planned based on the results of our community project with LFS 350 in January 2020. Our indoor farms can provide stable, year-round jobs for production workers, while most agricultural jobs are seasonal. Farm workers often perform repetitive, physically demanding tasks, however, and many agricultural production jobs are giving way to automation over time. At Pure Roots we aim to provide skilled, engaging, and enjoyable jobs, while assisting our workers with identifying and pursuing opportunities to grow while staying in the industry. We are interested in providing optional training to our workers to support them in: • Developing broader awareness around issues of food system sustainability and community food security • Examining their location in and contributions to regional and global food systems as a citizen and a Pure Roots employee • Exploring future career possibilities in technology-based farming, agriculture, and food more broadly Our learning management system currently hosts theme-based online modules we have created to train our workers to perform routine tasks such as seeding, harvesting, pollination, and pest monitoring. We are interested in complementing this existing skill-based training with broader food systems education. We would also like to explore the possibility of supporting our workers’ individual interests with a special interest project. The new curricula would be delivered as a complete internship program and organized in such a way that our permanent employees could choose to study different components of the program over time alongside their regular duties. We are aware that some farms already offer internships including learning modules and reflection components, and that there are some existing online learning resources about food systems and food justice.
Main Project Activities
The students working on this project will:
- Identify and critically examine internship or continuing education approaches on other farms
- Identify open source curricula, webinars, and other potentially relevant resources that could be used or adapted by Pure Roots
- Make recommendations for Pure Roots’ continuing education design plan
Expected Project Deliverable(s)
1. Written report with clear recommendations and list of existing relevant curricula,
2. Outline for module development next term
Intended Project Outcome
We will use the students’ recommendations to develop a specified number of learning modules on key topics in Term 2.
Student Assets and Skills (preferred or required)
- Interest in agriculture education, indoor farming, technology-based agriculture, community food security
Student Assets and Skills (to be developed through the project)
- Curriculum development
Are there any mandatory attendance dates (e.g. special event)?
Is a criminal record search (CRS) required?
If a criminal record search is required, when should the process be initiated?
Preferred Days of Week and Hours
Related Community Service Opportunities for Students
None at this time.
Project/Partner Orientation Materials
Students should review these materials prior to the first partner meeting:
- The following websites and videos:
- Pure Roots Urban Farms website: https://www.purerootsfarms.com/
- Video on Farm Boys Design Corp. with AgWest Bio (on development of the AeroPod indoor farming technology we use): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEgex3V553o
- Global news story (about the indoor farming technology): https://globalnews.ca/tag/farm-boys-design-corp/
Additional Project/Partner Orientation Materials
The following will be provided at the first community partner meeting:
- We will create a One Drive folder with additional information about Pure Roots and a virtual walk through of the planned farm in Surrey to share with the students.
I hope students will learn about...
- Existing farm worker continuing education programs, program contents, and delivery methods
I think students will come to appreciate...
- The pros and cons of different approaches to providing continuing education in agriculture
Through this project, students will develop...
- Recommendations for number of continuing education modules, topics, and delivery method(s) for development in term 2
How does the student project contribute to your organization's mission and long-term vision?
Helping us to cultivate a workplace culture of engagement, curiosity, respect, and activism. By offering the continuing education developed in this project we aim to support our workers in locating themselves as stakeholders in the food system and inform their decisions of how they participate in the short and long term. We hope this will help us to attract and retain employees who enjoy crop production work, while providing opportunities for them to develop their career paths into other related areas if they choose.
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