And it’s not only the culinary students who take part in running the urban farm, Block said. Students from the center’s construction training programs also have participated by providing infrastructure on the 1 acre.
Block said she has no doubt that the farm is one of the draws for culinary students to choose Treasure Island over other Job Corps centers in the country. Of all the programs nationwide, Treasure Island has the highest overall job placement – 85 percent either go to work, into the military or enroll in college, according to the center.
Q: It couldn’t have been easy planting a farm on an artificial island made from fill dredged from the bay, which served as a former military base. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found some parts of the island to be toxically contaminated, how did you handle that?
A: It was a vacant lot when we got it – just sand. We did thousands of dollars worth of testing before we did anything. Then we built the whole thing using green construction – reclaimed materials, rain water catchment and an aquaponic system.
Q: What are you growing?
A: Everything. We have 80 fruit trees: apples, pears, stone and citrus and all kinds of vegetables and herbs. We have bee hives, 20 laying hens and a rooster. We get about 20 eggs a day. The students are harvesting, depending on the season, anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds of produce a month. A hundred percent of it is used either in the culinary program or the cafeteria.