For a break from schoolwork, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have been swapping their laptops for shovels and seedlings at SCAD Back40, the university’s new one-acre “farm.” Created as a legacy project to celebrate SCAD’s 40th anniversary, the agricultural initiative features a wide range of seasonal, organically grown crops as well as a growing apiary with 16 beehives actively managed by students. Produce is regularly donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, with 1,000 units of leafy greens sent to the non-profit food back in the fall and winter quarters of 2018.

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plants near a greenhouse

Located in Hardeeville, South Carolina across the bridge from Savannah, Georgia, Back40 occupies rural land just a short drive from the bustle of cars and urban life. Back40 Project Manager Jody Elizabeth Trumbull oversees the agricultural initiative with the help of student volunteers from varying backgrounds, ranging from UX design to architecture. Because Back40 employs active crop rotation methods, soil management, companion planting and other natural growing methods — organic certification is currently in progress — for producing seasonal crops, SCAD prefers to call the project a “farm” rather than a “garden.” The one-acre plot has the potential to grow up to five acres.

group of students and a man holding lettuce

group of students proudly showing harvested produce

While Back40 has yet to incorporate livestock and poultry, it does feature an apiary with 16 honey-producing hives and nearly 350,000 bees. Each hive can produce 80 to 100 pounds of honey. In addition to supporting the declining bee population, the apiary fits with SCAD’s image — the university’s mascot is the bee. To provide enough food for both managed and native bees, SCAD has planted a wide range of flowers to support both bee populations. When wild beehives are found on campus buildings, they are safely removed and relocated to the apiary.

Related: SCAD artist turns recycled materials into giant puppets to revitalize a historic French village

student in a protective suit holding bees

student planting in a garden

Back40 produced 1,000 units of kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, shard, cardoon and three types of lettuce in the first two quarters of operation. Part of the yield is donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia to help fight food insecurity, while the remaining produce is used at SCAD dining venues. As an educational tool for conservation, Back40 offers learning experiences not just for its students, but for local schools and organizations as well. In the future, the urban farm’s non-food commodity items will also be used in SCAD fine arts and design programs, such as the new business of beauty and fragrance program.

+ Savannah College of Art and Design

Images via SCAD