2012-2013 Retrospective: 2012-2013 was a great year for the Food Project at CSUSM! In summer 2012, we started out a small pilot project to work out some of -- but certainly not all of -- the kinks in our food growing project. Our challenge at the outset was to see if a group of CSUSM students could turn an unused road bed, compacted 95%, into a class-based community garden yielding organic produce and demonstrating a variety of systems for growing vegetables. Over the year, 37 students worked on the project, building the fence, the raised beds, weeding and most importantly growing food for themselves, and later in the year, for the Center for Children and Families. The Food Project became an approved food source for the campus childcare center in Fall 2012.
The intent of the project is to grow food as part of the learning and class activities in Geography 460: Food Systems and Emerging Markets. We have succeeded beyond expectations in this regard. At the same time, the garden is much more than just a class activity. As students are responsble for building and farming the garden, they are gaining hands-on experience in the integration of experiential learning with curriculum -- an amazing opportunity for both future teachers and gardeners alike. Students in this class are active learners inquiring into the variety and diversity of school and community gardens while also uncovering the structure and functioning of the global food system and experiencing frequent and regular interactions with the environment in San Marcos. This sort of learning should prove immensely important for our future teachers in the class who will run into school gardens during their careers.
We have had our challenges and opportunities for growth. The first challenge was deer and rebbits. The campus has a large amount of open space located immediately adjacent to the garden's location. The solution: a fence. We settled on a deer fence that excluded both deer and smaller animals. Since installing the fence, we have not lost a single plant to wildlife. Our soil is still in need of improvement. New soil tests will be run soon to see how we have fared but we started with 0 nitrogen and 0 Phosphorous in the soil. That things have grown at all is perhaps testament to our perserverence. But the compost we added over the year from both the campus and a local supplier, San Pasqual Valley Soils helped a lot as well.
Future Plans: We are now in the midst of forming our first steering committee who will meet for the first time this summer. This committee will be instrumental to guiding the project in the future and to implementing and amending the Food Project's strategic place. Five CSUSM business students created the plan as part of a "Senior Experience" project. You can download the Sustainable Food Project plan here. Their findings about community support have been central to our success this year. But we will still need to work to find additional sources of support both technical and financial.
Funding: For the past year, the Food Project has been funded by a University Professional Development Grant and by a Faculty Development Grant. The latter grant provided the initial funding for a pilot in the Summer of 2012. The UPD funded the expansion of the pilot in Fall 2012. Apart from a small amount of funding from the College of Humanities, Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, we need to find more resources. And I am sure we will!
The Food Project wouldn't be successful without the generous help and assistance of donors, volunteers, and numerous supporters.
Our supporters are providing critical in-kind contributions, advice and support, and resources. If you are interested in becoming a supporter or finding out more about the Food Project, contact Professor Greig Tor Guthey.
Special thanks to Lucia Villacvicencio,Sid Alvarez, Bonnie Bade, Floyd Dudley, Dave Egger, Bryan Fisher, Steve Holbrook, George Martinez, and Ed Johnson whose support and assistance have been central to the Food Project's launch and success.