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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Student Farm helps combat food insecurity on campus

Through partnerships with on-campus initiatives, the Agriculture Sustainability Institute is working toward a more sustainable and accessible Davis food system

By JALAN TEHRANIFAR — features@theaggie.org 

UC Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute’s goal is to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food while also promoting agriculture’s vitality for the current and future generations, according to their website. They conduct integrative research, education, communication and early action to try to mitigate large, emerging environmental concerns. The Student Farm on campus is a part of this institute which helps educate Davis students about sustainable agriculture by allowing them to participate in the practice.

The mission of the Student Farm is to provide a space for students to learn, practice and model agriculture and food systems that are ecologically, socially and economically sustainable.

The 23-acre farm is run by a team of UC Davis students, including Katharina Ullmann, the farm director. Ullmann said that across the 23 acres of land, they grow organic fruits and vegetables, sustainable flowers and herbs and native plants. When harvested, these products are sent to a few different places to be sold. 

Some fruits and vegetables are sent to the Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), which sells organic seasonal produce to students through a weekly subscription. Students and other community members can also purchase their produce at the on-campus farmers market on Wednesdays during fall and spring quarters.

The Student Farm also partners with UC Davis Dining Services and the ASUCD Coffee House on campus. Davis’s Dining Services uses Market Garden produce to have a more sustainable and nutritious dining system in the dining commons.

These partnerships have allowed the farm to hire more students and produce more crops each season. This income also helps the farm partner with organizations to donate their crops to.

The Student Farm established the Community Table Project (CTP), which examines how the Student Farm can help address campus food insecurity and initiate dialogue about the intersections of people, place and food. This project was started by two UC Davis students, Nicole Lesnett and Kiko Barr, who wanted to fight food poverty. 

Their website reads, “In 2014, two Student Farm students, […] began delivering [Student Farm] produce to the Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD) Pantry, where it was made available, free of charge, to all UC Davis students.”

Barr’s and Lesnett’s initiative evolved into the UC Global Food Initiative in fall of 2016, but the Student Farm produce still contributes to the UC Davis Pantry through a program called Fresh Focus. 

Nicole Curiel, a fourth-year sustainable agriculture & food systems major, is the lead student farmer at Fresh Focus and a partner coordinator at the Student Farm. She first started volunteering at the Student Farm as a first-year and began interning at Fresh Focus during her sophomore year in 2019. Curiel said that she is passionate about the student farm because of its mission.

“It’s a space for experiential learning in terms of food justice, land stewardship and regenerative organic practices,” Curiel said.

Now, Curiel is a partner coordinator at Fresh Focus, which she explained works to obstruct food insecurity on campus.

“The goal is to increase food security and destigmatize food insecurity on campus, [while] simultaneously reducing food waste as well,” Curiel said. “When Fresh Focus was first born, it was mainly because the Pantry at that time didn’t have that much fresh produce, so students were really passionate about increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for patrons.”

The Student Farm has partnered with the Pantry for over 30 years, but through Fresh Focus and the Community Table Project, they’ve been able to distribute to many other associations on campus.

“Our role […] is to provide fruits and vegetables to different groups and communities on campus,” Curiel said. “We distribute to the Pantry, Fruit and Veggie Up! and different resource centers like the LGBTQIA+ center, the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, the Native American Academic Student Success Center, Center for African Dispora Student Success and the Educational Oppurtunity Program.”

Even after Fresh Focus makes all these donations, there are times where they find themselves with extra produce. Curiel said that this extra produce is sent to the Freedges at the Memorial Union and Silo on campus. The Freedges are part of UC Davis’s Food Loss and Waste Collaborative, and are places where anyone with extra sealed or packaged food can donate it. Anyone can grab this donated food. This helps reduce food waste and helps those in need. Curiel said that often, the food found in Freedges is from the Student Farm.

“I think it’s really important, really cool, that a lot of the work that’s happening toward combating food insecurity and increasing food security in that aspect is being done by students,” Curiel said. 

The Student Farm is currently hiring multiple positions in the Market Garden, Eco Garden, Flower Project and with Fresh Focus. For more information and employment opportunities, check out the Agricultural Sustainability Institute website or contact studentfarminterest@ucdavis.edu

Written by: Jalan Tehranifar — features@theaggie.org


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