Close crop of young woman harvesting

Research

The Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (GCUOF) was created in 2008 at the University of Guelph. The vision was of a one-hectare farm that would provide hands-on learning for students interested in planting, tending and harvesting crops manually using organic principles. 
Today, the farm is the field classroom for Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) students including students in the B.Sc.(Agr) Organic Agriculture major.

A living laboratory

This is the place where Guelph students from across disciplines come to cultivate and share a ‘sustainability’ mindset. The GCUOF is also the living laboratory for many research projects. Students from across disciplines come to the farm to learn about sustainable urban food production, heritage seed production, permaculture, food security, fair trade and year-round food production. The produce is served at P.J.'s Restaurant on campus. Wondering what research has been happening at GCUOF? Check out this blog post by master's student Paul Wartman on research happening at the farm >

GCUOF students and researchers recently prepared research posters for the Guelph Organic Conference. Here are just a few of the prepared posters:


Food Forests: The Future of Agriculture

This reseach project is by master's student Paul Wartman with the purpose of determining the effects of perennial polyculture forest gardens on soil fungal and bacterial communities and apple tree growth. The project's advisory committee, includes: Dr. Rene Van Acker, Dr. Ralph Martin and Dr. Kari Dunfield.

Why?
Current food production systems are heavily dependent on fossil fuel-based inputs, which contribute to environmental degradation. Forest gardens are perennial polycultures designed to create self-supporting systems for increased productivity and biodiversity.

What is being done?
This study is measuring the effects that functionally diverse, perennial polycultures have on the soil fungal and bacterial communities, as well as apple tree growth. Four understory treatments—(1) mowed-sod, (2) mowed-sod with compost, (3) forest garden, and (4) forest garden with compost—have been applied in three newly established apple orchards. The forest garden treatments consist of 10 functional species, including nitrogen fixers, dynamic nutrient accumulators, secondary human-edible crops, and season-long nectar sources. Measurements will be taken on soil mycorrhizal and bacterial communities, soil physical and chemical properties, and apple tree growth.

What is predicted?
We hypothesize that increased functional plant diversity will increase the diversity of soil fungi and bacteria.

Implications
Increased diversity of functional perennial plants provides great opportunity to reduce the amount of external inputs, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and mechanization, required for food production management, which means climate change mitigation and environmental regeneration. Mixed markets of high-yielding perennial crops provide economic resiliency for farmers, as well as a local, sustainable choice for consumers.

For more information contact Paul via email at wartmanpaul@gmail.com 
 


The Good Season: Easy recipes for wild edibles

During the summer of 2013, the authors of a cookbook for edible wild plants were harvesting wild plants at the GCUOF.  Michelle Arseneault was identifying plant features and taking photographs, while Michelle Carkner was dreaming up recipes and harvesting the ingredients.  The book was released as an eBook in the spring of 2014.  The creative project was supported by the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph.

A cover photo of the book called "The Good Season" showing a chickweed ricotta tart

Available for purchase:

Book Description: 

Why is it a Good Season? With wild edibles growing everywhere, there is always something to harvest!  Are the recipes delicious? Absolutely.  As you turn the pages you can almost hear the food sizzling and smell the wonderful aromas. We couldn’t stop eating. We share in the excitement of lamb’s-quarters beef burgers, dandelion fettucine, and chickweed tart. These are just some of the dishes with which you’ll enjoy with your friends and family.

We’ll introduce these new wild edibles using clear, colourful photos. We’ll show you how to identify, tell you when to pick, and how to harvest.

Click here to visit The Good Season website for more information >


The wonders of worms

The vermicomposting initiative collaborative, is a hands-on research and learning initiative by the Guelph Worm Composting Network (GWCN). The GWCN is a local group looking to increase collective knowledge about vermicomposting through knowledge sharing and community research projects, and to remove barriers to vermicomposting.

Carolyn Chan, Ingrid Sorenson and Jesse Agar are running an experimental vermitrench at the GCUOF this summer. Buckets of food scraps are collected from the UC Level 0 cafeteria and the McLaughlin Library Williams Coffee Pub once a week and carted to the on-campus organic farm, where they are fed to a trench full of red wiggler worms. Vermicomposting trenches are said to be low maintenance, low risk (of nuisances or worm deaths) and unobtrusive relative to other common designs. The group hopes to use the experiences gained this summer to help design and operate future systems. The high-quality compost will be used by the GCUOF to grow food, and the worms can be used to start new vermicomposting systems.

300 lbs of kitchen scraps have been diverted from the landfill so far (from May 1- July 3), but kitchen staff estimate that during the school year this quantity of compostable waste is generated and landfilled every day. GWCN is hoping to expand its pickups in the coming months with the help of new volunteers. The group is also running a decentralized breeding project over the summer, where members start indoor systems with relatively small numbers of worms and measure the increase in population over time.

For more information on the Guelph Worm Composting Network contact guelphwormnetwork@gmail.com or visit http://guelphwormnetwork.wordpress.com


University of Guelph composts coffee grinds - thanks to students

The coffee composting program is a student led initiative, supported by the sustainability office and local Guelph coffee shops.

Student volunteers walk the green carts full of grounds to a special storage room on campus. Every week students transport the grounds to the GCUOF. Since last summer we've collected 4.5 tones of filters and grounds. With 2.4 tones being collected this past winter semester from Williams in the library, Pages above the bookstore and Second Cup in the science complex. We've recently started collecting the grounds from the Bullring and are planning to expand to the Macks in Mackinnon.

So if you see someone walking a green cart across campus give them a smile and please to hold the door. For more information contact recycle@pr.uoguelph.ca

Snap peas and pollinator on blossom


If you would like to know about research projects taking place at the GCUOF, contact:

Professor Peter Pauls
Chair, Department of Plant Agriculture
ppauls@uoguelph.ca
519-824-4120 Ext. 53386