Volken Academy breaks ground

on new farm Farm to provide work experience for those in addiction recovery


always wanted to own a farm. Now, with the launch of the John Volken Academy Farm in Langley Township, his wish has come true. The groundbreaking

ceremony for the first bison and water buffalo farm in Langley was held July 2 with sponsor Avenue Machinery Corp. and others on hand to support the initiative. The 108-acre farm in the

Agricultural Land Reserve will take about three years to reach full production and will feature a number of

advanced farming techniques with up to 75 bison, 100 water buffalo and 20 Jersey cows. Water buffalo and Jerseys will share the same robotic milking system, according to farm operator Marc Vance.

The farm will include a

dairy processing facility and a small retail operation to sell the farm’s products (including bison and water buffalo meat), as well as a park. It will also feature a 4,000-

square-foot hydroponic grass- growing system similar to the one at Bakerview EcoDairy in Abbotsford but three times larger. The academy’s system will produce 10,000 pounds of barley chop annually using recycled water. This is the equivalent of 60 acres of irrigated pasture in the Fraser Valley, says Vance. The farm will use rotational grazing to feed livestock

during spring, summer and fall, and supplement their grass diet with the hydroponically grown forage. They will also produce a

hay crop. “Sprouted barley fodder is such a nutrient-dense feed that we need to produce a hay crop as well to provide roughage,” explains Vance. “Each day, we will mix our hydroponically grown fodder with a relatively low-protein, high-fibre hay or haylage in our mixer wagon. That way we provide the most balanced grass-based diet possible. “In addition to the fodder and the grass hay,” he adds, “the mix will also have a small amount of straw, some dried kelp and a mineral pack specific to each species.” Barley chop is typically high in protein and the operation will be working with a nutritionist to ensure the best rations for the livestock. The farm has quota for its

Jerseys through the BC Milk Marketing Board’s Cottage Industry Program, but that product must be processed into non-liquid milk products (such as cheese and yogurt). That part of the operation remains in the planning stages. Vance expects to milk about 30 of the water buffalo and all 20 Jerseys.

Significant investment The farm is an ambitious

undertaking representing an investment estimated at more than $20 million.

Attract Pollinators to Your Farm


Local and provincial politicians, staff from Avenue Machinery and well-wishers joined John Volken, sixth from right, to break ground on a new dairy farm in Langley that will also serve to help students in the John Volken Academy’s addiction recovery program. RONDA PAYNE PHOTO

“We are creating a fourth

or fifth-generation modern farm operation, but we’re literally doing it in three years,” explains Vance. He currently raises water buffalo in Black Creek on Vancouver Island where he has 120 animals. Some genetics for Academy Farm will come from his herd as well as from Italy. While Vance and his wife Lisa will be full-time farmers in Langley at the academy, their oldest daughter Maddie will tend to the Black Creek operation. Unlike a traditional dairy,

Academy Farm will also provide work experience to students in the John Volken Academy’s addiction recovery program. “Animals are so sensitive

it’s very therapeutic,” says Volken. “We’re going to have some of our students work here.” Avenue Machinery

marketing manager Darrell Bedford says the company is excited to help establish a new farm and provide opportunities for those recovering from addiction. Avenue and Kubota have provided the academy with

preferred pricing on equipment. “We want to throw our

weight behind helping people kick addiction … and put a stamp on agricultural growth in a time of agricultural reduction,” says Bedford.

Langley Township mayor

Jack Froese broke ground with a gold shovel mounted on the front of a Kubota excavator. “We see farming moving

out,” Froese told Volken in his remarks. “It’s really nice to see a farm coming in that’s as innovative as yours.”

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