If you feel uninspired or restless from the mid-semester blues, reorganize your thoughts by stepping into the Shakespeare Garden.
Planted in the middle of Harney Plaza, a table surrounded by students and professors with the smell of fresh food wafting through the air drew the attention of curious passersby. “It’s the ultimate university, where students are feeding students real food,” said Professor David Silver, professor of media studies and co-adviser to the Garden Project’s Living Learning Community. He was speaking of the USF farm stand. New this year, the farm stand has started to make a name for itself each Thursday in Harney Plaza. It is staffed by members of the Garden Project, USF’s living learning community focused on cultivating the organic garden and learning how to live a sustainable lifestyle.
The farm stand provides fresh vegetables as well as baked goods and cooked meals, something they added this semester. All foods are provided in return for a suggested donation. “The farm stand is really about making students more aware of where their food comes from. When I would go to the grocery store, I would see just tons and tons of food and it all looked so perfect,” said freshman Garden Project member Carlen Handley. “It just didn’t seem right, which is why I wanted to get involved in the Garden Project and the farm stand. It’s about providing real food.”
Students in the Garden Project live on the same floor and attend classes together on Fridays. The classes teach them how to grow food in an urban environment and how to spread this knowledge. Class time is also spent tending to the garden, located behind the School of Education.
The farm stand was created as a means to spread word about sustainable living and also as an outlet for the excess produce from the garden. Last semester, the stand mainly provided different kinds of vegetables and herbs such as kale and chard, but found a lack of success due to the fact that many students living in dorms don’t have the resources or time to cook their own meals from scratch. To remedy this, the farm stand began serving prepared foods this semester, which they found gained a greater response from students.
Thursday, Feb. 18, found the farm stand dishing out potato-vegetable soup, created by freshman Kristin Castillo, as well as an ‘un-beet-able’ chocolate-beet cake, both made largely with ingredients from the garden. “I like to mainly use things we grow and then just add a few cheap store-bought things,” Castillo said. “The main thing is that I know everything that’s going in there. It’s not like buying a candy bar where you have no idea what most of the ingredients are.”
The garden project and farm stand seek to increase student awareness of the source of their sustenance, and hope that by giving just a little, students will gain a lot and see the benefit of working towards a greener future.
Students can check out the USF farm stand in Harney Plaza on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Or if you are interested in helping in the garden, stop by on Tuesdays from 1:00-5:00 p.m. for a chance to exercise that green thumb.
It has been over a year since the freshmen living-learning community, the Garden Project, was created at USF. The garden, which only a year ago was a barren patch of weeds, is now a fertile plot complete with an orchard of apple, persimmon, peach, and lime trees, an herb spiral that includes thyme and oregano, and tomato and squash plants. This year students will be planting a whole new crop of broccoli, beets, kale, chard, lettuces, fava beans, garlic, and onions.
Since the garden is already established, the students will focus less on planting and more of other aspects of having a community garden: how to develop a community around organic food production, harvest and use the range of fruits and vegetables grown in San Francisco, learn about garden friendly animals such as bats, chickens, and insects, and composting practices. They will also build water composts, outdoor kitchen, trellises, and a green house.
This year’s Garden Project community has expanded to twenty members, both male and female. The incoming freshmen are diverse and come from all over the world with a range of majors that include Environmental Studies, Biology, Architecture and Community, Media Studies, Business, and Graphic Design.
The new Garden Project community is enthusiastic about the upcoming plans for the garden. Jordan Woodruff, an international business major, said that she joined the living community as a way to keep her busy so that she does not get homesick. She likes the community because the class does everything as a group and as a result becomes closer to each other. Also, it makes her aware of where her resources come from.
Over the summer, the garden was maintained by the director of Wellness, Christin Anderson, and a staff of thirty volunteers, comprised of faculty and neighbors. The staff watered the vegetables, vines, fruit trees, and herbs; weeded, added mulch, planted new vegetables, maintained the pathways of the garden, and harvested. Despite all the work, the staff enjoyed the garden’s edible benefits.
In addition to managing the garden, Anderson also opened it to faculty and staff to use for health and exercise. According to Anderson, the garden was opened because the department is “trying to get people out of buildings and into nature, and getting them to appreciate what’s there so they can feel better and healthier.”
The new crop of Garden Project students began the school year planting and harvesting in hopes of maintaining the momentum from last year. The garden is located next to the School of Education and is open for any community member to enjoy, relax in and partake of the harvest. Anderson described the garden as “a sanctuary, a place for learning, and a place for exercise.”