Stanford University plans to bring farming back to The Farm.
The 4-acre farm, to be run by the School of Earth Sciences, is in some ways a by-product of the university's desire to increase its population of undergraduates and, with it, student housing.
On Tuesday, Nov. 26, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a change to the university's 2000 General Use Permit, rezoning 20 acres at the southwest corner of Searsville and Fremont roads. The land, which is near the Red Barn and has never been built upon, was formerly intended for 372 faculty-housing units.
The new O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm will grow a diverse crop of vegetables, flowers, fruit trees and specialty plants to teach students and the public about sustainable farming. The farm will work with other campus programs and plans to distribute some of the food, said Patrick Archie, director of the Stanford Educational Farm Program in the School of Earth Sciences.
"Students for more than 12 years have wanted the farm," Archie said. Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences, has been instrumental in getting the farm approved by university officials, he added.
The farm opportunity came about due to Stanford's lessening need for on-campus faculty housing and increasing need for student housing.
Faculty housing is being built elsewhere, including off-campus on N. California Avenue in Stanford Research Park, said Whitney McNair, senior associate director of Stanford University Land Use and Environmental Planning.
Meanwhile, the university proposes to increase its undergraduate population by 100 students per year, according to documents submitted for the supervisors' hearing. Undergraduates who want to live on campus are guaranteed housing by Stanford, and the university strives to house 60 percent of graduate students on campus. So far, 1,819 student units have been approved or built on campus since adoption of the 2000 general-use permit, which governs campus development. Only 181 units of student-housing allowance remain.
The general-use permit amendment re-allocates the 372 faculty-housing units to the student-housing allowance. It also permits Stanford to build those student units at two sites adjacent to current student housing. The new housing would not increase traffic or cause other problems, Stanford documents state.
The 20-acre parcel that includes the farm lies in an undeveloped part of campus, bracketed by biology greenhouses and the horse-stable area.
The new farm will not be Stanford's only one. It currently runs a 1-acre farm near the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. It is divided into a community farm of small plots managed by professors and students and an educational farm for student projects. The bigger farm will be more on par with educational farms at other universities, including U.C. Santa Cruz and U.C. Davis, Archie said.
The farm will be constructed in summer 2014 with plans to open in September. But it will take a while to fill the site with fruit trees and flowers, he said. Besides irrigation, the soil needs to be improved. Archie plans to add cover crops and fall and winter vegetables. By spring 2015, the soil will be fertile and ready to produce a bountiful harvest, he said.