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 Forging Ahead with a Community Garden

If you had walked by the corner of Benton and Sherman streets a couple of centuries ago, you would have heard blacksmiths pounding metal. Today, the muted sounds of spades will waft to your ears. It’s Santa Clara University students working the soil of the robust new community garden, which will be used for food, education, and as a model for other urban gardens.

Called The Forge in honor of the plot’s history, the half-acre site currently abounds with garlic, leeks, strawberries, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, chard, and kale. Soon these winter fruits and vegetables will make way for typical spring fare.

The garden is a cooperative effort between the Environmental Sciences Institute, the Food and Agribusiness Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Ignatian Center, and campus facilities.

“The garden is still very young, less than a year old. It will change pretty rapidly in the next year,” said Patrick Archie, the garden manager and director of campus and community programs for the Environmental Studies Institute, who has overseen the transformation of the plot from a vacant lot, to one with cover crops, and now to a thriving patch of flora and greens.

Currently, whoever works in the garden gets to partake of its bounty. “This spring, we’ll be harvesting more than we can eat,” said Archie. We plan to donate produce to a women’s and children’s shelter, and as our volume increases, we’ll be looking for other organizations that could benefit from the food.”

A new ministry has also sprouted from the site, in partnership with the Silicon Valley Health Corps. Dubbed Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG), it’s an environmental justice outreach program that provides gardening education, training, design advice, and resources to underserved schools and marginalized communities in Santa Clara County. Currently, BUG is working with several schools and community centers in the Gardner, Washington, and Alma neighborhoods.

“Although other universities have gardens, I think that ours, with its urban focus, is on the cutting edge,” Archie said.

He welcomes neighbors to visit the garden, which is open to the public every Wednesday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. and also hosts periodic workshops. Click here for more information.

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