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The Crow’s Nest #4: The Farm and the Friends of That Farm

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Buckle up folks, it’s story time!

Today we’re talking about power.

Lukewarm take: universities have a power dynamic that’s upheld at the expense of their students. During my time in university, it seemed like the student body was constantly fighting for something. Fighting cuts to funding, fighting for divestment, fighting for mental health services, fighting for support for one on campus injustice or another. You couldn’t walk from the Mackinnon building to the University Centre without being asked to participate in rectifying one injustice or another. It always made me wonder, Why are there so many injustices happening on a university campus? Then I actually attended university for a few years and realized why: everybody here is directly profiting off the lunch money of a bunch of children who don’t know how to cook.

And by that I mean, universities are very much businesses and they very much act like it. Plus, not only are they businesses, they’re businesses that manufacture one of the most expensive and sought after luxury items in the world right now: A higher education. Unless you’re lucky, or you know somebody, or you were smart when you were 17 and you went into the trades, odds are that you probably need a degree of some kind for your career goals. University administrators know this. University boards know this. University investors know this! That’s why they come to your high schools and give seminars on why their school is the best. And you know what they say! The best is expensive. So please come to our school and give us your $50,000 tuition money so we can create an entire economy off of your desire for knowledge, success, wealth and community.

I know that most things are power dynamics and this isn’t exactly new or particularly insidious information. I’m not exactly trying to slander the education system here. I’m just trying to paint the picture of how universities have an incredible amount of power and a history of wielding it, at times, to the outcry of the students over which they hold power. Such is the nature of power.

This particular instance of injustice revolves around the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (or the Guelph Urban Organic Farm for short, or the GCUOF for shorter. We mostly just call it the farm). The farm sits unassuming on a hectare of land, once run by a lovely team of volunteers focused on providing food for the community, sound and respectful practices for the earth, and knowledge and education for anyone who followed the carrot arrows though campus to find them. That is, until that fertile, undeveloped land started looking less like a farm and more like an investment.

This is the part where we come to the injustices. U of G flexed its muscles and the farm is under new, very uncertain management. And unfortunately for all involved, this particular power struggle led to an incident that’s shocked the organic agriculture community of Guelph. And although we can’t talk about that incident in question, as there are ongoing investigations, we can tell you about what led up to the alleged assault of a volunteer at the farm. And we’re going to! Because it’s an important story to tell.

Support the Friends of the Farm here.

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The opinions expressed in this podcast, and all episodes of The Crow’s Nest, are those of the author, Thirza Armstrong, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Guelph Tool Library, their Board of Directors, or the Coordinator Team.