April 11, 2009

UBC Farm Trek: a huge, fantastic, musical success!

Save the Farm banner

Imagine, if you will, your favourite summer street festival or an indie parade. Add a joyous rallying cry, one amazing cause and 24 beautiful hectares of farmland in a wild corner of Vancouver. This mix of music festival and protest march made Tuesday’s Great Farm Trek to UBC Farm the highlight of my year so far, on the most gorgeous spring afternoon we could possibly hope for.

When I got off the bus at UBC, finding the Student Union Building wasn’t too difficult: I followed the drumming noises (percussion ensemble Sambata) and the hum of a thousand voices gathered in the square. I was pleasantly stunned to see how many people turned out.

The opening speaker began soon after I arrived. Ben recorded a video of the inspirational speech by Shane Pointe (Musqueam Nation). I recorded some of it but his view was better. The crowd exploded in cheers when he encouraged us. I fell into awe and silence during his song.

The gathering outside the SUB

Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace spoke, followed by James MacKinnon, co-author of The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Ben recorded those too. (You’ll see me sometimes in the bottom left corner, crouched on the grass, in a grey hoodie and jeans.)

James MacKinnon at UBC Farm Trek

After closing statements, the trek was underway, following a route completely unfamiliar to me, but that was ok, because I was following about 1500 other people. The crowd was made up of mostly young people, university age, but according to Eric, many if not most were not from UBC. Some dressed up in costumes, including the musicians of the Carnival Band (some of whom were dressed up as farm animals) which was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. It felt amazing to be walking with all these smiling people to such upbeat, fun music, in the warm sunshine and natural setting.

The Carnival Band performs at UBC Farm Trek

Musicians march

We neared the farm to the sound of a fiddle and a flute playing Celtic music, which I usually find intoxicating. I had some time to wander around the farm on this inaugural visit. There was little growing yet but I identified kale, a green I’ve been enjoying very much the last few months. The garden was charming, especially the cheeky sign, “Here be slugz.” A young woman asked a boy, around the age of 13, to describe his involvement in the garden. He explained his group tended to this particular plot. I don’t recall what his group was named, but he was able to easily list off what he was growing there. Some young adults showed up later (18 to 20-year-olds) and I found it heartwarming to see young guys hanging out in a garden. I found that fairly unexpected, so that was fantastic.

Here be slugz!

The Agora String Band had an extended set that got a bunch of folks on their feet dancing while the rest of us watched. I loved the community atmosphere and festival feeling. The band on later, Blackberry Wood, had the whole slope dancing, bouncing around, which was a sight to watch and I eventually participated a little on the sideline. At dusk they were still rocking out and I wished so badly that my camera battery hadn’t died! It was a highlight of the evening, just watching 20 or 30 people having a blast to this great music, after sundown. I couldn’t believe I was enjoying such a beautiful day on a Tuesday night in April, playing hackey sack (or footbag as he prefers to call it) with Ben and some dude named George, at this unique and somewhat distant location. I was euphoric for quite some time. I’m awful at hackey sack and am still sore from all the day’s events, but it was worth it and tons of fun. Ben’s juggling fit in well with the circus song and I tried my hands at it again. Not too shabby! No photos as proof, unfortunately, but maybe next time.

Dancing at the Farm

I think photos speak more than words, so I’ll let those do the talking now and just conclude by saying the Farm Trek was AWESOME and unforgettable. Thank you to everybody who came out, and to the organizers especially. There was confidence expressed that we have succeeded in getting attention for the value of the Farm, as demonstrated by a metal sign that did not exist when we marched in. Thank you also to the musicians for their stellar performances. See more photos, learn more about the campaign to save the farm, and watch David Suzuki’s video address at the UBC Farm Blog.

UBC Farm

You can see all my photos (nice and big!) on Flickr. And if YOU were there, send me a link to your photos and/or video and/or blog post about it. I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

UBC Farm Flickr group

Press coverage from Ubyssey.ca