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The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz is working 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 Simply Organic 1% fund and the Frontier Foundation have made a combined $130,000 donation to the Center to establish a continuing scholarship in their Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program.
"I was impressed with the quality of the program — and even more so with the apprentices enrolled in the program."
Kathy Larson, Frontier's Vice President of Sustainability
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.
Previous graduates have established their own commercial farms and market gardens, run community gardens for inner city and prison populations, and developed school gardening programs. Many graduates take part in international development projects, including programs in Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and throughout Central and South America. Others have raised the standards of the organic food industry through work with certification programs and retailers.
Kathy Larson, Vice President of Sustainability at Frontier, visited the Center in August. "This is the premiere, sustainable and organic training program in the U.S.," she says. "During my visit in August, I was impressed with the quality of the program — and even more so with the apprentices enrolled in the program. Establishing this scholarship empowers a new generation of sustainable agricultural leaders, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to participate in advanced training and contribute to the organic community."
Each year, one apprentice will receive tuition assistance to learn better organic farming techniques, develop and evaluate new ideas to tackle issues of inequality in the food system, and integrate social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service to transform the food system. SO1% (a fund generated by setting aside one percent of sales on all Simply Organic products) donated $70,000, while the remaining $60,000 came from the Frontier Foundation™.
The seeds of the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture were planted more than 40 years ago in Santa Cruz, California. An innovative English horticulturist named Alan Chadwick started the Student Garden Project and the 25-acre farm that together became the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden — and now are the site of this unique, hands-on training program.
Working only with hand tools and organic amendments, Chadwick and his student assistants transformed a steep, chaparral-covered hillside into a prolific garden bursting with flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees. The informal "apprenticeships" that students served with Chadwick would eventually lead to development of the Center's current Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture training program.
Chadwick's apprentices helped pioneer the organic food movement in California and then across the country, spreading the word about how food could be grown using techniques that respected nature and conserved natural resources while yielding sustained, bountiful harvests.
Over the years the organic training was formalized into a six-month full-time apprenticeship that attracts participants from across the U.S. and around the world. Interest in the program is now at an all-time high, with a record 187 applications received this fall for the 39 positions in the 2010 Apprenticeship.
More than 1,300 apprentices have been trained in the organic fields, orchards and greenhouses at UC Santa Cruz, learning not only how to raise food and flowers, but how to make the food system itself more sustainable by addressing issues of social justice. They are organic farmers, market gardeners, urban agriculturalists, school garden teachers and others — all working to promote local, healthy food in communities around the country.
Thousands of schoolchildren, college classes, visiting farmers, master gardeners, international visitors and others tour the Farm and Garden each year. During their tours, visitors see examples of organic soil management, alternative pest control measures, water conservation, and biodiversity on both home garden and commercial scales. Faculty and students use the sites for classes and research efforts, while Center staff and apprentices maintain and develop the Farm and Garden as flourishing demonstrations of what can be accomplished with organic management techniques. Learn more about the Center and its apprenticeship program.
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