By Maggie Dudacek
UGArden, a 4-acre, student-run farm, is teaching students about sustainable food while growing produce to feed families in need.
Located on South Milledge Avenue, the farm started out as a garden in 2010 for students of all majors throughout the university to learn about sustainable food. Initially financed by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ horticulture department, UGArden is a tool for instruction, sustainable practices, experimentation and service-learning.
And now land used for sheep and hog farming grows vegetables, fruits, shiitake mushrooms and herbs using organic practices.
“The primary reason UGArden exists is to teach students how to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs organically,” said CAES associate professor David Berle, director of UGArden. “Some come to learn how to garden, others to learn about composting or growing and making herbal teas. Some come just to get outside after being in a class or lab all day and some come to be part of the local food movement.”
More than 50 students visit the farm weekly, and excess food production is donated within the Athens community.
“Seventy-five percent of the produce grown at the UGArden is distributed to families in need in the community, either through the Campus Kitchen program, Clarke Middle School or through the weekly produce stand at the Athens Area Council on Aging,” Berle said.
In 2014 alone, UGA’s Campus Kitchen harvested 2,600 pounds of fresh produce from UGArden to make meals for grandparents raising grandchildren.
Students can volunteer at the garden though designated work events, typically centered on planting and harvesting.
Several courses are taught at UGArden including two freshman seminars and three upper level courses: Organic Agriculture Systems, Sustainable Community Food Production and a UGArden Internship.
The garden holds a weekly produce stand Thursdays from 4:30-6 p.m.
Read more about how UGA impacts communities at discover.uga.edu.