There are a few things I’ve discovered about PICA in the last three years I’ve lived here. PICA is exactly what it stands for- it is a program through which community is fostered through the practice of agroecology and sustainable food systems and the way they are integrated into our daily lives. I would have to say that for me, taking the job as community meals coordinator in the winter of last year has only reinforced these ideas. Each subsection of PICA—events, seminar, garden—has its own contributions to the success our program has found in the last several years, and I feel that much of the community building that happens here happens around the dinner (or lunch) table.
Before I came to PICA, and more so, to UCSC, I placed no thought of sustainable food systems between myself and what I ate at all. Coming from a house where produce was alien to the ordinary dinner night, I found quickly as I came to PICA that the way I was eating was completely wrong. Living in PICA my first year, I slowly became integrated into the food movement, picking up across the dinner table all of the elements of sustainable food practice I was missing out on. With the tri-weeknight community meals system, I immersed myself in the practice of cooking with whole foods, though I have to tell you, when I first arrived at PICA, I didn’t really know how to cook anything. My second year I began going to the farmer’s market more for my produce and in taking the job as the community meals coordinator, I forced myself to learn new ways of cooking or preparing whatever we had thriving in our garden at that time, challenging myself to create something new and exciting for each Saturday garden workday. This year, I’ve come to find that not only am I cooking with more whole foods and I’ve fostered a newfound knowledge of each fruit or veggie we’ve been given by our wonderful garden, I’ve also found that I am now more conscious than I ever was about the origin of the food I choose to put into my body and others.
PICA has grown on me over the years, and I’ve finally been able to realize just what a great program we have here at UCSC, and just how unique it is from anything else I’ve come across in my years here. Anyone can participate in our Saturday workdays, but I’ve found that living in PICA is so rewarding in the long run that I’m glad I’ve contributed to much of the culture that lives on after it is built and modified by each year of new and returned residents.
Dora Bromme, the PICA community meals coordinator, serves up amazing and delicious meals for the PICA residents and volunteers at the Saturday garden workdays. She is also an active member of the PICA leadership team.