By: Julia Bernstein, J.D. Harris, and Jessica Jones
Fast food restaurants dominate the University of Texas area. Whether it’s on campus itself or right across Guadalupe, it’s not difficult to eat poorly while in college. A healthy alternative is now available every Monday afternoon on the West Mall plaza right in the heart of campus.
This Microfarm is the first of its kind on the University of Texas. They rotate crops throughout the year so there is always something fresh and in season to try. In the current season of winter, greens and root vegetables are most easily grown and available. As spring and summer approaches, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables will be up for sale.
This practice of sustainable farming is not information solely kept by the farm’s staff. The farm hosts open workdays every Thursday and Sunday. With no RSVP or experience required, this allows anyone to work as a volunteer and learn about the farming practices used at the UT Mircrofarm.
Candice Lu, a UT student, spent a Thursday afternoon at the farm with her Greek life leadership class giving back to the community. The Microfarm staff focuses on educating volunteers on the practices that takes place on the farm in order to grow sustainable crops.
“I think it’s important that we came out here today because living in a big city where we sometimes don’t even have an easy way to recycle, it’s very informative to find out about all these different processes especially composting,” Lu said.
The UT microfarm has a goal to “grow food for our local community, while creating and facilitating a number of opportunities pursuing innovation, education, sustainable systems, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” as stated by their website. This is what gives the farm its unique mission- not only to grow organic and sustainable crops, but to educate the surrounding community about these processes as well.
“We hope to connect the community to their food by emphasizing what is in season, including giving out recipe cards using in season produce,” Mircrofarm co-director Stephanie Hamborsky said. “This really draws people in and shows them that it is not difficult to eat seasonally and to buy local.”
Hamborsky also mentions water conversation and healthy soil structure through composting as key factors when it comes to sustainable farming. These are the two processes that are usually taught to volunteers in hopes that they will take this knowledge and make it better known amongst the community.
The UT Microfarm also works closely with the University Food & Housing Services (UFHS). According to Hamborsky, when the farm produces large quantities of vegetables, they sell them to UFHS. This partnership not only benefits the Microfarm, but also allows locally grown produce to be made more widely available to students on campus.
Kinsolving Food Service General Manager, Christine Jenner, believes that this partnership is one of the things that makes UT’s food service an educational experience. Locally grown produce is not only used in food preparation for the Kinsolving Dining Hall, but it’s also available in a fresh produce section within Kin’s Market, a small store right inside the doors of the residence hall.
“At a University as big as ours, attempting to feed tens of thousands of people a day, the fact that we can have locally grown options really sets us apart,” Jenner said. “My goal for Kinsolving is to move toward all of our produce being locally grown, and we are helping the cause with our own mini garden on the patio outside the dining hall.”
The Microfarm doesn’t seek to be profitable. As a grant-based program through the university, the goal is not to make money. Community outreach and education prevail as the number one goal for the Mircrofarm.
“I would encourage everyone to come out to volunteer on work days and gain a deeper connection with the food you eat,” Hamborsky said.
**NOTE: To learn more about the UT Microfarm, visit their website at: https://utmicrofarm.wordpress.com/
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