Student Farm surges in popularity, teaches volunteers about sustainable agriculture

The Student Farm is an experimental farm on the UC Davis campus encompassing approximately 21 acres of land located on the west side of campus near the Domes. Established in 1977, the Student Farm has experienced an immense surge in popularity since its creation by a group of students and supportive faculty members.

According to the Student Farm website, the program focuses on three main principles: a focus on sustainable agriculture principles and practices, an emphasis on in-field, experiential learning and the encouragement of student initiative, creativity and exploration.

“Students gain a hands-on understanding of organic gardening and farming principles and practices, what it takes to grow food from seed to table year-round, as well as a sense of connection that comes with growing food, working the land, and working with others,” said plant pathology graduate student and Student Farm employee Stacey Parker.

The Student Farm is divided into varying gardens and fields that seek to focus on a crucial aspect of sustainable agriculture. The Market Garden encompasses approximately one-fifth of the 21-acre Student Farm and teaches students the basic ins and outs of crop production, according to Student Farm Community Activities Coordinator Jeff Mailes.

In addition, the Market Garden produces food for the 70 members participating in the Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), including a portion of the food served in the Dining Commons,  Mailes said.

The Market Garden also caters to Silo appetites on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at its individual booth at the UC Davis Farmers Market.

The Ecological Garden incorporates a different sector of the Student Farm, educating interns and volunteers alike on the science behind the crops.

“The Ecological Garden focuses on educating volunteers and interns about the complex biological relationships that exist between the plants and animals found in the garden,” Mailes said. “The Eco-garden is also a place where students are trained to become environmental educators to elementary school children. The trained students then engage the visiting children in a wide range of fun and educational activities.”

The Student Farm is not limited to the Market Garden and Ecological Garden.

“Other regions of the Student Farm include research fields where certain classes and graduate students can conduct their research, and a Workshop where students can gain skills building and repairing farm equipment,”  Mailes said.

Due to the Student Farm’s popularity, the Farm will not be recruiting new volunteers until Fall quarter. Students interested in sustainable agriculture instead have the opportunity to enroll in classes PLS 5 and PLS 49, said Mailes, which teach the basics of organic crop production.
The Student Farm is hosting an Earth Day event called “Spring Fair at the Farm” on April 29, which will be an opportunity to learn more about the sustainability efforts of the Student Farm and other eco-friendly student groups.

GHEED SAEED can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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