The Mills Farm Club is currently experiencing a change in leadership. At risk of ending completely this semester, the club needs new students to join and help with the planning of events as the semester progresses. The goals of the organization are to bring more awareness around sustainability and farming.
They work closely with the Mills Community Farm, “a 2.5-acre working farm that practices sustainable farming and provides urban agriculture education in collaboration with students, faculty, staff, local organizations, and Oakland schools.” The farm provides fresh produce to the dining services on-campus and also sells produce at a weekly farm stand and to local restaurants.
The farm club was started last semester by undergraduate students Kasina Vaewsworn, Maya Sanchez-Strauss and Esther Meyers, who became the initial officers of the organization. They were all enrolled in the Campus Farm Practicum course where students can learn about food justice, skills of urban agriculture and sustainable food production.
“Sustainability is … so important because we have finite resources, but we always have unlimited needs and wants as humans,” Vaewsron, the former president of Farm Club, said. “It’s important to make sure that the resources that we have are sustainable and continue on for future generations and that we treat the Earth the way that the Earth treats us—which is, you know, providing and taking care of us.”
Julia Dashe, manager of the Mills Community Farm and instructor of the Campus Farm Practicum course offered as a fulfillment of the Community Engaged Learning (CEL) requirement, suggested that the students create a farm club. The students took charge of this idea and their goals were to hold events and start a farmer’s market on-campus.
The farmer’s market would have been held at the farm during the Spring 2020 semester, and included community organizations, local vendors and supporting small businesses. However, planning a large event requires time and help; the founding members of the farm club need more members to make the farmer’s market happen.
“Last semester what we did is we started the inquiry, the research and the planning, which I’m sure you know, planning is a whole ordeal,” Vaewsrom said. To get started, they “visited local farmers’ markets and asked managers questions and … got contacts for certain vendors that would be potentially asked to vend here. … But one of the things that kind of like stalled us was getting in touch with Alameda County Environmental Health.”
The farmer’s market would not only give students more access to fresh produce and local vendors but would also bridge the gap between the Mills community and the community of the greater Bay Area.
In the past, the farm club has thrown events such as the Fall Farm Fest. The festival was a place for students to listen or participate in an open mic, try homemade goods made by the initial club officers, have cider and snacks, and shop through the artwork of Mills students who tabled. This event allowed students who were neither involved with the community farm or the club to visit and learn what is available to them.
“I don’t know how involved I’ll be in the future of the club, but I hope that there continues to be a connection between Farm Club and the farm because that’s kind of like the basis of where it all started,” Vaesworn said.
Students are able to volunteer at the farm during volunteer hours or join the Campus Farm Practicum course if they are interested in learning more about sustainable food production. Those who are interested should contact Julia Dashe at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Mills community farm also has an Instagram: @millscommunityfarm.
They can also get connected with the Farm Club through their Instagram, @millsfarmclub, where meeting times and events are publicized, or by contacting the former club advisor, Dashe.
As she exits from her position, Vaesworn reflects on her experience working with the Farm Club.
“I really liked the people that I was working with, I think it really helps to have a good team behind you and … both Maya and Esther, we were kind of the ones running the show and … we are all kind of in the same boat with like trying to juggle school and also make Farm Club the best thing possible,” she said. “The favorite thing of mine is the people that I met through and being able to work with them. … When we would have meetings to kind of brainstorm about what we want to see happen and even just to check in with how we’re all doing … that was a favorite of mine. And then also just being at the farm physically once a week.”