The Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture is an environmental and food systems non-profit in North Saanich, BC. They steward 83 acres of land owned by the District of North Saanich, and manage an on-site incubator farm, ecological restoration project, community garden, and several education programs.
Sandown works to support new-entrant farmers and increase awareness of regenerative practices in the larger community, with the understanding that regenerative agriculture is necessary to climate resilience and the creation of a sustainable food system.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The Regenerative Farmer Program at Sandown is a 3-year (renewable) term incubator model which includes land access, mentorship, and shared tools (including a BCS with implements, jang and earthway seeders and flame-weeder) and amenities (greenhouse space, wash/pack area and walk in cooler). The program supports new-entrant farmers, with less than five years of farming experience, to gain regenerative farming skills and launch their farm businesses.
Farmers in the program are expected to learn and adhere to regenerative practices, which include:
Keep the soil covered;
Minimize soil disturbance;
Maximize crop diversity;
Maintain a living root year round;
Understand the context of your farm operation.
Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are not allowed. Sandown is not certified organic but expect that organic standards are followed.
Sandown practice’s minimal tilling, and works to support farmers to learn how to apply regenerative practices to their farm plan. They encourage crop diversity, interplanting and hedgerows, and require farmers to cover-crop when possible. They expect participants to be involved and engaged in the community and the wider movement at Sandown as they grow their farm business.
ABOUT THE LAND
The Sandown Centre is located on the former site of the Sandown Horse Race Track, which included a racing track, grandstand and other accessory buildings, and gravel roads. The legacy of this history has resulted in significantly compacted soil and an excess of rock and gravel. The former gravel parking lot was not completely removed, and many of the farm plots have 2 or 3 10’ wide strips of discontinued road running through them. Farming here is not easy. But it can be done!
They have seen incredible improvement in the soil and biodiversity since they began in 2021. They are demonstrating that they can farm on marginalized land, and restore it while growing food. The implications of this research are incredibly significant, given the amount of degraded farmland there is today.
By farming at Sandown, you will learn how to restore soil. You will learn how to address the many challenges that come along with it, and that knowledge and skill will become invaluable as you grow as a farmer. One of their farmers said ‘farming at Sandown gave me the confidence and skill to know that I can farm anywhere’. That is no small thing, and it’s a message to keep close to your heart as you contend with thistle or pick rocks from your plot!
ABOUT THE PLOTS
Plot one: plot is ½ acre and has been in cultivation since 2021. The first farmer (Oloron Farm) utilized the southern half of the area to grow vegetable crops. In 2022, Fairweather Gardens took over and has been growing a diversity of annual vegetables, flowers, medicinal herbs, and dye plants. The previous farmers have made significant improvements to the land, through countless hours of rock picking, weeding, breaking up compaction, and a lot of compost. However, there is still work to be done.
The total plot dimensions are 100’ x 200’, with 100’ beds running east-west in the southern half of the plot. The northern half has been opened up fall 2023 and cover cropped, but has not seen crop cultivation.
Plot two: This market garden plot has been in cultivation since 2021, as part of the Regenerative Farmer Incubator Program. The current farmer of Frozen Coast Farm has been growing a diversity of annual vegetable crops in rotation. They have put in tremendous effort in restoring the soil through countless hours of rock picking, breaking up compaction through tillage and cultivation, addition of compost, compost teas and extracts, top soil, cover cropping/green mulching, etc.
The plot dimensions are 50’ x 200’, established in 4 blocks of 50’ raised beds with wood chip mulch permanent pathways.
If you are interested in applying to become part of the Regenerative Farmer Program at the Sandown Centre, please submit a one-page application answering the following questions:
Tell Sandown a bit about yourself and why you want to be a part of the incubator farm at Sandown
What is your existing farm business or plan for your farm business and previous experience?
What are your considerations for housing, financial investment, and time?
Please indicate if you are applying for the ¼ acre plot or the ½ acre plot.
Applications will remain open until midnight on December 10th, 2023. Shortlisted applicants will be notified by December 15th, 2023, and asked to provide a more detailed farm business plan to be submitted by January 5th, 2024. A framework/template will be provided by Sandown. Applicants who move beyond this more detailed application will then meet with the Executive Director, Farm Manager, and Community Engagement Manager. Successful applicants will be notified by January 15th, 2024.
Email your completed one page application to Sandown’s Farm Manager, Jenn Cline, at: firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to reach out if you have specific questions about the application.