Organic demonstration farm thrives at local community college campus
The IssueThe College of Marin, a community college in Marin County, was struggling with dwindling enrollment and under-use of its Indian Valley campus (IVC). Nanda Schorske, dean of workforce development and college community partnerships, began discussions with UC Cooperative Extension sustainable agriculture coordinator Steve Quirt and environmental horticulture advisor Steven Swain to create a curriculum consisting of two academic programs: an organic demonstration farm and garden, and an environmental landscaping program. The college also set aside nearly six acres of underutilized land for the farm.
What Has ANR Done?Steve Quirt planned, designed and implemented the organic demonstration farm, providing valuable guidance to IVC in where to locate the farm and garden. Quirt developed the curriculum for the "Principles of Sustainable and Organic Farming" course and Swain designed the integrated pest management portion of the curriculum. The curriculum includes: planning, what you can and cannot grow, composting, germination, spacing between rows, irrigation, mulch, ground temperature, etc. Field trips to local organic farms and guest lectures are also included in the curriculum. The students spend part of their time in the classroom, learning about soil chemistry and nutrition from Quirt and Wendy Johnson of Green Gulch Zen Center. However, a large portion of students’ time is spent working the farm. This new area of study is truly a community effort. The college employs the two faculty members, UCCE Marin provides one of the faculty members (Quirt), and the Marin Conservation Corps runs the farm. Quirt has also been instrumental in procuring thousands of dollars worth of donated labor, equipment, and materials from local farms, ranches and organizations. The project received financial support from the Marin County Board of Supervisors and the Marin Community Foundation. Other partners include Marin Agricultural Land Trust, the Marin Farmers Market Association, and Marin Organic. To view photos of the farm, see the IVC Farm blog at: http://groups.ucanr.org/sbdisplay/blogs.cfm?county=5574.
Fostering understanding of food, the environment, health and communityThe organic farming class began March 4 with 20 students, and by the third class meeting 32 students (the class size limit) were enrolled. As the first sustainable agriculture and horticulture education and training center of its kind in Marin County, the Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden will be instrumental in creating the next generation of green industry professionals, fostering countywide agricultural literacy and environmental sustainability, and providing graduates with the tools to find and create green jobs and businesses in horticulture, agriculture and beyond. It will serve an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 college students, middle and high school youth, agricultural and horticultural professionals, and community residents each year through its many educational offerings, community projects, and public demonstration gardens. In addition, the Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden project will serve as a model for California’s community colleges, youth corps and other University of California Cooperative Extension offices.