My name is Adam, and I’m an Americorps member serving as the Assistant Farm Manager at the University of Washington Farm. The UW Farm is a two acre student-powered farm located across three sites with varying scales, challenges, and opportunities. At our largest site at the Center for Urban Horticulture, we demonstrate productive market gardening, while at the Mercer Court dormitory complex we model how farming can fit into urban environments. At our smallest site at McMahon Hall we utilize space-efficient methods for growing in limited areas. All of our sites are living laboratories where students come to work and learn about food systems experientially. Our produce goes to Housing and Food Services, a 60-member Community Supported Agriculture program, and the Student Food Pantry.
This past quarter, Farm Manager Perry Acworth and I facilitated learning experiences for hundreds of students. 650 students visited the UW Farm for a tour or lab, and 81 students earned class credit by working on the Farm for 25 hours each. Their activities included everything a small-scale diversified organic farm has to offer: harvesting carrots, washing beets, spreading compost, planting cover crops, and more. We also hosted five interns who worked on projects related to healthy food access and nutrition for the Student Food Pantry. Working with all of these students whose minds are opening up to the food system has been a rewarding process for me, and reminds me of my own experiences on a campus farm as an undergraduate.
Opportunities for learning at the UW Farm are endless, because even a task as simple as weeding brings up questions, from the practical to the profound. How do I hold a hoe? What is the best tool for this situation? Why are some plants considered weeds and others are not? How have different cultures and farming systems dealt with weeds? This kind of broad-ranging exploration happens with every activity at the UW Farm, and gets students thinking about all the different issues that go along with farming, including chemical usage, labor rights, environmental health, and nutrition. This winter I’m excited to dive deeper as I teach a class on climate change and agriculture. My service in AmeriCorps is helping broaden my skills by working on crop planning for the 2020 season, and preparing to grow more food and more food-literate students.