Every Saturday morning, Nicole Burton and Kohl Küntz wake up before the sun even rises, head up to campus, fill the Trent Geography van with vegetables, and drive it down to the Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Market where they spend the day selling what they’ve harvested to the community. Burton and Küntz work at The Trent Market Garden (TMG), a hidden gem of Trent’s Symons Campus, located in the Trent Experimental Farm on the fields behind the DNA Building.
The Trent Market Garden is a project initiated by the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS) Society as “a student-run social enterprise that utilizes holistic, and agro-ecological practices” to create an “experiential learning environment and thriving food production hub that is operated by and for the university community.”
During the 2018-19 academic year, the SAFS Society was reimagined and reinvigorated by a new group of students with a new mandate “centred around practicing agriculture, promoting food literacy and food justice, as well creating connections to the land and community.” The Trent Market Garden is just one way the group puts this mandate into practice.
Burton sees this aspect of the mandate as central to what the TMG does. “Outreach and interacting with the broader community is what we do here, because we do sell at the farmers’ market and this is a shared space with other people in the community.” The TMG shares space on the Trent Experimental Farm with the Nourish Project.
Like many student groups, one of the main challenges the Market Garden faces is a lack of knowledge transfer from cohort to cohort. Küntz explained that “Most of [his] thoughts are occupied with how to build beds and how to grow things. There’s nothing for [them] to go on.”
Burton elaborated, noting that “There’s no succession planning for this space at all, so there’s no sense of permanence… We didn’t know what they planted before, how they planted it, or if it worked.” But Burton and Küntz have been careful to keep records to ensure this issue does not persist.
Despite these challenges, the Trent Market Garden has had a successful year. It is a young, yet impressive farm. They’ve grown a wide variety of vegetables including tomatoes, chives, peppers, garlic, eggplant, and a plethora of greens, all the while using ecologically sound practices.
And while the garden is in its early adolescence, Burton and Küntz see its potential to grow. “If this place did have permanence and a plan and rotation, then it could actually make some money” Küntz told Arthur.
But its value goes beyond revenue. For these two young farmers, this summer job has been a unique opportunity to challenge themselves and learn a great deal in the process. Küntz told Arthur that he’s been working on farms since the age of 18, but always for someone else. The Trent Market Garden allows him to learn in an environment without the pressures of larger-scale farming. “It’s really nice to learn that I can do this stuff, and it works out, and things grow, without the real agrarian distress… People have to think about [agrarian distress] all the time, but I get to learn what I’m capable of.”
As the SAFS Society continues to grow, they are eager to foster this kind of informal, hands-on education through “establish[ing] permanence and to improv[ing] the use of the Trent Experimental Farms as a site for experiential learning across all disciplines.”
The collective is also undertaking the commitment to “extend and deepen our understanding of Indigenous food sovereignty and historic and ongoing settler colonialism in Canada in order to better act in solidarity with struggles for Indigenous resurgence and reclamation.”