As Jack Johnson sings in his 2005 hit “Better Together,” the first workday of UC Santa Barbara’s Edible Campus Student Farm was an experience made better when done together. Jack and Kim Johnson, founders of the Johnson Ohana Foundation, which supports organizations that promote education for the arts and environmentalism, are partners of the Edible Campus project and helped plant some of the community garden’s first vegetables this past March. In a quote from The Current, Jack Johnson recognized gardening as not only a way to grow food but a way to grow new friendships as well.
Based on the location of the student farm, it appears that fostering inter-community relationships is one of its main purposes. Just beyond the edge of Isla Vista, close to West Campus Student Family Housing and Isla Vista Elementary, the project site lies in an area where traditional students, nontraditional students, faculty, and kids collide. Undergraduates and faculty with UCSB can teach elementary schoolers about sustainable food practices, passing the knowledge along to the next generation.
The farm also serves the practical and vital purpose of addressing food insecurity, a growing issue on college campuses across the country. For the University of California system in particular, a recent report by the UC Global Food Initiative found that 44 percent of UC undergraduates had experienced some form of food insecurity while in college as of spring 2016. Additionally, the study highlighted disproportionate levels of food insecurity based on socio-economic status and ethnicity. Both first-generation students and independent students were found to experience more severe food insecurity than their not first-generation or dependent counterparts. Similarly, the African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), and American Indian students surveyed reported food insecurity at greater rates than Asian, international, and white students.
The farm will confront these disparities by expanding the supply of produce at the Associated Students Food Bank. By next year, the farm could supply as much as 30 to 40 percent of the Food Bank’s supply — workers at the food bank have already noticed an increase in produce donations from the farm, including eggplants, radishes, lemons, and oranges. According to Student Coordinator Eric Nava, visitors to the Food Bank are excited to learn that their produce is being grown and harvested by fellow students, right there on campus. From seed to sprout to vegetable to the hands of students and faculty, the Edible Campus Student Farm seems to feed the community in more ways than one.