This week, spending time in the Gill Tract was a particularly nice break from the school week. I was part of the group planting garlic and cabbage, and it was interesting getting to apply the planting techniques addressed in Essential Urban Farmer, namely intensive planting with crops that take advantage of vertical space—garlic as a root cop, and cabbage growing above-ground. The bed was planted with 15 or so cabbage starts and the centre was filled in with garlic, which will take up the full space once they start growing in. It was really gratifying to actually put plants in the ground, especially after spending a lot of time prepping beds and weeding the previous weeks in and outside of class. It is such a cool idea that you can use symbiotic relationships between plants to help prevent pest infestations, disease, and attract beneficial insects simply by planting certain crops near each other in the same bed or by creating sanctuary beds nearby. This process makes planting and planning a garden seem more manageable to me, because it’s always seemed very daunting having to figure out what crops to grow where and in what combination.
Earlier in the week I volunteered on the farm, and it was really nice getting to be around when the farm stand was open and see how the community interacts with the space in so many ways. Between providing affordable fresh produce for low-income residents (among others) and providing a local space for community members to be involved in their own food production, volunteer, or just get outside, the farm seems very integrated with its surroundings and the public. It was awesome seeing groups of elementary schoolers, university students, and individuals living in Albany or Berkeley all outside and working together in the same space towards the same goals. This is especially nice because before I had visited the farm, I had assumed that it was primarily university operated because the land is owned by the UC. The fact that the people involved are so diverse seems like it bodes well for the future of the farm (hopefully!) as it will be a broad coalition of people that opposes the further private development of the area. Even though SOGA is a more directly university-related space, I hope that a similarly broad group of people will resist its conversion to additional housing for students (especially as the university tends to present expensive student housing as “affordable housing” whether or not that is actually the case).