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UGArden Vision and Mission

Vision:

To provide outstanding leadership in sustainable food education, outreach, and research

Mission:

The UGArden Education and Demonstration Farm will research, teach and promote sustainable agriculture and systems of localized food distribution. By integrating academic curriculum with the University of Georgia’s land resources and the local food economy, UGArden will provide a unique laboratory for understanding and developing local-scale solutions to global food challenges. UGArden will bring to the table a wide range of participants, facilitating collaboration among people from diverse personal and academic backgrounds.

Objectives:

  • Provide space to teach hands-on sustainable farming/gardening methods
  • Provide a place for the greater UGA community to learn about sustainable food systems
  • Provide fresh organic produce to families in needs in the local community
  • Provide space for students to engage students in practical research projects
  • Provide opportunities for engagement between UGA and the greater Athens community
  • Closely connect UGA to its food system

Background:

In order to meet the food needs of the still-growing human population, food production systems have been the focus of vigorous efforts to increase yields and to expand production area. As a result, natural ecosystems, water resources, and atmosphere and climate systems have come under increasing stress. Global food production and distribution systems are being impacted by climate changes and air pollutants, and changes in demand for resources like water and fertilizers. Thus, food production is at the center of sustainability challenges, and food production and food choices play an extremely important role in shaping the long-term sustainability of human activities.

 

While conventional agriculture in the U.S. produces great quantities of food, this productivity requires intensive energy, fertilizer and chemical inputs, reduces crop diversity, and drives many small farmers out of business. After traveling an average of 1500 miles to reach its destination, food is no longer fresh when it reaches the plate. In addition, pesticide residues pose health risks for the people who prepare and eat the food. Because most Americans are far removed from each component of this food process, most are unaware of the effects each step has on human health, community, the environment, and the self-sufficiency of local and global economies. In response to these negative side effects of conventional agriculture, alternatives such as farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and farmer’s cooperatives are forming across the country.

Food security and environmental issues are just one of a number of sustainability challenges facing the world. These challenges require strong leadership from universities as places of research and higher learning, in understanding causes and consequences of changes, evaluating effective management approaches and policies, and educating future leaders. UGA has responded to this challenge by establishing the Office of Sustainable Agriculture, creating the Office of Sustainability, developing the Local Food Systems and Organic Farming Certificate programs. A teaching facility and educational resource for local food sustainability issues are instrumental in helping to fill a gap in UGA’s sustainability initiative. We propose to establish a new and crucial component within the initiative, the UGArden Education, and Demonstration Farm, to provide an outstanding educational facility that links local and global food issues for the UGA community.

UGA students have already demonstrated their overwhelming desire to be more connected to their food system and to learn more about the production of healthy, sustainably grown food. Students have been demanding quality, organic produce from local farms; they have been actively involved in increasing numbers in the many on-campus garden and agriculture- related activities. Over the last few years, students have sought out courses to complement extracurricular activities related to this learning. A number of new courses have been created on campus to help fulfill this demand: The demand is clear for a teaching area that can accommodate larger classes each quarter and that can allow experimental approaches to learning. Over 4000 student hours were logged at the UGArden Farm and other community garden sites around Athens in 2011. It is also clear that there needs to be a space for the greater community to engage in the conversation and learning about sustainable food systems. The proposed student Farm could provide this space and a remarkable opportunity to take a step toward a more sustainable food system.

Leadership and Management:

UGArden Director: David Berle. Associate Professor of Horticulture

Farm Educator/Manager: JoHannah Biang

Farm Location:

2510 South Milledge Ave, adjacent to the Horticulture Department Greenhouses

As per earlier discussions with UGA University Architects, Assoc. Dean for Research of CEAS, Dean Angle and Doug Bailey, Horticulture Department Head, requested use of the tract(s) of land along the west sides Milledge Ave., just south of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia entrance and following along S. Milledge Ave. to the former CAES Horse Facility.

UGArden Labor Structure:

The Director is responsible for all UGArden activities, focusing on fund raising and programming.  The Farm Manager makes all day-day decisions and supervises all farm staff and volunteers. Undergraduate and graduate students, both through courses and as volunteers, provide the operational support. Other aspects of the management plan include:

  • Student Assistant Farm Manager.
  • Americorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator provided by the Office of Service Learning as part of a broader effort to address food insecurity in the Athens-Clarke County area.
  • Three credit-hour Internship Course offered every semester. Interns are the backbone of farm labor who also supervise the hundreds of volunteers who work at UGArden every week.
  • Compost Intern and Produce Distribution Intern provided by the UGA Office of Sustainability.
  • Master Gardeners provide a stable volunteer support network.