Urban Farm adds two more growing sites south of campus

The University of Oregon’s Urban Farm is growing.

For more than 30 years, the popular class has put students to work cultivating vegetables and learning about how our food system works on land north of Franklin Boulevard between Onyx Street and Riverfront Parkway. This fall, two more growing sites are opening on the south side of campus, said Harper Keeler, who directs the Urban Farm program.

One is on the 1800 block of Moss Street, next to the Center for Advancement of Sustainable Living. The site is designed to be a community garden for students, where students or student groups will be given a section of ground to cultivate, similar to what the city of Eugene does with its community garden program.

The other is on the 1800 block of Columbia Street, a double lot behind Agate Hall. The addition of this site has allowed for the addition of a second section of the Urban Farm class, with room for about 50 students.

Currently, about 80 students enroll in Urban Farm during fall, spring and summer terms. From 2000 to 2010, more than 2,000 students enrolled in the Urban Farm class, from 93 different disciplines. The class, part of the Department of Landscape Architecture, typically fills within an hour after registration opens, Keeler said.

“There’s something universal about working outside and in the garden,” he said.

But it’s not just about spending time outdoors, digging, tilling, planting, watering and harvesting crops. Students learn about how our food system works and how it relates to public health, open space, farmland preservation and other issues.

“They want to know where food comes from,” Keeler said. “Students are really interested in knowing the origin of food and what it takes to produce healthful food.”

Students also get to enjoy the bounty of their labors, gathering at the end of each class to take home vegetables they’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

“What we call it is direct feedback,” Keeler said.

Preparing and eating food is a big part of the class, Keeler said.

“We have potlucks at the farm, and (students) end up scheduling their own dinner parties,” he said. “A lot of it is about sharing the harvest.”

The combination of hands-on work in the garden and exploration of larger issues makes Urban Farm a favorite class of Marija Brzev, a sociology major.

“It's one of the most relaxing classes to take and you learn so much and it really involves hands-on work, like planting and learning about soil and the outdoors,” she said.

“But you also get the academic experience, since you read books and do little projects outside of class, so I think it's one of the most well-rounded courses at the university.”

— Tim Christie