Our CASFS Apprenticeship Scholarship is helping the next generation of leaders in sustainable organic agriculture

The Simply Organic Giving Fund, in conjunction with the Frontier Foundation, provided a $130,000 donation in 2010 to establish a continuing scholarship in the farming apprentice program of the University of California Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). The scholarship provides tuition assistance each year for an apprentice in CASFS’s Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program.

The goal of CASFS is to transform the way we grow and distribute food into a sustainable system that provides social justice and protects the environment. This internationally recognized program integrates social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service.

The Center's hands-on six-month Apprenticeship covers topics like soil management, composting, pest control, crop planning, irrigation, farm equipment, marketing techniques, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) practices. Learn more about CASFS and its apprenticeship program at their website.

Scholarship Recipients
CASFS is helping create a new generation of leaders in sustainable organic agriculture, as you can see from these brief bios of our scholarship recipients:

Emily Maheux

Emily Maheux studied anthropology and was considering health work around the world. A professor piqued her interest in food justice issues, and through working in an infectious disease clinic, managing an urban garden grant project for an addictions center, and a side job as farm field worker, she discovered a love for the environment of farm work and realized the powerful healing benefits that working the land and growing healthy food can provide. She lived and worked on a therapeutic healing farm, then joined AmeriCorps as a Food Corps member, where she was assigned to the Ft. Apache Reservation in Arizona. There, she ultimately ended up being hired and working with the Tribal farm program, Ndee Bikiyaa (The People’s Farm), a 960-acre set-aside where currently around 7 acres are used for fruit and vegetable production. The farm fills needs in the tribal community for food access and education and provides therapeutic healing opportunities for local behavioral health and addictions clients. 

A fellow Food Corps member who had done the CASFS apprenticeship encouraged Emily to apply and take a respite from the Reservation work. The apprenticeship filled gaps in her horticultural knowledge and skills, and through it she made lifelong friends with people who share her same passions. Emily returned to Ft. Apache and is finishing up her work on Ndee Bikiyaa, and will look for projects closer to her home area of Vermont that focus on food and farming education and healing, food sovereignty and environmental justice. She would love to partner with her CASFS friends and ultimately hopes to start a farm nonprofit of her own.

Past Recipients

In 2018, two recipients benefitted from the CASFS scholarship: 

​Tyler Domsic

Originally set on marine biology, Tyler Domsic’s path changed after meeting his future wife while travelling in France. In his wife's home country of Sweden, Tyler participated in an outdoor learning program and reconnected with nature. Additional twists of fate immersed he and his wife in the outdoors through months of camping, then life on a sheep farm — where he fell in love with farming and the practices used in that country. When on sabbatical back in the states, his brother encouraged him to apply for the CASFS apprenticeship program.

Tyler’s goal is to start an educational non-profit in Sweden with camps for kids 3 to 13 years old, where they can come to reconnect with nature and learn about farming. The produce grown will be donated to the local Waldorf School to help offset food costs for students there.

Ali Kerr

Ali Kerr’s interest in environmental issues was first inspired by a class in Environmental Literature, leading her to study biology and work on research around forest ecology on her native Guam. With a growing interest in urban agriculture, Ali moved to Brooklyn in 2015. Her experiences there at The Youth Farm and with Prospect Park’s post-hurricane reforesting project set her on the path to organic farming. While “WWOOFing” in Hawaii (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), she learned the challenges and positives of farming on a highly populated island.

Ali’s deep personal interest in food justice and food sovereignty is an important part of what attracted her to the CASFS program, which also allowed her to explore her interest in indigenous ways of relating to the land. She hopes to explore tropical agriculture opportunities in Hawaii, learn more about permaculture and food forests, and return to Guam — where 90% of the food is imported —  to help with food justice and food sovereignty on her island home.

2017 Hector Calderon
Hector Calderon arrived at the CASFS program with a background in small grower agriculture and insight into food justice from his time in the Peace Corps. He joined shortly after finishing college and learned a lot about agriculture in the small indigenous communities he was assigned to in Ecuador. He later worked on organic farms in Hawaii where the crops included macadamia nuts and basil, oregano and other herbs.

After he completes the CASFS program, Hector plans to go back to his hometown of Santa Ana, where he would like to open an organic container farm and work with previously incarcerated juveniles and adults to help them get back into the work force through organic farming.

2016 Anh Doan
Anh Doan has long been interested in health. After attending high school in Vietnam, he pursued a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Maryland. When he realized through his studies that food is the key to health, he began learning about farming as well. At the University's TerpFarm, Anh was excited to learn about "farming in the right way" — sustainable, organic farming — and an instructor encouraged him to apply for a CASFS apprenticeship.

