On October 8th, UCSB’s Edible Campus Program celebrated the opening of the ECP Student Farm. Students, supporters, and community members came together to celebrate the success of this new farm. The ECP Student Farm is located adjacent to the Orfalea Family Children’s Center on West Campus near Coal Oil Point and has only been open since February, but is already flourishing. 

The student farm is largely supported by UCSB alumni, Jack and Kim Johnson, through their Johnson Ohana Foundation. The couple is passionate about expanding access to nutritious food for all students and has been active in supporting other sustainable food programs on campus. Laulima, the Hawaiin term for many hands, is how Jack Johnson described the collective effort necessary to maintain a bountiful garden. Several coalitions, including UCSB Sustainability, the Department of Public Worms, and Associated Students Food Bank, who all make up the Edible Campus Program, and many individual volunteers have worked together to create this beautiful space. After lots of hard work, careful planning, and numerous volunteer days, the farm is thriving. Rows of planter boxes display a bounty of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, green onion, bell peppers, spices, and more. 

What makes the Edible Campus Program’s Student Farm different is its mission to address food insecurity. All of the food grown at the farm is harvested and brought to the Associated Students Food Bank on campus. The food bank is accessible to all UC Santa Barbara students and seeks to combat food insecurity by giving students the opportunity to eat fresh organic food harvested from a local and sustainable source. “Food insecurity is a huge issue facing students at UCSB and the Edible Campus Program tries to fulfill its mission of addressing food insecurity by using underutilized spaces on campus to grow fresh produce that goes straight to students,”
said Katee Gustavson, Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Public Worms.

The farm is managed by the Department of Public Worms (DPW), a sector of the Associated Students. They are dedicated to all things compost, their team of “Worm Wranglers” has done the bulk of the dirty work in creating this beautiful student farm. DPW is committed to creating and educating the community about the importance of a closed-loop food system, a system focused on sustainable food production and waste management. The ECP Student Farm operates as a closed-loop food system as DPW’s “Worm Wranglers” collect food scraps from UC Santa Barbara’s dining commons to create a nutrient-rich compost that aids the growth of the farm’s fruits and veggies. 

The farm has produced an impressive harvest of fruits and veggies, what’s their secret? In addition to the use of their nutrient-rich compost, the ‘Worm Wranglers’ of the DPW utilize a gardening technique called companion planting.  On the farm, marigolds are planted alongside green onions, the pairing of these plants growing next to each other helps deter pests. Currently, the farm is growing over 10 different types of fruits and vegetables, but they are looking to expand. The student farm has goals for on-site additions, they are working to create a permaculture food forest that will incorporate different levels of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus trees, tomatoes, and basil. The farm is also planning to install a greenhouse for growing seedlings and increasing the number of planter boxes and garden beds. As the program seeks to educate others about closed-loop food systems and nutritious foods, they also plan to build a pergola to create a shady space for hosting educational events. 

The success of the farm can be attributed to the support and mentorship from the Johnson Ohana Foundation, The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), and other generous donations from community members and individuals. It is also important to acknowledge the diligent efforts of all the volunteers from other student organizations. The farm is working towards the goal of expanding reliable access to fresh and organic food to all students.  

Interested in getting your hands dirty on the farm and getting involved with combating food insecurity? Follow @UCSBdpw on Instagram to keep up with announcements for volunteer days, internship/job listings, and gardening workshops. 

Written By Emma Olsen, UCSB Sustainability Communications and Outreach Intern