While most people at the University of Florida or in Gainesville are familiar with the UF bat houses across from Lake Alice on Museum Road, for some, those rows of kale or squash growing nearby are a mystery.
Called the Student Gardens, this plot of land is part of the UF Field and Fork Campus Food Program, an interdisciplinary initiative led by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Each semester, 30 to 50 students volunteer at the garden, working together to grow fresh vegetables while learning sustainable farming practices.
These volunteers get a share of what they grow, and through a partnership with the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry, which is run by UF Student Affairs, some of the harvest is distributed to those in the UF community facing food insecurity.
Starting this fall, UF faculty will begin taking their classes to the newest addition to Field and Fork, a seven-acre teaching farm located south of Hull Road. The Teaching Farm will demonstrate different systems for growing food and is available to faculty in any academic department.
“Field and Fork got started when we recognized a need for our students to have more experiential learning,” said Anna Prizzia, campus food systems coordinator and director of Field and Fork. ”We saw two areas on campus that were used to teach students about agriculture, but they were vastly underutilized. These became the Student Gardens and Teaching Farm. We also saw a need to address the issue of food insecurity on campus, which led to the food pantry” she said.
Any UF student can get involved in the gardens by showing up on one of the scheduled work days, which will be posted on the Field and Fork website and Facebook page. Some volunteers work as interns and receive college credit. Both interns and volunteers gain leadership experience by managing the gardens’ planning and operation.
Prizzia noted that most employers want to see college graduates have real-world leadership experience outside the classroom, which is exactly what the farm, gardens and pantry offer.
The Student Gardens will kick off the fall volunteer season with a scavenger hunt in mid-September. For more information about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, go to the Field and Fork website (http://fieldandfork.ufl.edu) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UFFarmandGardens/). To apply for an internship, please contact Anna Prizzia at email@example.com.
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Anna Prizzia, 352-294-2208, email@example.com
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones