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Seattle Times - Photo: The main University of Washington farm stretches over an acre and a half at the Center for Urban Horticulture campus. (Courtesy of Anthony Ataee)
The UW farm has two locations, where more than 60 graduate and undergraduate students, along with volunteers and interns, plant, tend and harvest fruit and vegetables.
August 18, 2014

SEARCHING FOR a healthful, delicious lunch place in the University District? Look no farther than the bright, modern restaurant Cultivate (1218 N.E. Campus Parkway) where the wait staff are University of Washington students and the fresh, seasonal food is as local as it gets.

The UW now has a working farm that provides some of Cultivate’s fresh produce and stocks the shelves at the adjacent store. “Universities are discovering they need to be competitive in bringing better food to students,” says Sarah Reichard, director of the UW Botanic Gardens. “The program has been totally bottom-up; the students asked for it.”

When the small farm on campus needed more space, Reichard welcomed the program to the Center for Urban Horticulture’s campus. She hired Sarah Geurkink to run the farm and to offer community workshops. Funding comes from UW sources (the College of the Environment, the School of Public Health, Housing and Food Services), grants, donations and the revenue from food sales.

The UW faculty is developing a new interdisciplinary food studies minor. For now, students take a “farm ed” class every week, taught by a botany professor, on topics ranging from how to make fertilizer to the business of farming, from food distribution to irrigation. Geurkink takes a broad view. “My goal is to cultivate a community of eaters aware of where their food comes from,” she says. “We’re not an agriculture school . . . we focus on the development of people.”