Community Gardens

Summer is here on the Stanford campus.
Dara Silverstein, the Sustainable Food Program Manager at Stanford's Residential & Dining Enterprises, tells us about how the “BeWell Community Gardens” are being used to educate and feed the Stanford Community. 

What is the purpose of the new gardens?

The gardens help educate our community about the importance, joy and nutrition of growing your own local, organic, and sustainable food. There is no better way to learn about and appreciate the concept of sustainable food than by digging in the dirt and growing it yourself. 

What is truly amazing about the community gardens is the different types of members they attract — from grad students to staff and faculty, and from new gardeners to Master Gardeners. As a community space, another goal of the gardens is to bring these many different members of the Stanford community together in a common interest to grow food together, celebrate the harvest together, learn from and teach each other, and to celebrate wellness in a community of friends and gardening neighbors. 

How many gardens are there and where are they located?

There are two gardens on campus: one at Oak Road near the new hospital, and one on Lane B across Campus Drive from the Munger complex. The Oak Road community garden has about 130 individual plots and the Lane B garden has 24 individual plots. 

We also have communal plots for new gardeners or for people who don’t have the time or support to maintain their own plots. The communal plots are used for gardening classes for the greater Stanford community through BeWell and R&DE’s Sustainable Food Program.  

Can you explain the connection between the gardens and BeWell?

The gardens are tied to BeWell in a few different ways. New gardeners must complete their SHALA to be eligible to receive a plot. (This only applies to those who are eligible to take the SHALA.) Additionally, we will be offering a series of gardening classes through BeWell and HIP for new community garden members. We've enlisted the expertise of existing Master Gardeners from the community garden to teach these classes. We are working closely with BeWell to ensure that they are tied to BeWell’s goals of facilitating a culture of wellness at Stanford. Studies have found that gardening is intricately tied to both wellness and sustainability — from the relaxation and physical benefits of gardening to the importance of the social ties and nutrition from local, organic agriculture.   

Who can use the gardens?

Current Stanford University staff, faculty, retirees, students and Stanford Hospital & Clinics employees are eligible to obtain a garden plot. Spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis; we currently have a wait list, but Stanford community members can sign up to be on the wait list by visiting

How does this new campus feature relate to your work?

R&DE has been creating and managing organic gardens on campus for almost ten years. R&DE has seven organic gardens, one next to every kitchen. We have student interns who help to manage the gardens and organize garden work days for students, staff, and faculty. We use the gardens not only to teach students about the concepts of sustainable food and organic agriculture, but also for the herbs, vegetables, and fruit the gardens provide our dining halls. Our chefs love picking fresh herbs and vegetables to finish a recipe, and we plant to their specifications. What better example of Farm to Table in action! Managing the BeWell Community Gardens fits in perfectly with our Sustainable Food Program and is a logical extension of the work I do as the R&DE Sustainable Food Program Manager. Since I started a year and a half ago, I have been working with BeWell to teach gardening classes to staff, so I was very excited when I was asked to be involved in the community gardens. 

For more information:

Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna Ryan.

Related BeWell articles:
The power of nature
Surroundings that soothe