Farming to return to The Farm

With student population growing, Stanford University gets county's OK to re-designate use of campus land

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.


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Posted by Arne Stokstad
a resident of University South
on Dec 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

Patrick, what a wonderful surprise to see your name in this article! I can't think of a better person for the job. Congratulations and good luck with the new farm. -Arne

Like this comment
Posted by Susan Stansbury
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

Yea, Patrick and Pamela Madsen! I agree with the previous commenter that the farm is bound to be a success with Patrick's leadership!

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Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

Will there be classes for the public regarding sustainable practices, or will the outreach be for students of earth sciences only?
-Cid Young
Moss Beach

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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

For some reason, the article does not mention the existing farm at Web Link . This is right near the proposed farm (it is not the mentioned gardens near SLAC). The existing one is what I've always thought of as "The Farm", and it is not clear how, if at all, this would be affected by their new "The Farm".

Like this comment
Posted by What would Leland want?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 9:31 am

Strange that they eliminated Leland Stanford's beloved horse pasture in 2001, and then downsized his equestrian center in 2005.

Oh yeah, that was John Arrillaga's doing!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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