Letter to the Editor

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Editor’s note: After the Foghorn published “We Bought A Farm” on Oct. 4, the Office of Marketing and Communication (OMC) drafted this letter to dispute several parts of the news story. OMC specifically disputes the amount of money pledged by donors at time of purchase. They claim the money from pledged funds started at $4 million, and fundraising efforts brought it up to $6.85 million, while the Foghorn reported $6.4 million. Their claim means that $6.4 million instead of $4 million was pulled from University cash reserves at the time of purchase. The Office is also disputing whether the University provided clear instructions to faculty on how to utilize the Bolinas farm. Although the Foghorn has agreed to publish the letter, our newsroom still stands by all the reported facts in the story after a review of emails and interview audio transcripts.

Thank you for showcasing the exciting news of the University of San Francisco’s acquisition of Star Route Farms in Bolinas in the October 4, 2018 issue of the Foghorn. While the article covers several aspects of USF’s commitment to the farm and alignment with mission, I want to offer some important clarifications and additional details.

As reported, the acquisition came after a very deliberative process by USF to ensure that students, faculty and staff will have a lasting and significant resource that is aligned with the University community’s mission, vision and values. The most immediate outcome, as you report, is that the history and legacy of Star Route Farms as the oldest continuously operating organic farm in California has been preserved. Progress is being made to leverage the farm to support and advance USF’s academic priorities for decades to come. Planning and implementation of those efforts is proceeding in an intentional and deliberative way.

On that topic, regarding academic opportunities at the farm, USF faculty have used or have proposed use of a number of class sessions and research projects, including such topics as soil sampling, water sampling, environmental journalism, experimental crop plots, writing retreats, and more. Organic, regenerative farming is a vital topic for research and advocacy and aligns well with USF’s commitments to sustainability and social justice. Contrary to statements in the article, the Office of the Provost has clear procedures for proposing ideas for activities at the farm (which have been communicated to the Provost’s Council), and has been processing such requests from faculty and other groups as they have been received.

Our fundraising efforts are similarly progressing. As of today’s date, commitments for the farm stand at $6.85 million (up from approximately $4 million at the time of acquisition in August 2017). That is good and meaningful progress. Also, USF is on schedule to close out the funding for the farm by the end of this fiscal year due to three ongoing and promising conversations with prospective new donors for seven-figure gifts. Star Route Farms fundraising represents only a sliver of overall fundraising results, and as we look to the future, the farm encompasses only 3% of the $300 million campaign total target.

Neither farm operations nor the dedicated fundraising effort to support the $10.4 million purchase are cannibalizing current university operations or long term strategic objectives. In addition, Star Route Farms is opening many doors. Engagement with donors who decided not to support the farm has facilitated gifts to other campus areas including more than $2 million for scholarship support thus far with more potential gifts anticipated in this fiscal year.

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

Ellen Ryder

VP Marketing Communications

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