Student stories

Social sciences student experiences growth at alumni-owned urban produce farm

Jess Ash

TOPSOIL - Innovative Urban Agriculture

With a passion for social justice and an interest in growing local food, sociology and environmental studies student Jess Ash was determined to work at TOPSOIL – Innovative Urban Agriculture from the moment she met its founder, UVic alumnus Chris Hildreth. 

“Chris was a guest lecturer in one of my environmental studies classes,” says Jess. “After he talked about TOPSOIL, he mentioned that he majored in environmental studies and sociology, like me! I was determined to become a part of the team.”

After speaking with Chris following his guest lecture, Jess landed herself a volunteer position with TOPSOIL, which was soon developed into a new co-op placement for the summer of 2019. During that term, Jess worked as a production assistant, helping to grow and sell fresh, local produce at TOPSOIL’s downtown farm and market.

In addition to sharing the same combination of majors, Jess and Chris are both passionate about buying and eating local, promoting food security, and making a positive impact on the community. Part of achieving this impact, says Chris, is educating the next generation through employment opportunities such as the UVic co-op program. “There are so many amazing young people like Jess who are eager to learn and work hard,” he says. “It’s up to the business community to provide opportunities for young people to pursue their career goals. Co-op helps to facilitate that.”

According to Jess, this community-oriented attitude is part of what makes TOPSOIL such a great place to work. “TOPSOIL’s approach has shown me the positive impact an urban agriculture business can have on communities—both economically and socially,” she says. 

How will you make your impact? 

Jess is one of thousands of co-op students who had the opportunity to connect classroom learning to real-world situations, all while making an important impact on the community and the world. Through co-op, you can deepen your learning, discover what you love, and make meaningful connections with employers and other like-minded people.

Learn more about co-op and how and when to apply to your co-op program.

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