Oakland Campus Celebrates Spring Farm Festival with Music, Food and Crafts
While Northeastern students on the Boston campus may be bundled in their winter coats, students at the Oakland campus are enjoying the sun and everything the Oakland campus has to offer – including a 2.5-acre farm. Recently, the Oakland campus held its spring farm festival, an annual celebration of community and the environment, which was hosted by Farm Manager Julia Dashe and Sustainability Manager Andrew Gonzales.
“The springtime is always an exciting time of year for anything farm related,” Gonzales said.
San Francisco based band CupCup played while attendees ate and socialized. The food was from the dining partner Chartwells and some herbs and citrus grown on the farm water were incorporated to add flavor.
Mills students and faculty made up most of the crowd, though community members and alumna were also present. There is a middle school and elementary school on the campus and many of their students and families attended their farm and have supported the farm in the past.
There were four activities for attendees to choose from. The first activity involved making kimchee, a traditional Korean Side dish of fermented vegetables stored in jars, using fresh herbs and greens from the farm. The second activity was birdhouse making, using untreated redwood from a locally-owned lumber yard, that will be spread out across the Oakland campus. The third activity was a lavender wand making activity where people could take lavender grown on the farm and tie a string around it to package and take home. Lastly, seed bombs were created out of compost, wildflower seeds, and clay. The idea is that they can be tossed anywhere in a garden or community and some local California wildflowers will grow.
Nancy Li, a student volunteer, came to Oakland in January as part of the NU Bound program and joined the eco rep program under Andrew Gonzales because of how much she loves the environment. In high school, she founded a club to combat waste and plans on continuing her dedication to the environment at the Boston campus next semester. She works with Gonzales and studies the contamination of recycling on campus and creates signage to help make recycling more accessible.
Growing up in Southern California, Li is used to the beautiful weather but hasn’t had much experience with farms. She and fellow Northeastern Bound students are enjoying the experience of exploring the farm.
“I know a lot of people take walks to the farm because it’s just really nice,” Li said. “It’s really pretty down there.”
Gonzales was grateful for the opportunity to educate people about his work and get people interested in sustainability on campus. Some of his current projects include getting the compost from the dining halls to be used in the farm, new signage and processes for recycling and waste containers and working in general to support the campus farm. Northeastern’s acquisition of Mills College allows for an increased farm budget and increased attention for sustainability.
“It’s only going to be a positive thing,” Dashe said about the collaboration between the sustainability office and Northeastern’s support.
“We’re excited that Northeastern is interested in growing the Farm Program at the Oakland campus,” Dashe said.
Dashe said she’s looking forward to expanding outreach so that more students know about the volunteer and paid Farm Crew opportunities to dig in the soil and get hands-on experience in small scale, urban farming. “This is a perfect fit for a co-op learning experience and we’re hoping to be able to offer that to students in the near future,” Dashe said.
The farm’s produce will soon be sold to students and community members during the Tuesday farmstand series. Currently the farm is in its cool season, which means that they currently will sell kale, Swiss chard, thyme, rosemary, collard greens, citrus, broccoli and more. During the summer, the farm gives boxes of fresh produce to community members who sign up for the Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program.
There will be another farm festival in the fall and Andrew hopes that with more students on campus, more people will attend and get involved with the farm. He is working with the director of the new student orientation to officially make it a new student orientation event and wants to incorporate more local eateries into the menu. A nearby bakery will potentially use the farm’s produce to create their goods to be given out at the festival. Dashe said that the farm festivals are always “really positive,” and she looks forward to more in future.
“People are always happy to be outside,” Dashe said.
“More than ever, people enjoy being outside and participating in the meaningful work of growing food,” Dashe said. “I’m glad that the Fall and Spring Farm Festivals can give us time to celebrate the beauty of the farm and all of the students growing healthy soil and a more sustainable food system.”
Written by Renée Abbott, April 21st, 2023