Save the UT East Campus Gardens
This petition had 1,595 supporters
The University of Texas at Austin’s East Campus Development Plan entails the demolition of the only spaces on campus where students can independently grow their own food: UT Concho Community Garden and the UT Microfarm. Both of these spaces have become essential for cultivating community and providing sustainability education on campus. The University of Texas at Austin will finalize its Sustainability Master Plan by the end of Spring 2016. Additionally, The Board of Regents recently reinstated the Green Fee, an initiative that funded the East Campus gardens and many other sustainable student projects. While UT claims to support student initiatives and promote sustainability, the demolition of the two East Campus food producing spaces does not reflect these priorities.
Since 2013, the fate of the gardens has been unclear. While The East Campus Master Plan was published in the Spring of 2015, garden leaders were not considered stakeholders in its planning until January 2016, when student leaders of Microfarm and Concho were invited to a stakeholder meeting. Following the request of UT administrators, the projects compiled a comprehensive report detailing the current operation of Concho and Microfarm and proposing ideas for future food producing spaces. Despite receiving no direct feedback about this proposal as of March 2016, staff members of the UT Office of Sustainability have required student leaders to move forward in planning a new project and preparing for the demolition of the existing sites. However, the East Campus Master Plan has yet to be finalized and can still be modified to preserve Concho and the Microfarm.
The lack of communication, exclusion from decision-making, and years of false hope have created a climate of stress, frustration, and uncertainty for Concho’s and Microfarm’s participants. Despite these challenges, Concho and Microfarm have worked hard to increase the utility and productivity of their spaces to prove themselves worthy. Over the last year, the garden leaders spearheaded the complete renovation of Concho and dramatic beautification of Microfarm, vastly improving their value as centers for environmental education, social strength, and public health.
In response to the lack of direct communication from administrators, students Mijal Grosman, Lily Nguyen, and Stephanie Hamborsky are leading a campaign to hold the The University of Texas administration accountable for their lack of communication with students and lack of adherence to UT’s broader sustainability goals. We simply want our voices to be heard. Garden sites have historically been viewed as temporary-use and therefore developable, which dismisses the tremendous value of long-term sustainable agricultural projects, including increased biodiversity, soil health, and food production over time. Out of respect for the thousands of students, volunteers, and participants that have contributed to making Concho and Microfarm valuable, efforts and input from these individuals should not be ignored in campus planning.
The institutionalized exclusion of student voices is detrimental to the progress of UT, and we must change that. As students of the University of Texas at Austin, we ask that our voices be heard and demand the following:
1) The incorporation of the UT Concho Community Garden & the UT Microfarm into the East Campus development plan, allowing for sufficient access to southern sun exposure. If the gardens cannot be incorporated, we request that the UT administration provide a thorough explanation for this decision and fully fund the relocation of the gardens to a comparably sized or improved site within biking or walking distance from campus (approximately 2 miles).
2) The establishment of a formalized protocol between student project leaders and University administrators when student projects are directly implicated in capital developments. This protocol will provide a platform for open dialogue and inclusion of student voices in ongoing and newly proposed capital projects.
By signing this petition, you are exercising your ability to be the change you want to see in the world. Help us save UT Concho Community Garden and UT Microfarm and promote student involvement in UT development processes.
More information about the UT Concho Community Garden and the UT Microfarm:
The UT Concho Community Garden, located in East Campus, employs three student part-time, hosts 40 UT-affiliated plot owners, teaches 80 children from the UT Child Development Center weekly, employs three student leaders, and enables hundreds of volunteers every semester to participate in community service. Over the last five years, it has proven itself as a valuable resource in providing the UT and Austin community with free gardening classes, free garden supplies and tools, and free healthy produce. Concho is a place to become engaged in hands-on and experiential learning, cultivate a sense of community, and feel better by connecting to nature through food. Visit utconchocommunitygarden.wordpress.com for more information.
The UT Microfarm, a micro-scale traditional farming operation, employs three students part-time, mentors over 15 interns, and hosts dozens of volunteers every week during weekly workdays. Produce is sold weekly during on campus farm stands and every Sunday at the HOPE Farmer’s Market. The Microfarm proves an educational space for UT students and the general Austin community, and our regular food donations to Blackland Neighborhood Center and the Alamo Recreation Center have connected us to the adjacent Blackland Neighborhood. Microfarm staff and volunteers utilize diverse growing methods, encourage independent student projects and exploration, and prioritize sustainability in all endeavors. Visit utmicrofarm.org for more information.
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