Does growing crops sound like a fun class? It may be fun, but many of these plant science classes don’t harvest or distribute the crops, such as broccoli, leaving acres of spoiling produce.
Anna-Ruth Crittenden, a sophomore environmental policy analysis and planning major and ASUCD senatorial candidate, decided to spread the word about two acres of ripe broccoli located at Campbell Road and Garrod Drive. Students grew the broccoli for academic purposes in Plant Sciences 170C.
“I found out about [the broccoli] and realized it didn’t really have a plan. It would be mowed over. I picked a bunch on the day and filled up my backpack, but I wanted to do more,” Crittenden said.
Crittenden spread the information on freecycle.org and on the Davis listserv. Due to her efforts, 55 people gathered in the fields to collect broccoli on Jan. 26. Crittenden noted there were many families who had come to collect broccoli for their homes.
Many volunteers harvested broccoli for non-profit groups such as the Yolo County Food Bank. In a letter to the editor to The California Aggie, Monica Sepulveda thanked student harvesters for the broccoli, which was put in the Cornerstone Baptist Church’s food pantry.
“We appreciate not only the food that was donated but the outpouring of concern and love that was shown that day from the UC Davis students who came to the harvest just to help pick the broccoli for the food banks,” Sepulveda stated.
Davis community members made efforts to return on Jan. 28 to harvest more broccoli for the Yolo County Food Bank, only to find the field tilled over. Tilling over crops helps to work as nutrients for the next set of plants. James Jackson, the agricultural superintendent, could not be reached after multiple attempts for a comment.
“Mr. Jackson told me that by releasing the information to the public, it was opening the university to a possible liability. He essentially said that he wanted this issue to not be talked about,” Crittenden said.
In 2003, UC Davis recalled genetically modified tomato seeds that were mislabeled. Crittenden, however, said the quality and taste of the broccoli was great and so many people were thankful for the crop.
“People were totally overloaded by it and were saying ‘I have way too much broccoli right now,'” Crittenden said.
Lauren Cockrell, a sophomore international agricultural development major and the experimental college community garden director, said she did not attend the broccoli harvest but she did use a box for a leadership retreat.
“I had planned on harvesting on Friday but the field had been tilled under by then,” Cockrell said in an e-mail interview.
Cockrell said the administration should support efforts to distribute grown crops.
“I think [the] administration should be a huge advocate for local food and should be finding ways that all of the produce consumed at UC Davis comes from university [agriculture] land or the immediate surrounding areas,” Cockrell said.
Crittenden said she believes students should be able to work with the administration to harvest food.
“I think there is definitely a potential for collaboration between people to anticipate and plan for this before growing the broccoli,” Crittenden said.
Cockrell said she thinks having hands-on experience in growing plants is a great part of UC Davis, but believes these classes should include harvesting in the curriculum.
“I’m only disappointed that the class did not include a real-life solution to handling the broccoli when it was ready to be harvested, [which] is one of the most important parts of being a farmer,” Cockrell said.
Cockrell was impressed by the efforts of the students to spread the word and collect food for the food bank.
“I’m really proud to be part of a student body that rose to the occasion and put time and sweat into making sure healthy food didn’t go to waste, not only to be consumed by students, but also to be donated to those in need,” Cockrell said.
Crittenden noted that this wasting of food on UC Davis property is not limited to broccoli plants.
“Next to the field of broccoli was a field of peppers and cabbage that was just sitting there and not being picked,” Crittenden said.
GRACE BENEFIELD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.