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Sowing organic seeds of success at College of Marin's Novato campus

Marin Independent Journal Editorial
Marin IJ

The organic farming program at College of Marin's Indian Valley campus is a good idea that has quickly taken root and is thriving.

Since the program was launched in 2009, enrollment has jumped from 31 students to 106 this semester.

Marin's strong "locavore" movement has helped to get the program off to a strong start, with both hobbyists and those who want to pursue commercial organic farming benefitting. The support from growers, markets and restaurants interested in locally grown organic vegetables, fruit and flowers has played a key role in the program's growing enrollment.

A $201,950 grant from the state Community College Chancellor's Office also is an impressive vote of confidence in the program and a big step toward meeting its year-round demands.

Program leaders hope the grant will keep the farm running all year, increase production levels and enable it to become self-sustaining. The program also has been involved in community projects and public demonstration gardens.

The program also is helping boost enrollment at IVC, the college's Novato campus where chronic enrollment problems have prompted several brainstorming efforts to rebuild its student body — and talk of closing it.

IVC's program grew from a partnership of the college, Conservation Corps North Bay and UC Cooperative Extension. Students attend school part time and work on the farm part time to learn organic farming techniques, pest
management, soil and water management, landscaping and nursery practices.

Some students are part of a school-sponsored apprenticeship through which they receive college credit and part-time pay.

The program provides skill-based green job training and field study in sustainable agriculture, landscaping and horticulture.

Students have been growing artichokes, arugula, blueberries, eggplants, peas, spinach, tomatoes, raspberries and other produce that has been sold at farmstands on the campus and in Novato's farmers market.

"The Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden represents the values of Marin County because it promotes a healthy environment, a strong local economy and helps achieve social equity through education," COM President David Wain Coon said. "We have established this education farm in response to strong demand in our community and region for a highly trained workforce in organic farming and gardening."

All that and the end result even tastes good and is good for you.

We hope the state grant will help the College of Marin's IVC program build on its impressive start and get on strong financial footing so it can train even more students to meet the growing demand for home-grown organic produce.