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Student farmer provides organic produce for dining services

By Conor McElhaney
On January 24, 2013


Getting people to want to be sustainable is no simple task in today's consumer culture. Mac Hart, a junior environmental studies and planning major, wants to change that. 

"I worked in the community garden my freshman year and came away from it wanting an opportunity to grow more food," said Mac. "With some help from Merith Weiseman at the Center for Community Engagement, I was able to attend a small workshop in Santa Rosa on SPIN (small plot intensive) farming." 

SPIN farming is a farming technique where the grower makes farm sized income from garden sized plots. "From there I sought out landowners in Penngrove with property that fit the optimum specifications for successful market gardens in peoples backyards." These specifications include yards with wells (free water) for outdoor irrigation as well as unlandscaped yard space. 

"With the help of many friends, the Environmental Studies & Planning Department, and the Redwood Empire Rare Fruit Growers, the plot quickly turned productive in Spring 2012, " said Mac.

 With the garden being productive and the attainment of the proper insurance paper work, Mac started selling produce to Sonoma State's Dining services. Not only is Mac's garden sustainable, but his delivery methods are as well. With a used trailer hitch and his bike, he delivers produce by the pound over to dining services. Talk about zero emissions. 

With this system, Mac hopes to lay down foundations for future SSU students to easily start their own successful market gardening business, while maintaining a sustainable organic environment. Not many people want to start growing food locally, but putting an incentive to grow as much food as possible, as quickly as possible, is not only beneficial for the grower but the students as well by consuming locally grown, fresh and organic produce. 

When asked about the response within dining services about a student providing local organic produce, Daniel O'Brien, associate director of dining services, said, "I believe it to be very positive, the greens have been quality in nature and quantity targets have been met." 

The garden also shows that Mac has been making all kinds of connections with the Community surrounding SSU. An agreement with Charlie Brown's allows Mac to collect the left over coffee grounds from the entire week and add them to the dirt in his plot. Beyond the on-campus workings, relationships are sprouting and have already started a network of neighbors that are assisting with the project. Whether it is a neighbor offering their truck to pick up compost or a horse stall donating their horse compost to the garden, a network is forming that will only help the garden become more efficient in the coming months. 

As for whether or not there's potential for the project to grow successfully, O'Brien said, "Our business relationship with Mac has been very good, we would certainly be interested in any potential new items should he look to expand his operation."

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