- Author: Rose Marie Hayden-Smith
Nearly two tons of fruit and vegetables grown at UC's Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC) in Santa Paula have been donated to Food Forward and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), destined for children and families.
Some of the vegetables – planted by volunteers and farm staff - became available when UC HAREC's farm field trips were canceled due to COVID-19. Other vegetables were harvested from the student farm located at HAREC, a partnership with VUSD and the city of Ventura. Kale and lettuce at the student farm were planted by youth from DATA and Montalvo schools.
Every fall and spring, volunteers from the UC Master Gardener program propagate seedlings for schools, bundling them into variety packs of vegetables and herbs, which are given to schools with gardens. Because of COVID-19, plants were given to schools for direct distribution to families. Ventura Unified School District staff partnering in this effort include Kara Muniz, Director of Food and Nutrition Services; Ashely Parrish Decker, Nutrition Educator, who runs the Student Farm; and Alise Echles, RDN.
Additional fruit and vegetables were harvested from HAREC's citrus demonstration area, the site's educational gardens and the farm grounds.
UCCE's education program manager Susana Bruzzone-Miller said, “We are saddened that spring field trip season is cancelled and miss the sound of children delighting in harvesting, sometimes for the very first time. But, it warms my heart that our field trip garden can help feed so many families in need.”
John Antongiovanni, farm manager, worked with the farm staff to organize the harvest. He said, “Working together during this difficult time is very rewarding.”
Food Forward is a gleaning organization that helps residents turn the surplus produce grown on their property into a nutritious food source for local communities. Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director, indicated that the Food Forward Backyard Harvest team remains active, and may be reached via phone at 805.630.2728 or email.
- Author: Eve Hightower
“It’s more than a way to sell food. It builds community, and that’s a powerful thing for students to learn,” said Raoul Adamchak, who coordinates the CSA and the Market Garden where the produce is grown.
Over the years, those involved in UC campuses’ food systems have garnered powerful lessons from students as well, resulting in organic gardens, student farms and increasingly sustainable food options at dining halls. These student-initiated components of campus food systems continue to nurture student opportunities to learn and get involved.
While the Student Farm has run its CSA for 16 years, the farm has been a part of the campus food system for 30 years by selling fresh organic produce to the UC Davis Coffee House, which is run by Associated Students, UC Davis. Most recently, it began selling produce to Sodexo-run UC Davis Dining Services – further diversifying its customer base.
“When Dining Services initially wanted to buy from us, we were hesitant,” said Mark Van Horn, director of the Student Farm. “Our CSA was well established and is still our highest grossing market. We’re at the upper limits of production and didn’t think we could grow more without negatively effecting education – the primary purpose of the farm. What changed our minds is that we realized our relationship with them is about education as well as production. We’re collaborating with Dining Services to educate students – more students than ever – about the entire food system.”
Russell Ranch at UC Davis and other programs that contribute to the campus food system.
“We’re trying to engage students in the food system so they can learn about where their food comes from and what’s in it,” said Dani Lee, UC Davis University Dining Services’ sustainability manager.
Dining Services labels the origin of campus-produced food. It regularly hosts outreach events, features displays about and organizes tours of the Student Farm, Russell Ranch and other campus-based partners. It has also established internships for students interested in waste reduction, gardening and sourcing food more locally.
Lee and Van Horn hope these efforts will help inspire students to learn more.
“We’re seeing more interest from students today than ever before,” Van Horn said. “I attribute it to a bigger cultural awakening catalyzed by folks like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. They figured out that if you talk about agriculture, the environment and the whole food system just as ‘food,’ it’s more interesting. Students are coming in with more knowledge and commitment to these issues than ever before. Encouraging them to get actively involved in the food system is a great way to nurture what students years ago began when they founded the Student Farm, started the Coffee House, and got University of California administrators to commit to meeting a list of sustainability criteria by 2020.”
UC Davis Dining Services already exceeds the UC goal of 20 percent sustainably produced food by 2020, but it isn’t stopping there.
“We’re constantly working on sourcing more products locally,” Lee said.
Lauren Cockrell, a fourth-year UC Davis student majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems is pleased with the trajectory and believes ensuring student involvement in the effort to build a more sustainable food system is key.
“I’d like the next step to be an independent, entirely student-run food retail business that, at its core, values sustainability,” she said.