Student cultivates ideas for Morven Farm

Student cultivates ideas for Morven Farm

When John W. Kluge donated 7,379 acres of Albemarle County land in May 2001 to the UVA Foundation, he stipulated that the 749-acre core property, Morven Farm, be held in perpetuity to be used to support UVA’s educational programs.

Almost seven years later, the non-core properties have been sold off, with Dave Matthews buying a chunk for his Best of What’s Around farm and the rest snatched up for development geared toward the well heeled. The core property, however, remains untouched, but perhaps not for long.

Could Morven Farm feed the masses at UVA? Grad student Anne Bedarf hopes that the 749 acre property can be cultivated to supplement University dining menus.

“Morven interested me, being that I live near it,” says Anne Bedarf, a UVA grad student in the Department of Urban & Environmental Planning. “And I had heard so much about it from professors who talked about its use.”

Last semester, Bedarf completed preliminary work on Morven as a class project, entitled “Morven Farms as a Sustainability-Focused Productive Landscape: Bringing UVA Together.” Stripped down, her project proposed that some of the core property be used to grow local produce that could in turn feed UVA students.

Her idea is not as radical as it may sound. In 2001, the Yale Sustainable Food Project was founded and two years later, students established their own farm where they grew produce. They used one of the college’s dining halls as a test kitchen for serving local, seasonal and sustainable food to students on a daily basis. A year later, the project was expanded to incorporate sustainable food in the menus of all its college dining halls.

So when Bedarf presented her ideas to the UVA Foundation, they were intrigued. “Don’t they call us the Ivy League of the south?” she says laughing. A March 19 meeting was followed by another on April 9. With her graduation looming, Bedarf is working on a final report. “The University has interest in local food,” one she says is driven by students. Aramark, the dining company that supplies UVA’s cafeterias, has joined in by attending the student-organized Sustainable Dining Group meetings. Aramark has also incorporated local produce into 10 percent of its dining menu and has a student intern who is investigating greater incorporation of local produce into the food items, according to Bedarf.

“Ideally, it would start out small,” says Bedarf of the proposed garden. “And it has to be a sustainable business model.”

According to Bedarf, planting a produce garden at Morven would overall be part of UVA’s greater plan to achieve carbon sequestration. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint and therefore helping alleviate climate change by building the local food system,” she says, hopeful that the UVA Foundation decides to act on her plan. “It would be a local solution to global issues.”

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