Participating in the PICA program has been a wonderful experience that has helped me expand and apply my knowledge about community and sustainability. PICA creates an open environment that encourages students to share their knowledge and experiences with each other to build a community. Whether it be working together in the Foundational Roots Garden or preparing for a community meal, each experience has lead to new perspectives, life lessons, and a whole lot of fun.
Part of what makes PICA fun are the people who live here and I feel that the program works because the people here want to work together. Just like certain mutual relationships between certain plants in the garden, here we grow together. For instance, this year we have started to expand our gardening into the C quad where a mini garden is in development. The project has created a forum where residents of the C quad plan the new garden, work together to maintain the garden, and collectively share the results! I have taken a personal interest in the mini-garden because of its proximity to my room and even though there is still work to be done, I am confident in this garden’s success because of the shared enthusiasm in the project. Just knowing that beautiful fruits and veggies will grow out of our labor makes working the plot all the more worthwhile. Working there is where I lose some stress, relax, and express myself with fellow students. It is a great chance to interact with others who share similar interests and ideas and create blooming friendships with people from the community. The constructive atmosphere that we work in is inspiring and exhilarating, and we learn and build things that you cannot in an ordinary classroom setting.
In addition to the PICA housing project in the village, the program offers the PICA seminar, a 2-credit course where students with an interest in community and agroecology come together and discuss pertinent community and sustainability issues. The course also teaches students some basic principles of gardening, composting, pruning, cover cropping, and dry farming, which not only gives students an understanding of where their food comes from, but provides them with a rewarding experience that they can apply and share with others throughout their lives. At the end of the daily activities, the students prepare a meal and eat together using recipes influenced by the weekly readings. The PICA seminar is also a great gateway for students to become involved in the larger Santa Cruz community through a wide variety of interesting local internships. These internships allow seminar students to share the knowledge and skills they have gained from the course with the broader community, as well as to help the community learn more approaches to sustainable living and how those approaches can benefit their communities.