COVID-19 has affected all of us - and of course WWU is no exception. All classes were moved online for Spring and Summer Quarter and the vast majority of faculty, staff, and administration are still working remotely. But farming is considered an "essential" task, and for good reason: we're continuing to grow food for our community. The pandemic has brought into high relief the need to have a strong community and resilient, local food systems! Safety protocols have been created and new strategies will help reduce the risk of the farm team through actions like staggering shifts, hand washing, wearing masks, and physically distancing when more than one staff member is on the farm. Here are the key changes and updates about the Outback:
Outback events have been canceled because gatherings can lead to the spread of coronavirus; we look forward to rescheduling work parties, workshops, and concerts for when we're all back on campus! In the meantime, our farm staff will be sharing photos and videos about life on the farm - everything from chicken care to herbal lore to cooking to using a rototiller. We hope you'll follow along on Facebook and Instagram.
Food Justice and Access
Food justice is a priority for the Outback, and our mission is for students to grow food for students. This has become even more critical in the face of a pandemic, exacerbating food insecurity and hunger in our community. The Farm is maximizing production of fresh, healthy, organic produce this year - and we'll be creating safe, zero-contact methods for making fruits and veggies available from weekly harvests as the season progresses. In the meantime, emergency food access has changed on campus at in Bellingham in the following ways:
- The WHOLE pantries in the VU and Birnam Woods have been closed.
- Free food at weekly food pantry pop-ups! Come flash your student ID and pick up a meal kit (vegan and gluten-free options available) + a box of farm fresh organic produce every week on Thursdays from 12-2pm in parking lot 11G by Canada House.
Outback staff partnered with the Dining Services, the Student Needs Working Group, and the Office of Student Life to give out meal kits for students facing food insecurity. And zero contact - we will have bags out on tables for you to walk by, grab a bag, and keep walking. Please safely distance and wear a mask. Be sure to wash your hands, plastic containers, and clothes once you get home.
- Students are invited to reach out to the Office of Student Life to learn about meal swipes or grocery cards to address food needs.
- Lastly, the Bellingham Food Bank is operating in limited hours in three pop-up locations. Visitors can come once a week and more information can be found at https://www.bellinghamfoodbank.org/.
Tuesdays | 1-4 pm
Shuksan Middle School Parking Lot, 2717 Alderwood Ave
Wednesdays | 3-6 pm
Christ the King Church Parking Lot, 4173 Meridian St
Thursdays | 1-4 pm
Civic Athletic Complex, 1355 Civic Field Way
Our Community Gardens remain open - but limited - to plot holders during Phase 2, given the following:
- Never come to the farm if you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Plot holders should perform a self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to the Outback. If you exhibit any of the symptoms, do not come to the farm, contact your healthcare provider, and get better soon.
- Only come to perform the bare minimum of maintenance on your plot; there will be plenty of opportunities to do more once movement is less restricted.
- Come alone; no helpers or visitors are allowed at this time.
- Observe at least 12' of physical distancing.
- No tools are available for community garden use. We're sorry, but to reduce risk we need to eliminate sharing touchable surfaces. The lock on the toolshed has been temporarily changed to reinforce this decision, but it also refers to buckets and wheelbarrows. Please bring your own tools!
- Do not share tools, plants, food, or other items you bring with you.
- Wear masks and gloves and sterilize at home after each use.
- Let us know if you'd like to hold your plot until the stay-at-home orders have been lifted so that you don't need to come to campus.
- Following the guidelines of the City of Bellingham, we won’t have any gatherings or events for community gardeners this season.
To see the official statement from the University granting permission and outlining rules and restrictions, please visit Community Garden Procedures Outback. In addition, feel free to ask questions by contacting the farm manager Terri Kempton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the order stands to mostly "stay at home" during Phase 2, we must encourage our wonderful student, staff, and community volunteers to do exactly that. Stay safe, be well, watch our social media and we'll welcome you back to the Outback as soon as possible!