WindReach Farm and Durham College grow together

Kate Bird, CEO of WindReach Farm with one of the farm's goats, Al.
Kate Bird, CEO of WindReach Farm with one of the farm’s goats, Al.

Durham College students have been growing a variety of plants in the fields at WindReach Farm since May. A recently signed memorandum of understanding will see the two continue to collaborate in the future.

WindReach, a charitable farm on Town Line Road in Ashburn, has allotted nearly an acre of land to the Horticulture – Food and Farming program to use. Since late spring students have grown 32 different plants on the plotted land at WindReach ranging in variety from numerous lettuces, tomatoes, brussel sprouts and cabbages among other vegetables.

Durham College and WindReach have had an ongoing relationship with students taking their field placement at the farm. The agreement will now see the two work together on a broader scale.

“Their staff that work there have really supported the project,” said Susan Todd, the Dean of School of Science and Engineering Technology at Durham College.

On top of the land provided, as part of the agreement WindReach staff will be providing their expertise as well as access to needed equipment, storage and facilities.

Durham College opened a new building at the Whitby campus in the fall of 2013 called the Centre For Food (CFF). The food grown and harvested at WindReach will be used at Bistro ’67, a campus restaurant that is education-based while giving culinary hands-on cooking experience in a real restaurant setting. The restaurant’s menu focuses on the field-to-fork concept, which aims to inspire community growth by supporting locally grown food from neighbouring farmers.

“It’s really an area that we need young people to get involved in. Horticulture is the roots of everything about how it grows and the science of growth and pesticides and things like that, but the food and farming is about more of a local slant on embracing agriculture,” said Todd.

WindReach also holds a unique standing among other farms with the fact that it is completely accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities as well as being a non-profit organization.

“It was really nice for us to have a working farm, that was generating crop so all of our visitors when they came up actually had agri-food education as part of their tour,” said Kate Bird, CEO of WindReach Farm.

“Here it’s a very different program, it’s outdoors and around animals, so it’s just a unique opportunity,” said Bird. “We started talking about the food and farming students because, we’ve got a farm and we’ve got a lot of land. I know Durham College has land there but this is sort of more an authentic experience.”

Durham College has plans in the works to further develop its land at the Whitby campus to continue boosting the CFF and field-to-fork program.

There are only two students working at WindReach farm this year, although there are 18 students in the first year Food and Farming program. Durham College projects to have more than 20 students at WindReach next year.