The following outlines the infrastructure needs of the agricultural and ecological programs that will take place on the land.
Please note all dates are approximate and any reference to the Agricultural Learning Centre is just a reference as this is the working name of the space/building. A more accurate and official name will be given in time.
Agricultural Learning Centre
Scheduled Completion: September 30, 2018
The student’s 4-season learning facility, referred to at this point as the “Agricultural Learning Centre”, is located to the west of the pond. Given the building’s passive-solar design, the length of the building sits on a true east-west axis and the south wall contains the majority of the windows. The roof’s overhang in relation to the south windows is designed to capture the sun’s heat and light in the winter, but to exclude these in the summer.
This building functions as an orientation, learning and work space for students. It contains a 900 sq. ft. open-concept classroom with a kitchen and wood heat source. Moveable tables and chairs will accommodate a variety of hands-on learning projects and events. The facility hosts washrooms, a small office, storage spaces and a walk-in cooler for the vegetable harvests.
The Agricultural Learning Centre provides students a place to gear-up for all weather conditions, given the ample mud room at its entrance. The west side of the facility is designed with an overhanging roof and cement floor to allow students to wash, bunch and bag produce which they harvest from the field and greenhouse.
The Centre aims to support learning opportunities from field to table, thus the kitchen serves as space for learning about food processing and for preparing and sharing meals made with produce grown on the land.
We anticipate constructing a greenhouse adjacent to the Agricultural Learning Centre, an important asset for growing vegetables in our short season. Our first greenhouse may be a standard hoop house. However, we plan to construct a more permanent passive solar greenhouse, a structure with a solid north, east and west wall, and glazed south face. The north wall is a thermal wall which collects and stores heat from the day which is then radiated at night. These greenhouses have capacity to allow for 4-season growing and have been constructed and tested in and for our climate in Manitoba.
We plan for a small garage to store agricultural equipment, tools, irrigation and greenhouse supplies. This structure would be accessible by the trail road on the west end of the property and would be in close proximity to the Agricultural Learning Centre, centralizing our agricultural chores.
Agricultural and Ecological Land Stewardship Plan
The following outlines our anticipated timeline for our actions contributing to land stewardship. These initiatives are our first avenues for teaching related to ecology, agriculture and agri-ecology, soil restoration, prairie restoration and identifying traditional and native plant species.
- Prescribed Burn of Ditch (Spring 2019)
The ditch on 3 sides of the property hosts at least a dozen native species. In spring of 2018, a controlled burn would strengthen the native species presence and reduce the number of invasive species (weeds). Strengthening the native species in the ditch will establish a biodiverse buffer strip around our property and will become a space for future native seed collection and plant identification.
- Site 1: Vegetable and Edible Crops
Adjacent to the Learning Centre, this ~2-acre area is designated for food production both in-field and in-greenhouse. In 2018, this area will be affected by pathway construction, and therefore it will be managed by cultivation to control weeds until construction is completed. Should time allow for late season seeding, this area will be seeded with a cover crop (example: fall rye). The cover crop would be terminated and turned under in 2019 to expose the growing area. Any un-used agricultural areas will remain under cover crop and green manure as a measure to improve soil health.
- Site 2: Native Grass Seed Crop (Fall 2018)
Our Tall Grass Prairie is endangered, less than 1% of the ecosystem remains today. An area of approximately 5 acres will be sown to 1 native grass species. Native grass and forb seed are in limited supply in Manitoba. Once the stand is established, it is our goal is to harvest this seed and contribute to the supply of local ecotype, prairie seed in Southern Manitoba.
- Site 3: Wetland (Fall 2018)
The 1.5 acre triangular area on the extreme west side of the property may pose some challenges as it is wetter and more saline than other areas. This area will be encouraged to return to wetland habitat, as has occurred in the north side of our property boundary.
- Site 4: Native seed and conventional cover crops, 17 acres (Fall 2018)
As our entire parcel of land would benefit from improved soil health, cover crops will begin to rebuild the soil and will simultaneously combat weeds. Perennial, native cover crops are best suited to our prairie soils. They have deep, soil stabilizing roots which build organic matter into soil. Native species also establish habitat for local insects and wildlife. A suggested native species cover crop for our site would likely contain Big Bluestem, Purple Prairie Clover and Narrowleaved Sunflower. Difficult sites will be sown to conventional cover crops and forages until the land is better understood for its moisture and salinity challenges.
- Tree Planting: for biodiversity, shelterbelts and demonstration
Aside from the Tree Nursery installation and landscaping efforts, additional plans exist to plant trees for shelter, wildlife and/or demonstrations. However, these plans will be postponed to 2019 and beyond as we would like to understand the land better (moisture and salinity) prior to making such commitments.