USF Organic Garden Project

At the University of San Francisco, a communal effort is underway to “go green”. For starters, the University has begun a new recycling effort dubbed “recyclemania“, aimed at reducing waste and converting anything possible into compost.

In addition to going green, there is also an amazing effort underway to go organic. This year, 11 freshmen students-all women-connected through a living-learning community at USF, are growing a number of organic fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land next to the University’s Education Building. Check out their blog here.

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The land is available for gardening due to it’s odd shape, which would make it difficult to build on, and the strict building codes in the city that would make building extremely expensive, if a proposed plan was ever even approved by city regulations and neighborhood committees.

The young women that work in the garden live together on the same floor in Gillson Hall, and on Fridays they meet with media studies professor and organic farmer Melinda Stone. Together they spend half the day learning about organic farming and half the day putting that learning to practice out in the garden. The students completely operate the miniature farm, from planting to watering to turning over soil to weeding, with professor Stone guiding the way.

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The students all have a great attitude and eagerness to be outside under the sun and to be participating in this community effort to grow organic food in an urban setting. They were so friendly, upbeat and weren’t at all afraid to get their hands dirty.

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The variety of food that is being grown is incredible. There is broccoli, arugula, swiss chard, almonds, grapes, avocado, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pears-you name it, they’re growing it. At the moment, it has yet to be decided where all the food will go once it is fully grown. Melinda Stone says that she offers it to those not involved in the project that come to visit the garden such as media studies professor David Silver, and she also eats some herself. Eventually a joint decision will be made as to what will consistently happen to the harvest.

Working alongside the freshmen women are students within the architecture department, who by the end of the semester will have built a greenhouse, toolshed, benches and an outdoor kitchen for the garden.

Students involved in the Environmental Science program at USF are also involved in the garden. They have a small plot of the garden set aside for an experiment that is being run to see whether plant’s that are native to the bay area can grow here at USF, which was once a huge series of sand dunes.

Here are some more pics and a link to the complete flickr set.

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While the organic garden on campus is relatively hidden, it is quickly drawing a great deal of attention. Kevin Kunze and Chet Bentley (below) are both freshman at USF and are making a documentary about the organic garden project for a Canadian HDTV show.

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They’ve been out in the garden with the girls on several occasions to gather interviews and film them at work. The film team is also working with professor Melinda Stone on a series called “How To Homestead”, which is worth checking out.

While hanging out with the documentary team, I ran into Curtis (see above), the mystical and elusive “secret gardener”. Once I actually met him, the legend and lore began to wear off and I began to see that Curtis is just a normal guy who likes organic gardening. He explained that he is affiliated with the dance department at USF, but he is not officially employed by the University. He comes to the garden 3-4 times a week and cares for a large portion of the garden all by himself. Curtis was soft spoken but had some very interesting thoughts about the earth, human relationships such as his relationship with the student gardners he shares his land with, and the future of the garden, which he envisions as a community project that anyone can participate in and benefit from. Check out a short interview with Curtis below.

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2 Responses to “USF Organic Garden Project”

  1. a blog entry, a flickr set, and a video – all three come together to tell an excellent story about an exciting project. great work miles.

  2. Hello it’s one of the garden girls just wanted to set something clear, Melinda Stone is not the only professor. Don’t forget Seth Watchel he is a Architecture professor here at USF. he plays a great deal in the garden too. Just wanted to be clear because it’s not only Melinda that should get credit for this k tootles.

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