On the west side of campus, a plot renter on UCSB’s organic garden grows pumpkins that fill his truck bed every year in time for Halloween, using only cinnamon as a pest repellant and manure from the campus stables.
The campus organic garden sits on two acres and provides a place where students, faculty and staff can rent plots for growing flowers, vegetables or fruit for less than $30 a year. The garden, like many on other UC campuses, is constantly in danger of new university development and has been moved two times since it was first established in 1969.
UCSB moved the garden to its place along Los Carneros Road in 1981 and recently considered moving it again to provide space for graduate student housing. Former garden Director Kristen LaBonte said she and others fought the consideration, which would have involved digging up the fruit trees and scraping off the top layer of 20-year-old organic soil.
Hundreds of people signed a petition in support of the garden. Director Cody Bertsch said he believes the amount of support shown will keep UCSB from building on the land for several more years.
LaBonte said some plot renters have been gardening at the organic garden for 20 years. She became involved in 1996 despite knowing little about gardening.
“I.V. is just a crazy hectic place and I could just walk right across the playing fields to peace and tranquility,” she said.
The UCSB garden gives priority to students and faculty members but will consider community members based on demand. LaBonte said plot renters are only given a warning after four weeks of neglect and are not allowed to use pesticides or herbicides.
“People are free to do whatever,” she said, ” as long as it’s organic and breaks down naturally.”
Similar gardens exist at many other UC campuses including Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Davis. Students and staff who use these gardens for growing food or researching have also experienced threats from campus development. At Berkeley, the university gave away the quarter acre student farm known as the Oxford tract to the Municipal Utilities District without informing the students of the decision, said Patrick Archie, a student involved in the garden for the past seven years. After students protested, the university spared the garden.
“Our whole history over 30 years has been a constant struggle,” Archie said.
At UCSC, vocal public support has been a major factor in preserving the two-and-one-half acre Alan Chadwick Garden, established 35 years ago, and another 25 acres of agricultural land.
At Davis, the Student Farms, Experimental College farms, and the Dome project – organic gardens and a village-like housing – are located adjacent to each other, which Student Farm Director MarkVan Horn said has allowed the three projects to work together to protect their separate programs and keep them running.
“When I first started working here 15 years ago, there were plans to put a football stadium on top of the gardens,” he said. “Why we’re still here is basically because of students’ activism.”
UCD’s Long Range Development Plan specifies that the land where the three projects reside cannot be built over with buildings and parking lots, but does not guarantee complete protection, Van Horn said. Currently, many people are pushing to put the three projects, which constitute the sustainable research area, on a new LRDP.
Since 1977, the 22-acreStudent Farm has provided a site for holding classes, which has helped it become a valuable contributor to UCD, Van Horn said.
“We do a number of things to be part of the teaching program,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard to make our program valuable.”