Sunday, August 20, 2017
Last updated: 2 years ago

Our Campus: Food sovereignty warrior Wendy Holm

Alexandra Downing/The Ubyssey

“Free time?” said Wendy Holm with a laugh. “Well, that’s an embarrassing question.”

Holm, a professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, has just come back from studying cooperative economics in Spain and is now hurrying to speak at the Occupy Vancouver site. Her work goes far beyond the classroom. The course Holm teaches at UBC takes place more than 2000 miles away from the actual campus—in the fields of Cuba, where her students learn about organic and cooperative agriculture.

Wendy Holm is more than just an instructor. She is a renowned economist and agrologist—a branch of soil sciences related to crop production—as well as a consultant on environmental and social issues.

Holm was born and raised in Long Island, and she would probably still be on the east coast if her parents hadn’t taken her on a trip to Vancouver. That’s where she fell in love with agriculture.

Ever since getting her MSc in agricultural economics from UBC, Holm has lived and worked in Canada. Now she is a naturalized Canadian citizen.

“The first time I drove through BC was when Trudeau was in cabinet, and I was really, really impressed with what he was doing,” she said. “I thought, ‘If I ever have kids, I want to raise them here.’ So, in six weeks from that first visit, I packed my life onto my TR4A and moved to Canada.”

But as time went by, Holm grew more and more disillusioned with Canadian agricultural policy.

“We used to treat our farmers with a lot of respect. They had real political power, they had support from the government. Now we treat them like dirt, and it is a critical concern to issues of food sovereignty, food security and sustainability.”

Holm admits that in her past life she probably was a farmer, but in her heart she has always felt like an educator. In 2005 this fortunate alignment brought her to UBC, where she developed the Cuba-based Land and Food Systems program.

According to Holm, Cuba can offer quite a few lessons of successful agricultural development.

“This course is about importance of cooperation and sustainable systems,” said Holm. “Cuba is a leader in the development of communities that cooperate and return economy back to the people.”

In case you are still not packing your shades and comandante T-shirts, Wendy Holm has one piece of timely advice.

“Don’t settle. Travel. Look outside of Canada and see what’s happening in the world. All is possible if you go for it.”

When not traveling, teaching or trying to save the world from food crisis, Wendy can be found fly fishing, or in her own words, “casting from a pebbly shoal in the middle of a river or in a canoe with the rod and the dog on an early morning.”