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Sustainability at Mills

Farm and Food

What We're Doing
Mills strives to provide, and educate its community about, food that is as healthy, ethical, and sustainable as possible. Some of the strategies currently being utilized to achieve this are outlined below.

Mills Community Farm
The Mills Community Farm offers an exciting new opportunity to bring together students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and local community-based organizations and schools to develop a sustainable urban farm in the heart of East Oakland.

Project Origins
In 2010, a graduate student thesis proposed a campus farm that would produce food for campus dining services and engage with academic learning. Mills students began advocating for the farm, seeing it as an opportunity for the College and the surrounding community to collaborate and provide a tangible vehicle for educating students, neighborhood residents and school children about health, the environment, and nutrition. This grassroots student advocacy lent powerful impetus to the project; the idea gained traction with campus operations and administration; and a 2.5 acre site on campus was identified on which empowered students developed a small garden plot. 

In 2014, as weekly student events were being held at the farm site, the Clarence E. Heller Foundation provided support for a leadership team at the College to develop a five-year master plan for the farm. After engaging a variety of campus and community stakeholders, the plan was completed in March of 2015. The plan includes the following vision statement:

"The Mills Community Farm will become a widely known and valuable campus and community meeting place, a place that demonstrates the values of Mills College—leadership, social justice, and equity—in practical and replicable ways. It will be a welcoming community Hub, one that invites all neighbors to join in the creation and operation of the farm and to celebrate growing and eating nutritious food together. It will be an active Farm Hub, employing progressive, financially viable and sustainable approaches to farm planning, operations, harvesting, and distribution. The farm will provide healthy food to Mills College and the surrounding community. It will be a learning Hub, hosting formal and informal education and research opportunities for Mills students, faculty, and the surrounding community. It is in the overlap of the three hubs that the farm will create a unique experience, a ‘living lab’ for growing healthy food, deepening knowledge, and building community solidarity."

An on-going engagement with the farm’s evolving campus and community stakeholders will continue to hone and inform the farm’s future planning and implementation.

Recent Developments
In the Fall of 2015, a generous donation from Kathleen Burke and Ralph Davis established the Kathleen Burke and Ralph Davis Fund for Urban Farm Leadership, providing the necessary funding to establish a full-time Farm Manager position at Mills and begin farm implementation. This donation was followed shortly afterward by an additional grant from the Heller Foundation. Together, these funding sources provide a solid foundation for the newly hired Farm Manager and collaborators to proceed. The farm is being integrated with curriculum in a variety of ways; a plant ecology course offers agroecology labs at the farm site, and an environmental policy class offers an optional service credit for farm projects, and the Farm Manager teaches a Farming and Food Justice course. Additional curricular and community partnerships will continue to be forged as the enthusiasm and energy for the farm continues to grow.

Questions? Contact:

Alisha Strater
Farm Manager

Bon Appetit, a leader in sustainability among its peers, provides all of Mills College's dining services. Food is sourced from small, owner-operated farms and ranches, including the Mills Community Farm, as much as possible, with at least 20% of food purchased within a 150 mile radius of Mills College. A map of where the food at Mills comes from is available at mills.cafebonappetit.com/farm-to-fork/. Additional sustainable purchasing initiatives include serving only rBGH-free milk, cage-free eggs, and pork that was not raised with gestation crates. Leftover food is donated to Chefs to End Hunger, a non-profit that redistributes recovered food to local food agencies. Further efforts to improve dining sustainability, including purchasing organic and seasonal foods, can be found on the Mills Bon Appetit website.

You can view a short video about dining and sustainability at Mills at: mills.edu/admissions/undergraduate/student-life/dining.php

What You Can Do

  • Learn more about where your food comes from and the resources used to produce it. Try to eat more foods that minimize environmental impact, such as organic, plant-based, and less processed foods, and that maximize positive societal impacts like supporting small businesses within your community.
  • Reduce the amount of food you waste. There are many possible strategies, including designating a part of your fridge for foods to eat first (that are soonest to spoil). More tips and resources are available on the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition's website.

Volunteer at the Mills Community Farm.



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Farm and Food

Sustainability Forums


Waste Reduction

Water Conservation

Contact Information 

Joanne Wong
Sustainability Coordinator


Julia Dashe
Farm Manager


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Last Updated: 7/26/17