University of the Fraser Valley horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau shows coffee cherries growing in the school’s greenhouses in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Growing coffee, tea, lemons and papayas right here in Chilliwack

‘Anything that is grown anywhere on the planet we can grow’

After University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau’s powerpoint presentation to her class about her latest project, students headed up to a coffee maker to get a cup.

Coffee in a university classroom, pretty normal.

But this is not your usual coffee, this is coffee that Charbonneau painstakingly harvested, prepared, dried, roasted, cooled, ground and then brewed.

All from beans grown right here in Chilliwack. The coffee Charbonneau brewed in class was likely some of the first ever grown in the Fraser Valley.

The coffee plants were grown in UFV’s high-tech greenhouses at the Chilliwack campus near the Vedder River.

“We can grow anything,” UFV associate professor of agriculture Tom Baumann says.

“Anything that is grown anywhere on the planet we can grow. We can control the environment completely. We can grow things cold. We can grow them hot. We can grow dry. We can grow humid.”

Inside the humid vertical greenhouse after sampling coffee in the classroom, Baumann shows visitors on a recent tour the coffee plants, which are growing alongside many other things you would not expect to see in the Fraser Valley let alone anywhere in Canada: papaya, guava, orange, lemon, tea.

“This is teaching opportunity for people that want to go other places than just Canada. The principles apply: If you have a greenhouse, you can control the environment you can do anything.”

As for the coffee, this isn’t the first time Baumann’s students have grown the plants but it is the first time a student was so proactive to process the beans.

University of the Fraser Valley horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau squeezes a bean out of the red skin of a coffee cherry. (Greg Laychak/UFV)

After harvesting the cherries, as they are called, the beans are individually squeezed out of the skins. Then the seeds are laid out to dry at room temperature overnight. Once dry, a paper-like coating had to be peeled off the beans, then they were roasted on the stovetop at 500F while stirred constantly.

(See below for more photos)

Once roasted they are laid out to cool, then ground and brewed. For all her work, Charbonneau got less than a pound of coffee but the point was education rather than commerce.

Most of this processing work in the coffee industry is now done by machines, but much coffee is still picked by hand in Third World countries. Going through the procedure from cherry to cup really illustrated to Charbonneau just how much goes in to making that daily beverage that so many Canadians rely on and maybe take for granted.

Standing in a greenhouse in 2019 in British Columbia talking about how they can grow any plants in the world, there is one plant it’s hard not to talk about. The multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry has been in full force even before full legalization as a result of the medical cannabis market. But with legalization, the sky is the limit and a university horticulture campus seems like a good place to learn about what is looking like a gold-rush type industry.

“There are lots of jobs and some of the students are very interested,” Baumann said, adding jokingly, “I won’t point them out.”

Of course, growing cannabis in a greenhouse with such an ability to control the climate is certainly possible. In cannabis production, cuttings are done in a really humid climate, then growing is done in a less humid climate, then when it comes to switching over to flowering, drier is needed or the plants will get powder mildew.

“We can do anything in the greenhouse and this is the beauty of this.”

Practically speaking it can be done, but getting cannabis plants into a university setting would require a lot of permissions and security. It likely won’t happen at the university, but they may be able to grow at another location in the future so students can learn.

Greenhouses across the Lower Mainland have been converting to cannabis growing for some time, a reality that is somewhat concerning to Baumann, if not so much in the long run.

“It worries me in one respect, that we won’t get the locally grown fresh fruit and veggies coming out of the greenhouses,” he said. “We might see higher prices for our veggies.”

But at the same time, the industry is booming so much that it may level off down the road, and more greenhouses are being built all the time.

“I’m not too worried about it in the long run.”

As for teaching cannabis growing in a university setting, that’s just the new normal for a long-time farmer.

“It is an important industry right now. I may be older, but I still need to keep up with jobs for the students.”

• RELATED: UFV ag centre will train industry leaders – 2013

• RELATED: Premier opens Agriculture Centre of Excellence in Chilliwack – 2014

• RELATED: Sky-high farmland prices ‘ruinous’ for B.C. agriculture: UFV prof – 2018


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

University of the Fraser Valley assistant professor of agriculture Tom Baumann talks to horticulture students in a greenhouse at the Chilliwack campus. (Greg Laychak/UFV)

University of the Fraser Valley ‘s demonstration barn and greenhouses at the Chilliwack campus. (Greg Laychak/UFV)

University of the Fraser Valley assistant professor of agriculture Tom Baumann shows tea plants grown in a greenhouse at the Chilliwack campus. (Greg Laychak/UFV)

University of the Fraser Valley horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau squeezes a bean out of the red skin of a coffee cherry. (Greg Laychak/UFV)

Sampling coffee grown in Chilliwack while University of the Fraser Valley horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau explains the process to classmates recently. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

University of the Fraser Valley horticulture student Nayla Charbonneau shows coffee cherries growing in the school’s greenhouses in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

A lemon and an orange grown on trees in the University of the Fraser Valley’s greenhouse in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Lock’s Pharmacy celebrated 70 years with free street party in Chilliwack

The party was based on community spirit and giving back, says general manager David Lock

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Aug. 19 to 25

Get a free sneak peek at modern ballet performance in Chilliwack

New ballet @giselle is putting the final touches on its show at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Police ask public’s help locating missing Hope woman

Penelope Leslie Lackey has not contacted her family since mid-June

Rescuers pluck climbers off rock face near Mt. Slesse

Chilliwack SAR team members used long-line suspension to assist climbers

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

VIDEO: Organization’s stolen wheelchair van recovered on backroad near Hope

Wheelchair accessible van is only transportation for some people in Hope area

Officials say 50 Oppenheimer Park residents have agreed to leave, as deadline looms

Residents have been told they must be gone by 6 p.m. on Aug. 21

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

‘Do the right thing,’ implores sister of South Surrey stabbing victim

IHIT confirms male arrested in connection with Paul Prestbakmo’s death no longer in custody

Most Read