When it comes to cutting-edge, sustainable organic gardening, Santa Clara University’s half-acre Forge Garden is where it happens. And while it operates within the university’s Center for Sustainability, its front gate is open to the public for free to learn from and participate in the unique educational programs that happen there.
“You’ve got a little oasis right here. Everybody finds something that they need here,” said Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Center for Sustainability Director, pointing out that the bus driver calls the bus stop near the garden “the tomatoes and potatoes stop.”
Kalkbrenner was on hand for the Oct. 6 and 7 fall plant sale and is there for the weekly (Fridays, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) Farm Produce Stand—ways to share the garden’s bounty with the public and raise funds for its programs.
Baskets of seasonal produce, with a suggested donation of $2/pound, topped a table: fresh basil, slender purple eggplants, small round eggplants and lemons. Everything was harvested earlier in the morning from the garden’s ground level and raised beds.
The lemons came from the orchard of 30 fruit trees. Bees from the garden’s six hives pollinate the trees and produce honey that is harvested in the spring and fall. Seven chickens produce eggs used for cooking programs.
On another table, also for a small donation, gardeners could take home six packs or four-inch pots of vegetable seedlings such as cabbage, chard, leeks, kale, cauliflower and broccoli.
They were grown from heirloom seeds in the 400-square-foot greenhouse.
“They are cooler season crops to plant now and harvest through the winter,” said Katharine Rondthaler Krieg, Garden Manager since 2015.
“People swear by the Forge Garden starts,” said Kalkbrenner. “They say the starts are the strongest, most productive plants in their garden.”
The Forge Garden, 1051 Sherman St., was established in 2008 on the site of an old forge from the late 1800s that once served the university. Krieg displayed rusty, iron artifacts that were dug up when the garden was being developed—two horseshoes, a couple nails, a toy gun and an unidentified “S”-shaped item—all forged by the early blacksmiths.
“As an urban farm, we see ourselves as a space to educate the community on our human food system, and we are also creating habitat for insects and other critters in an urban environment,” said Krieg. “We’re a space to cultivate community, and food is a great way to do that.”
The Forge Garden donates produce weekly to the Homesafe community, a 25-unit low-income housing project in Santa Clara for survivors of domestic violence and their children. The garden team has also helped Homesafe families start their own garden and worked with the children, teaching them about gardening.
A Solar Decathlon House, built by SCU students in 2007, became the Forge Garden office. Visit www.scu.edu/theforge for information on volunteering and free educational programs such as worm composting on Nov. 2, 5 p.m., and making garden gifts for the holidays on Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m.
The free Harvest Party on Oct. 27, 4 – 6 p.m. promises to be a festive fun family time to visit Forge Garden.