By Migdalia Sanchez
Wearing a striped long sleeve shirt, jean overalls and white tennis shoes, Jenney Hall, lecturer of interdisciplinary and environmental studies, stands next to fresh tomatoes and strawberries and looks with the pride at the farm she helped start.
But that farm isn’t in some rural area in the open country; it’s the CSUDH Urban Farm, located in the southeast corner of campus, which is celebrating its second year of existence.
A combination of an outdoor classroom, living laboratory and garden, the approximately .11-acre farm was founded in February, 2018. It is next to the physical plant, about a 5 to 10 minute walk from most of the campus.
According to a sign posted at the entrance, the purpose of the farm is to “use a multi-disciplinary approach to address student food insecurity, sustainability and urban agriculture.
It is also a way to get students involved in organic gardening in an urban environment, as well as an entry point into thinking about the “larger societal issues around sustainability, the environment, and access to healthy food choices in urban environments,” according to a story posted April 24, 2018 on the CSUDH Campus News Center.
The urban farm began after Hall, a lecturer in interdisciplinary and environmental studies as well as a scientist with a background in geology and oceanography, and Hawk McFadzen, a CSUDH graduate student and recipient of a 2018 CSU Trustees’ Outstanding Student
Award, independently advocated for a farm program. They worked together and with the help of Ellie Perry, the CSUDH sustainability coordinator, a year later the urban farm took root.
“People heard that we [McFadzen] were both interested in the same thing so they put us together and then we worked alongside to keep pushing this forward until we [could] make it happen,” said Hall. “But it was really a joint effort between [all] three of us.”
Inside the garden there are several 4-foot-by 4-foot with a small bounty of squash, kale, basil and more types of produce. Most are tended to by faculty, who use them as projects related to what they teach.
The produce doesn’t just sit there. When it’s ripe, some is donated to campus organizations, including the Toro Food Pantry, CalFresh and even dining in the Loker Student Union, said Alicia Salmeron Blaisdell, the garden’s manager.
“Our main goal here is to utilize every inch of this area and maximize food productivity and [minimize] our carbon footprint,” said Blaisdell,
The farm is also its own little ecosystem.
“We want to have as much photosynthesis happening out here, invite insects, pollinators and wildlife,” said Hall.
Aside from being a food sanctuary, the farm also hosts service-learning events and tours for faculty and students. There is an outdoor classroom set up, enough seating for up to 40 people and a solar-powered projector screen.
For a request to use the classroom or request a raised planting bed, interested faculty and staff must fill out the Farm Use Survey.
As far as students who want to check it out, “as long as the gate doors are open anyone is welcome,” said Hall. The farm’s current operating hours are Mondays through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.
Students can also intern and volunteer. To get started visit the Campus Urban Farm website at csudh.edu/sustanability/campus-urban-farm.
“Students are always welcome to come visit it us,” said Hall. “We also want to be able to encourage professors to give extra credit to students who come volunteer. But ultimately we invite anyone to come learn about sustainability and environmental studies.”