The Organic Food Garden at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton California is an 1,110 square foot garden designed in 2007-8 as part of the landscape for the new Michael J. Homer Science and Student Life Center. The food garden is so successful that it has been expanded to include an additional 9,000 square feet in… Read more »
The Organic Food Garden at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton California is an 1,110 square foot garden designed in 2007-8 as part of the landscape for the new Michael J. Homer Science and Student Life Center. The food garden is so successful that it has been expanded to include an additional 9,000 square feet in another location on campus. The overall project is LEED platinum certified and has won several awards including the 2010 AIA Top Ten Green Projects. Marco Esposito was the project principal, and talked to me about his experience designing the garden, and lessons learned.
Q. What were the primary goals related to the agriculture program?
A. The garden is located in a high-profile area of the campus, so the concern was to have it look good whether planted, fallow or overgrown.
Q. Can you describe the design of the garden?
A. It is located in a sunny south-facing location, within a simple, tidy framework of walks (on sun side) and broadleaf evergreen hedges (backdrop on non-sun side). It is in a high-profile area, flanking the dining room and adjacent outdoor terrace, such that the food garden is highlighted but not in the way. We recommended that the least tidy crops, such as tall grains that can tip over, be planted in lower profile locations.
Q. Were there any concerns from the client about the agriculture program? How did you address them?
A. Sacred Heart had had a food garden before this project, but it was untidy and the leadership was concerned about creating a new un-tidy garden. We provided a simple framework for the food garden – a 140′ long rectangle of soil, 8′ wide, between a concrete walk and a waist-high broadleaf evergreen hedge – where 90 degree row crops of varying widths could be planted. Whether the soil is bare after harvesting, or whether the garden is overgrown, the framework is strong enough that any condition is acceptable.
Q. Who will manage the garden?
A. The garden is maintained and operated by students and faculty as part of its Environmental Science and Global Studies courses.
Q. Who will eat the food from the garden?
A. The food feeds the faculty, staff and students in the on-campus dining facilities, and is also donated to local charities.
Q. What infrastructure was needed for the garden?
A. 18″ of organic top soil, and pop-up spray irrigation.
Q. Were there any permitting issues?
A. There were no issues for construction. However, the school had to work the County Health Services to get approval to serve food grown on campus. According to a school press release “…the school is the first in San Mateo County to be approved by the Department of Environmental Health Services Division to use fruits and vegetables grown in its own organic garden for preparation and food service in its school cafeteria.”
Q. Any last insights on edible landscape design for campuses?
A. Keep it simple, and modest in proportion to surrounding permanent framework – having it look neat increases acceptance by all.
SWA Project Team: Marco Esposito, Lyn Liu, Travis Theobald
Project Lead: LMS Architects
Consultants: ISC – Irrigation
Photo Credit: Tom Fox, SWA Group
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