Agroecology, environmental justice and bouquets of flowers: an overview of the O’Donahue educational farm at Stanford

Patrick Archie walked through the bustling fields of Stanford’s O’Donahue Educational Farm, stopping every few yards to admire and describe the budding produce. Archie, who is particularly interested in sustainable agriculture, has served as Farm Manager for about 10 years.

Under Archie’s direction, the farm provides community members with practical opportunities to practice sustainable agriculture and serves as a natural refuge for the large Stanford community. From hosting volunteers on Saturday and Wednesday mornings to employing college students as farm laborers and hosting Earthtones, an annual environmental justice festival, the farm is a place Stanford students can develop. an understanding and appreciation of the land on which they live.

The farm, which is located in Governor’s Corner, was established by the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences in 2014, after more than two decades of advocacy led by students in the Earth Systems department. Like the entire Stanford campus, the farm is located on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone people.

Archie explained how the farm uses agro-ecological relationships and natural diversity to grow over 200 varieties of vegetables, flowers, herbs, field crops and fruits. He said part of the farm’s mission is to challenge the traditions of the agricultural industry, which tends to prioritize “amassing wealth and extracting” from the land.

“Those of us who study agroecology are really interested in the indigenous roots of agriculture, agriculture designed to fit into the ecosystem it is in. It is designed to support the community,” he said. Archie said. Agroecology is the study of agricultural practices that work with the natural environment, rather than imposing unsustainable or foreign agricultural practices on it. Archie said agroecology supports agriculture that is “not designed as necessary just for mining and selling in distant markets.” On the contrary, he said, the fundamental objective of the Farm is to “feed its community”.

The farm harvests over 15,000 pounds of produce each year, which is then sold to campus restaurants as well as local chefs and caterers. The Farm also produces thousands of flowers, which are cut, arranged and sold in bouquets, generating additional income opportunities to support student employment at the Farm.

“The other thing about flowers is that they often come from different crop families than our other crops, so flowers help us with our crop rotations,” Archie said. “We try to manage the soil to make it really rich, diverse and biologically healthy. One of the ways we break the cycles of pests and diseases is to rotate crops. ”

Environmental justice is another key element of the Farm’s mission.

Archie used the phrase “liberation by land” to capture the intersection between agriculture and advocacy for Indigenous people. The farm is partnering with Native Seed Search, an organization that collects varieties of heirloom crops to create a drought-tolerant live seed bank. The Farm is currently growing a harvest of Dene corn to contribute to the seed bank.

Earthtones – originally named Earth in Color – is an environmental justice festival run by Natalie Cross ’22 that is held annually on the farm. The festival reinvents Earth Day to celebrate and center the stories of students of color within the context of environmentalism. During the pandemic, Earthtones organizers produced a collection of student artwork and writing instead of hosting in-person events. Community members will be celebrating Earthtones in person again this spring.

Cross began working as a farm laborer in his sophomore year and has remained in the role ever since.

“I like being able to dig in the earth for a few hours. The farm is great for keeping up with this crazy school where so much is happening all the time, ”said Cross. “The farm has been a really special place for me and my happy little home away from the madness.”

The Stanford Roots student organization helps with the harvests and hosts events like a pizza night and the fall harvest festival on the farm.

Stanford Roots co-leader Diego Rafael Pérez ’23 started volunteering on the farm when he was young.

“I thought it was a good practice to do in the morning before class to really refocus and refocus and remind myself of why I’m here and why I’m working,” Pérez said.

Archie, Cross and Pérez all emphasized that the Farm is a space open to all and intended to give community members the opportunity to connect with nature and find a moment to breathe amid the chaos of campus life. .

“Everyone is welcome to the farm,” Archie said. “This farm is shared by everyone. Please come and enjoy it. There are ways for everyone to connect, whether you’re a student, staff member, faculty member, or community member.

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