- Author: Teresa Echols
Travels with Teresa: A Trip to UC Santa Cruz's Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems
I am one of the newbie Master Gardeners, Class of 2014. I have found a way to incorporate my gardening interest into travels with my husband. Together, we choose sites to visit and create a win-win situation including trains, aquariums, nurseries, gardens, goat farms and so on.
Earlier this summer we traveled to Santa Cruz. Our main stop was to the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus. CASFS manages the internationally recognized UCSC Farm. We spent a couple of hours on a self-guided tour of the "Farm".
The UCSC Farm - Where they grow farmers!
CASFS'S Mission is: "To research, develop, and advance sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, non-exploitative, and that serve as a foundation for future generations."
Healthy gardens and communities, sound familiar?
The farm is located on 30 acres near the entry to the campus. This is where they grow farmers! Apprentices work for six months to learn hands-on organic gardening and farming. Topics taught include: soil management, composting, pest control, crop planning, irrigation, farm equipment, marketing techniques, and Community Supported Agriculture.
It was between terms so the campus and Center were quiet. A few staff members were busy in the green house potting up plants and were happy to answer questions. We strolled on our own through the barn which had a bat box mounted near the roof. The cable structure supporting the kiwi vines (I learned kiwis grow on large vines and not trees) was impressive and somehow included an owl box. I recalled a Wednesday morning at the Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Our Garden sitting under the oak tree; the topic was pest management and I shared the info with my hubby.
The Farm's greenhouses were modern, complete with an electric compost tea tank. I didn't ask about that and remain curious about the controversy over using compost tea (feel free to post a comment with your thoughts on the subject). The packing shed for their CSA program was well stocked with boxes. We also inspected the herb garden, orchards and strawberry fields. Part of the acreage includes 10 acres of tractor-cultivated field. I loved the orange Kubota tractor and jumped in the seat for a photo op.
These tent cabins were near the strawberry fields. They were empty so I was anxious to peek in the windows since I lived in a tent cabin while working in Yosemite one summer. Simple living. We strolled past a few yurts and a solar shower. The apprentice-built Farm Center is used for meals and socializing. The apprentices receive a full living and working experience.
If you are interest is piqued and would like to see a demonstration garden a little closer to home, be sure to attend our own Contra Costa Master Gardener's 2nd Annual Sustainability Fair. The Sustainability Fair is free to the public, and will be held Saturday, September 6, from 10:00-3:00 at Our Garden, in Walnut Creek. The Sustainability Fair will be fun for the whole family - with a children's tent, plant sales and a day of presentations and demonstrations. We will even have food trucks this year!
For more information, including the schedule of presentations and demonstrations, please visit the Sustainability Fair's website: http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/SustainabilityFair/