What happens when an idea from the classroom is made truly tangible? How does solution building change when you can try building something at scale? What does it feel like to visit a living example of the ecosystem you’re studying, to grow and try to creatively cook the food that you’ll recommending to your patients? And what if we could bring versions of the far-away to the nearby, ready for experimentation and innovation close to the core of Yale?
The sheer size and diversity of the West Campus landscape provides the opportunity to explore and test new solutions that have relevance far beyond our borders. As the Lab has evolved, building partnerships and programming, we’ve also started to design certain landscape typologies that allow for immediate, deeper dives.
The agroforestry space is sited in between our urban farm and a more hands-off forested area. At the agroforestry space, the YLL team and volunteers cultivate a relatively lightly-managed collection of useful native and adapted plants to demonstrate complex ecological systems for teaching and research goals.
The ecology has also been developed to provide a consistent supply of food and habitat for native pollinators and animal species. The space is frequently used by faculty and interest groups to engage and educate students through hands-on, educational workshops and stewardship workdays.
We work in partnership with other Yale groups fascinated by the learning potential in this type of space — as part of the Yale Agroforestry Collaborative.
The West Campus Urban Farm supports a number of objectives at YLL — from research, teaching and learning, to community building.
YLL student farm managers lead weekly volunteering sessions that focus on skill building and keeping the farm productive. These sessions are open to both Yale and community members. Keep up to speed on these in our Events page, or sign up to receive notice about them through the YLL newsletter.
The space is also used as an experimental site by a variety of groups — past projects have looked at soil microbes, carbon sequestration, and technology-driven innovations. Harvests are utilized in Cultivate Health programing, are used in community outreach initiatives, or often head home with our hardworking volunteers.
Medicinal Plant Garden
The Medicinal Plant Garden, started in collaboration with the Yale School of Nursing as part of the yearlong Plant-based Health elective for the Midwifery specialty, is managed by the YLL team, and utilized by students from across Yale.
The medicinal plant collection facilitates workshops and conversations alike -- allowing a tangible, cross-cultural look at plant medicine. Plants from the collection are also available for sourcing for research purposes.
YLL’s beekeeping operations, established in partnership with the Yale Bee Space student group, allow students and faculty to explore both fundamental and experimental aspects of beekeeping.
This ranges from hands-on instructional workshops to experiments with new hive designs and integrated technologies.
For many visitors, this is their first time working with an animal that they have been taught to fear, and just the simple act of working with the bees can be an inspiring and transformative one.
Meadows and Grasslands
West Campus, like many peri-urban areas, and like America itself, has a lot grass. We view this as an asset for experimentation, and a chance to look at the value of alternative species and systems.
Efforts on this front at YLL have ranged from collaborations to create an experimental grassland competition managed for pollinator habitat maximization with Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative to an ongoing experiment on a perennial wheat variety.
YLL and its partner organizations host courses, gatherings, and workshops in our off-grid barn, built in a traditional New England timber frame style with wood from the Yale Forest.
The barn’s utilities reflect YLL’s commitment to giving students the responsibility and chance to get hands-on with innovation.
From its water, which in the offseason is gathered and then filtered through a system designed by students, to its cooking gas, produced from a student project’s biodigester, to its energy system, designed initially by Project Bright, the barn has taken shape gradually, and will continue to change along with its users’ interests.