Seventeen students from Mills’ Plant Ecology class gathered on the outskirts of campus on Mar. 1 to break first ground at the new Urban Farm.
Though some students have stopped by the farm earlier in the semester to help with preparations, the gathering by Plant Ecology students marked the largest and first official day of work by students on the farm.
Currently, the farm consists only of a small, weeded patch of tilled soil in a sea of Bermuda grass, a tiny greenhouse and a world of plans in farm director Alisha Strater’s head. In the next two years, she hopes to turn the wild hills by the front gate into a sprawling farm, complete with an orchard, a large greenhouse and a children’s garden for attendees of the Children’s School.
Strater expects much of the initial landscaping and irrigation for the farm to be complete within two years, where the farm goes from there is largely driven by what Mills students want out of this project.
“It all depends on how much students want to be involved,” Strater said. “The more they’re directly engaging with the work, the more we can get done.”
All Mills students are welcome to contribute to the Urban Farm, but the Plant Ecology class has stepped up to take on the responsibility of regular care for this semester.
The Plant Ecology class, taught by assistant professor of biology Sarah Swope, is newly opened to students of all majors this semester, bringing a diverse group of biology majors, general education requirement seekers and amateur gardeners to kickstart the farm’s development.
Jenny Cumbie, a biology major, enrolled in Plant Ecology to improve her own gardening skills and learn how to better grow plants in the sweltering Southern Californian climate. She and her children live in the campus apartments and tend to their own garden in the back yard, just up the hill from the farm.
“I’m planning to take my two kids to work down here so they can learn about [farming] too,” Cumbie said.
The Plant Ecology class will be meeting at the Farm periodically throughout the semester. Open work days will be held on Mondays from 1-6 and Thursdays 4-6, for any other Mills students interested in lending a helping hand.