Students empowered by food petition against relocation of East Campus gardens

Anusha Lalani

More than 1,500 signatures have been collected for a petition aimed at preventing the relocation of two East Campus gardens.

Students Empowered by Food, a student organization committed to impeding the displacement, started the petition in order to keep the UT Concho Community Garden and UT Microfarm in their current locations. Advocates of the petition believe the relocation of the gardens would make them inaccessible to customers and would prevent members from carrying out their activities and events with local elementary schools.

The proposed relocation is a result of the East Campus Master Plan, which seeks to build housing for graduate students on that property. 

Stephanie Hamborsky, Plan II and biology senior, former co-director for UT Microfarm and current cofounder of Students Empowered by Food, said the petition hopes to combat the lack of information students were receiving about their gardens. UT Microfarm dismissed Hamborsky after she reached out to state representatives concerning the location of the garden. 

“We just kept getting a lot of ambiguous information. We were told that we would be staying and then we wouldn’t, and it got really frustrating,” Hamborsky said. “We believe that the administration doesn’t incorporate student voices enough. We want to demonstrate that farming and gardening is a priority for campus and that we need long-term permanent locations.”

Despite the petition, relocation is still likely, said Laurie Lentz, communications manager for University Operations Communications.

“The gardens are likely to be relocated in the short or long-term,” Lentz said. “The petition clearly demonstrates student interest in having garden space, and the University is committed to finding new garden spaces.”

James Collins, government sophomore and co-director of UT Microfarm, said despite the petition, Microfarm understands the University’s decision even though it is hard to let go of their current location.

“While this is a difficult situation for all involved due to the labor and love we have put into these projects, we view this situation as a positive opportunity to design and implement a new garden location,” Collins said.

Collins also said they are consulting with groups to figure out the relocation of the gardens for the future.

“We are in talks with the housing project planning group about moving to new spaces on and around campus,” Collins said. “We expect to have new gardening spaces identified as the graduate housing displaces our current spaces.”