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Cultivating for the future: plans for urban campus farm move forward

This area, near Richard's parking lot, is under consideration for the future campus farm. (Heather McDaniel).

Plans are now underway for the development of an on-campus organic farm after the project received official approval right before Spring Break.

The farm is part of an ongoing feasibility study conducted by MBA student Lauren Messmer and Shoshana Perrey, who graduated Mills in December, in conjunction with Botanic Garden Coordinator Christina McWorter.

It will be home to an array of fruits and vegetables, but no animals.

“It’s natural for me to think of a farm as livestock,” Messmer said. “[But] there’s no livestock involved in this plan.”

Perrey added that the project will be more like a “salad bar farm.”

Although the specific produce has yet to be determined, McWhorter said the initial focus will be on lettuce, herbs and fruit crops.

“Our goal is to promote diversity in crops,” she said. “Greens will be a big one.”

Along with prioritizing the diversification of crops, the group hopes to sell produce to Bon Appetit. Messmer said the food service company has provided a lot of support, including contributing resources such as a student garden guide, which offers suggestions to students all over the nation about creating and administering organic gardens on their campuses, along with a promise to purchase produce from such gardens.

Perrey and Messmer said they have also received support from various members of the Mills community.

“We have nothing but interest, support and buy-in from all of the right players,” Perrey said.

Some of the “right players” include the senior class, who voted in early March to donate funds toward the creation of the farm and wrote a formal project proposal that was approved later that month.

Senior Class President Rebecca Waterhouse said in an e-mail that future plans for the project include “more on-campus work study for students, the addition of a new course on sustainable horticulture and food production,” as well as “a possible farmers market stand.”

Though those involved have not yet set a date to begin planting, they hope students and members of the surrounding community will be involved.

After great consideration and a discussion about its visibility to the “outside world,” Messmer said the farm will be located at the front edge of campus near the Richards parking lot.

McWhorter said it is the only area marked for development on campus that does not have any other specific plans associated with it.

“In the future, we definitely would like to have people outside of Mills come into our garden without having a whole bunch of strangers tramp through the campus.” Messmer said. “By bringing in the community, we hope to provide a place where fresh produce is available in an area that, if you look around, there [are] very limited resources for fresh produce.”

– For more information about becoming involved with the organic farm contact Christina McWhorter or attend the community garden gatherings in the botanic garden Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.