Methodology and Analysis
Through this project hoped to gain better insight into what it is like to engage with a UC Berkeley garden and to learn about garden student and staff perspectives on the condition, activity, and maintenance of their gardens. To do this we talked to leadership and staff at each of the campus-affiliated gardens that were identified at the start of the project. We then conducted initial meetings and visits to get to know the spaces and the people. After we had met with the gardens and their staff and/or students involved, we selected certain individual spaces to hold longer and more in-depth interviews (enjoy some of the stories here).
While many gardens have data from recent years, they do not all collect the same metrics or have the same goals. We encourage the gardens to systematize their data collection efforts.
Activities, food production, and student involvement varies greatly between the gardens and this becomes clear upon comparison through the infographic. UC Berkeley supports three types of gardens: 1) “academic gardens” focused on research and educational demonstration, such as the Oxford Tract, Blake Garden, and UC Botanical Garden, where food grown in those spaces is not typically utilized for consumption; and 2) “demonstration gardens” that showcase native plants or food production at small scale for food literacy and education; and 3) “food production gardens,” where primarily students and/or staff grow fruits and vegetables for consumption while also teaching and learning food production skills.
Overall, we observed an incredible amount of educational opportunity and high potential for food production in many of the garden spaces. After meeting with these garden spaces, it is clear that food production gardens could have a more robust food security impacts. While space becomes a block to increased production in such an urban environment, more involvement, commitment and transportation could improve availability of the food already being grown to students who need it.
Most of the gardens also need to improve their data collection methods and publication of techniques and successes. Communication and proximity to campus were barriers for a few spaces, particularly the student-led gardens. Despite this, there is a clear attempt to overcome these barriers through engagement with staff and increase outreach to improve the program’s sustainability.
With respect to equity and inclusion, accessibility continues to be an issue both for those who those that don’t feel welcome into these spaces and those with disabilities. See the infographic on Accessibility at Research Spaces for specific details on the issue of garden inaccessibility for people with disabilities.