Anh enjoys the community aspects of CASFS, where housing, meal prep and ideas are shared. He feels a kinship with the others in the program who want to improve our eating habits and food systems. His long-term goals include a higher degree in horticulture and returning to Vietnam to share his knowledge of organic agriculture with farmers and apprentices.

2015 David Laws
After years of experience in organic growing though a number of apprenticeships and jobs, David Laws was farm co-manager at Treehugger Organic Farms in South Florida when he apprenticed at CASFS. He had managed the Florida International University Organic Garden while earning his BA in environmental studies (with a certificate in agroecology and sustainable agriculture).

David worked as a trainer and grower for the non-profit Verde Gardens project on its 22-acre organic farm that provided LEED-certified “green” town homes and community gardens to formerly homeless families. He’s committed to educating others about organics and permaculture at Treehugger through apprenticeships, on-site programs and other means.

2014 Alex Vaughn
Alex Vaughn arrived at CASFS’s 25-acre farm with four years of experience in organic agriculture on the East Coast, including being Production Manager at Red Fire Farm, a 1600-member organic CSA in western Massachusetts. Alex wanted to learn about growing on a deeper level than he pace and demands of commercial farming allowed, so he looked around for a training opportunity — and decided on CASFS, backed by a Simply Organic Scholarship.

Alex would like to participate in a sustainable agriculture training program at a teaching farm, both to continue to learn himself and share what he's knows. And, down the road, he'd like to contribute to a food bank farm that brings fresh, healthy, sustainably grown food to those with limited access to it.

Alex is currently the Vegetable Production Manager at The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts. Interestingly, he took over from a previous CASFS graduate and tells us that a long line of CASFS grads have managed the commercial operation there.

2013 Robert DuBois
Robert DuBois' journey to CASFS began with a cross-country biking expedition to explore local food in different parts of the country that led to a job at a four-acre, 25-member organic CSA in Colorado, where he eventually became a co-manager. It was there he heard about CASFS, which he saw as an opportunity to not only learn about growing food organically, but also a chance to explore what he calls the "justice aspect" of food production — what's in our food, who gets what food, and how food production affects people.

Robert hopes to share what he’s learned from CASFS in on-farm, in-garden environments that include apprenticeships and community programs — offering opportunities to both share skills and connect with people. He says wherever he ends up, he'll be working to make it a place where people can go to learn and share about food and organics.

Robert is now president of a startup called Tend that's building crop and business management software specifically for diversified organic growers.

2012 Victoria Gutierrez
Victoria Gutierrez came to CASFS with a background in environmental issues, ethnic studies, community organizing, indigenous permaculture, and urban gardening — and with family roots in the land, as her father was a migrant worker along the Texas border, and her mother grew up on a farm in Guatemala. She had helped reclaim a neglected plot of land in East Oakland for gardening and beautification and worked with other local projects in the Bay area.

Victoria hopes to use the knowledge she gained as a CASFS apprentice to convert empty plots of land to urban gardens, creating community areas of vibrant food systems — especially back in Southeast LA where her family still lives. She’d also like to start her own business focused on urban agriculture that provides access to more nutritional food and provide positive activities for youth.

2011 Israel Dawson
Israel Dawson's focus was on developing the skills to create Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects that make organic foods accessible and affordable to low-income populations through co-ops, farmers' markets, and urban farming efforts. He believes locating an organic farm and/or farmers' market near low-income neighborhoods will encourage positive neighborhood interactions and provide healthy food alternatives to the processed fast foods that contribute to poor nutrition.

Israel says the CASFS Apprenticeship program taught him practical skills that he needs to start gardens to help put production of fresh, organic food into the communities where it's not now accessible. He also plans to compile a farm resource guidebook with things he learned from the program to help guide him and others in developing city gardens.

2010 Evelyn Rosa
Prior to her CASFS apprenticeship, Evelyn Rosa worked on organic farms around Austin — including Urban Roots, a non-profit farm program for youth for the two years — and developed a passion for sustainable farming. She wants to help provide access to fresh, affordable, organic food in urban areas. Immediately following the completion of her apprenticeship at CASFS, Evelyn began a three-month internship at the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Evelyn hopes to use what she learned to work towards improving sustainable and organic food access in communities in Austin that lack access to affordable fresh organic food and to work with advocacy groups to express the needs of organic farmers.

Evelyn is presently the Sustainable Agriculture Specialist for Austin Community College. She's working on building a 30-acre campus farm east of Austin. Evelyn helped create a hands-on continuing education certificate program in agricultural entrepreneurship for aspiring farmers and is now working on establishing an associates of applied science degree in sustainable agriculture or agroecology at the college.

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