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Mills farm shares first bountiful harvest

Farm director Alisha Strater breaking rst ground at the farm with her students in Spring 2016. (Calli Storrs)
Farm director Alisha Strater breaking rst ground at the farm with her students in Spring 2016. (Calli Storrs)

As the robust scent of freshly harvested basil wafted from the area, the Mills Urban Farm celebrated its recent expansion, drawing some new faces to an unfamiliar part of campus and raising awareness about the larger food justice movement.

On Aug. 30, the Urban Farm Harvest Party offered attendees farm fresh food and the opportunity to experience and learn more about the farm from the people involved.

First-year student Dana Yovel left the celebration with a cluster of hearty green onions, seeking to “upgrade her college cuisine” that evening. With her bundle of fresh produce, she left with a sense of familiarity and inspiration. Having come to Mills from Israel, she said the farm’s convergence of innovation, entrepreneurialism and teamwork reminded her of home.

“Before this, I had no idea this was here,” Dana Yovel said. “My friend just told me about it today, and I’m so glad I came.”

Saiqaa Nuri, an environmental studies major, has been involved with planning the farm since before its actualization and was there to mingle with friends and newcomers and see her work come to fruition. Nuri served as an Eco-Rep her first year, a work-study position she resumed this year in which students take the lead to strategize and execute sustainability centered projects.

“I helped with a little bit of the planning,” Nuri said.

Farm Manager Alisha Strater, who started at Mills in January, hopes to continue to draw more students as enthusiastic as Yovel and Nuri from the Mills and Oakland communities.

“This can be an overarching space for communities to come together,” Strater said.

Although she noted college farms are typically associated primarily with their science departments, Strater seeks to break out of that mold and incorporate other departments.

“In my mind, it really can be interdisciplinary,” Strater said.

Strater isn’t the only one who shares this vision. The farm has attracted support and collaboration from numerous departments. Students in visiting artist Kari Marboe’s ceramics class will participate by making decorative pots that tell stories for the farm this semester. Additionally, Strater is leading a new special topic physical education class this semester, centered on farming and social justice. She hopes these classes will be one way to increase the farm’s accessibility and prominence on campus.

Currently, the farm is still in its early stages, but its presence is being felt at Mills through events like the harvest party. Plans are in the works to incorporate the farm’s produce into the menus of Founders Commons and the Tea Shop. As the farm expands and gains prominence, so will its presence in the food justice movement at Mills and beyond.