Contemplating some of the gaps between the founder's stated vision for Stanford University and the reality of Stanford today can be a little eye-opening.
Where Mr. and Mrs. Stanford wanted a University that taught co-op economics through a University professor as an alternative to plutocratic capitalism, we have something altogether different. People do refer to it affectionately as "The Farm", even though they never heard of the actual farm at Stanford.
Where Mr. and Mrs. Stanford wanted "To maintain on the Palo Alto estate a farm for instruction in agriculture in all its branches" (Article 17 of the University Charter), we've had basically a patch of pernicious weeds with a few intrepid gardeners staking outposts amongst the ravenous squirrels. Of late, even, golf, that sport so closely associated with corporations, has encircled the Stanford Community Farm, limiting growth opportunities. Various individuals have poured their energies into the place on ultra-meager funding, so far always to be dropped off the payroll as my august alma mater has more important things on her mind than sodden agriculture.
One of the main paths at the farm, planted on either side in beneficial-insect supporting plants:
Lately a new academic position around the Stanford Community Farm has been created. This is definitely a cause for celebration, but the incredible work (depicted above and below) of a friend of mine who has been the latest "farm lover" has been all but ignored thus far in the process. Taking the farm from where it was with the weeds to what you see here was a feat not only of long persistence but also of organizing and energizing students to help out. And goodness knows that a little practical education is a good thing for the Stanford student population. But at least the new position is more of a "real job".
And we have all this while the University proclaims its Environmental Initiative. It's great, but then what about learning a little of what it really is to produce food from the land? As someone who spent eight years in produce farming, including as a paid manager of a mid-sized produce farm (organic, which I'm proud of, but farming is farming), it looks like that little bit got lost amidst all the important academic papers and theories of public policy.
To address this situation, and specifically, the gap between Stanford today and the founders' vision of a University that teaches agriculture and cooperative economic structures, I propose that the alumni form The Committee for a Traditional Stanford. Perhaps the magic depicted above and below can be grown into a key part of Stanford. In fact, insofar as Stanford must uphold its founding charter, the University is obligated to do so. 2008 is a long cry from 1890 when the University was founded, but the planet and the people on it would be thankful.
Led by Steve Masley, a Stanford employee, students and other volunteers created this outdoor pizza oven (fully certified by the fire dep't). The idea of it is to interest students in the farm. The original inspiration came from a garden pizza oven at Yale, where they are a little ahead of the curve:
This detail shows the oven chimney, in the form of a red-tail hawk's head, almost completed. The stucco and cracks have now been finished off with another layer of adobe-like material:
Click on the photo below to see the whole collection -- this first slide is of the surrounding golf course, the early bare edges of which we planted in beneficial insect-attracting perennials: