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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

UC Davis’ Student Farm takes a multi-faceted approach to sustainability

Through a diverse range of initiatives, the farm provides opportunities for students to partake in UC Davis’ legacy of agriculture and environmentalism 

 

By LAILA AZHAR — features@theaggie.org 

 

From its beginnings as the UC Berkeley University Farm, UC Davis has been known for its emphasis on agriculture and sustainability — in fact, it was ranked first in the 2023 UI GreenMetric World University rankings of “greenest” university campuses. 

For many students, this reputation is a large part of the school’s appeal. 

“One of the first things I ever heard about UC Davis was that environmentalism played a large part in campus culture,” Temo Martinez, a first-year political science major, said. “As someone who cares a lot about sustainability, that was really important to me.” 

The Student Farm is an example of one of the many initiatives on campus that works to further students’ knowledge of agriculture and sustainability. 

Third-year sustainable agriculture and food systems major Adazsofia Lengyel is the lead student farmer and community-supported agriculture coordinator in the Market Garden program within the Student Farm. 

Lengyel first found the farm as a junior in high school, while looking around the campus with her mother. 

“I knew I wanted to be involved in farming while at Davis because of what I am studying, and this space felt like a perfect alignment of my interests, values and goals in learning about farming and sustainable agricultural systems,” Lengyel said in an email.

As their mission statement puts it, the farm’s goal is to “hold a space where students can learn, practice and model an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable agriculture and food system.”

A group of students began the farm in 1977 as a way to further their agricultural knowledge. Today, it consists of 23 acres of student-managed plots, which are home to a wide variety of programs. 

The Market Garden program teaches students about the planting, maintenance and harvest of organic fruits and vegetables. The produce grown in this garden is often sold to campus dining halls. Their farmstand, located on Ext Center Dr., sells flowers and fresh organic produce from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday. 

The Ecological Garden program is a space to learn about small space permaculture gardening with a focus on agroecological practices. It includes a labeled “U-pick section” where visitors can pick flowers and herbs to purchase.

On the other hand, the Fresh Focus program donates produce to student centers at UC Davis to combat food insecurity. 

“Food insecurity on college campuses is such an important issue,” Claire Chen, a second-year sociology major, said. “Resources like the Student Farm are a valuable way to both spread awareness about the topic and provide resources to combat it.” 

The farm hosted a pay-what-you-can “U-Pick Organic Spinach” event, providing students with food and supporting environmental initiatives at the same time. Students were able to pick from an “unbe-leaf-able” variety of spinach, and all proceeds went toward research on the farm. 

Along with providing produce and flowers, the farm also often creates spaces to discuss topics relating to agriculture. In February they hosted a “Farm Forum” for people to voice ideas on how the Student Farm should continue functioning in the future. In March, they hosted a workshop titled “Queers and Queerness in Nature.” 

The farm’s programs contain a mix of agriculture and insightful discussion spaces on the broader context of agricultural practices. 

For Lengyel, one of the highlights of working on the farm is the community. 

“Because there is such a diverse array of identities, experiences and interests people bring, it has been an amazing space to learn from others who also love being outside and growing food for our community and ourselves,” Lengyel said. “There is such a culture of kindness, joy and learning that happens here, it is such a grounding and special place to get to be a part of.” 

As students partake in hands-on learning in the fields, they also learn a communal and holistic approach to farming, serving as a testament to UC Davis’ legacy of agricultural innovation and sustainability. 

 

Written by: Laila Azhar — features@theaggie.org 

 

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