UC Berkeley is home to over ten urban gardens that produce food, preserve native ecosystems, increase biodiversity and create cultural and community space. We believe that gardens on our campus have the opportunity to play a unique role in the landscape of urban agriculture: creating micro-scale food systems that address student food insecurity; offering spaces for experiential education; increasing food and food system literacy; expanding opportunities to interact with land and food; adapting urban greening to urban typologies and aesthetics; facilitating interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and land use decision making. Campus gardens create unique spaces for our community to interact with nature, agriculture, food, and one another. BFI supports campus gardens with respect to outreach, financial resources, and intercultural and academic opportunities.
Undergraduate and graduate students are involved in the design, implementation, maintenance and programming of urban gardens alongside faculty, staff, gardeners, and community members.
Gardens and Basic Needs: We see the connection between urban agriculture and student food security and nutrition. Many of our gardens harvest food for the campus food pantry and nutrition and cooking skills programs. For more information on how gardens’ produce supports Basic Needs, check out the Basic Needs website.
Gardens and Equity: Our current food system is exploitative and extractive to the environment and many people, from farmworkers to communities living in food apartheids. Urban gardens offer a gateway through which neighborhoods can heal and grow healthier communities by reclaiming agency over what they eat, how it is grown, and how to share it. On the other hand, we have seen the urban agriculture movement struggle with diversity, equity, and inclusion in terms of ADA accessibility, lack of representation, internal power structures, and lack of paid opportunities (McClintock 2018, Siegner et al. 2018). At BFI, we seek out ways to create equity by giving equal opportunity for all to engage and connect with campus gardens at Berkeley and the urban agriculture movement at large.
Berkeley Student Farms
The Berkeley Student Farms coalition is a transparent and democratic student-led and community-based organization that prioritizes movement building, meaningful inclusion, and equitable distribution of food, land, and knowledge through collective action and resistance. The coalition utilizes ecological land management to create a network of sites dedicated to anti-oppression and student basic needs, ultimately producing thriving safe spaces for experiential education and food justice in the Bay Area.
Ways To Get Involved
There are many ways to get involved in our campus gardens, such as visiting, volunteering, taking a class, or performing research for a course project.
Volunteer or Intern
- Berkeley Student Farms offers open hours at various gardens in their coalition.
- Herbicide Free Cal hosts community work days.
- UC Botanical Garden offers various volunteer positions including garden ambassadors, propagators, curation, docent, and more.
- UC Gill Tract Community Farm provides students with the opportunity to participate in an Agroecology Research Internship through the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP).
- UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center offers internship opportunities every year that provide support for Basic Needs efforts on campus.
Take a Class
Below is a sample of some courses that allow students the opportunity to learn about and get involved with urban and rural gardens and farms, on campus and beyond. For the full list of classes being offered during fall 2020, visit here.
- ESPM 118: Agricultural Ecology
- Examines in a holistic framework fundamental biological, technical, socio-economic, and political processes that govern agroecosystem productivity and stability. Management techniques and farming systems’ designs that sustain longterm production are emphasized. One Saturday field trip and one optional field trip.
- ESPM 155AC: Sociology and Political Ecology of Agro-Food Systems
- Sociology and political ecology of agro-food systems; explores the nexus of agriculture, society, the environment; analysis of agro-food systems and social and environmental movements; examination of alternative agricultural initiatives–(i.e. fair trade, food justice/food sovereignty, organic farming, urban agriculture).
- PLANTBI 20: Introduction to the Plant Sciences at Berkeley
- This course will include discussions on the academic path (courses) needed for the Genetics and Plant Biology major; an introduction to resources and facilities for studies of the plant sciences at Berkeley, such as the University Herbarium and the Botanical Garden; an exploration of plant science related careers, including presentations from guest speakers who work in organic farming, government, and Cooperative Extension; talks by faculty about their current research, and information about how to do research in a lab.
In past semesters, UC Berkeley has offered several student-led courses focused on sustainability and food systems, some of which involve work with campus gardens, including:
- Sustainable Urban Landscape Design
- Urban Agroecology
To stay updated on which student-led courses will be offered during fall 2020, visit the DeCal website.
Urban Agriculture Resource Guides
The following guides have been compiled by students and collaborators of the Berkeley Food Institute. These are helpful for new campus gardens or gardeners and for anyone who wants to consider starting a garden at home or visiting gardens on campus and in the local community. These include:
- 2019 Campus Gardens Handbook
- 2018 Gardening in the East Bay: A Quick Guide to Local Resources
- Bay Area Urban Farming Resource Guide
Campus Garden Toolkits
Over the course of the last year, the Berkeley Food Institute collaborated with partners at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz to expand opportunities for experiential learning in campus farms and gardens. Funded through the UC Global Food Initiative, the three campuses increased programming, improved coordination between garden spaces, and initiated off-campus garden internship programs in local public schools. With representation from UC Davis’ Student Farm, UC Santa Cruz’ Farm and Garden, and UC Berkeley’s network of several urban farms and gardens, each partner contributed unique and valuable knowledge. In order to share these learnings more broadly, the team created three toolkits, intended as practical guides for campuses interested in starting and/or expanding similar programs. These include: