Cultivating a sea change from the ground up

PICA has gotten off to a wonderful start this year. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost winter break, given all of the fantastic things that the PICA residential community has fit in to the last 2 months! Even before move-in happened, the staff and a couple of returning PICAns from last year began planning how best to help cultivate a strong community of sustainably-minded students from the ground up. Starting right at the beginning of Fall quarter, new PICAns were welcomed, in true PICA style, with a home-cooked Welcome Dinner full of wonderful food and the start of many great friendships and conversations to come. The next day, almost the entire PICA residential community, 32 students in all, were lead by Mira Michelle, PICA’s Residential Coordinator, on a retreat to Big Basin, with the goal of building community, visioning what they want their community to be, and having an awesome time together in the wondrous forest. All of this was accomplished and so much more. The students came back with a new sense of community, an understanding of what the PICA program is about, and a true grasp of the fact that the PICA community truly is what you make it.

Thanks to the talents of an amazing group of students who comprise PICA’s Leadership Team, and the wonderful participation of students who live at PICA, as well as students from all walks of campus life, PICA has been bursting at the seams all quarter with a plethora of sustainable living activities and experiences, all of which are free of charge and most of which are open to any students on campus. PICA has hosted at least four Saturday Garden Workdays, as well as several visits from College Eight Core Course students, who have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in organic gardening as part of their Service Learning project. PICA, along with several gracious and talented facilitators, has also hosted three workshops this quarter: Solar Cooking; Canning; and, Sri Lankan Cooking. All of these workshops were really well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by all. PICA also held its final Fall Garden Party, which included a Cob Oven Cook-Off event, which was the culmination of a student-led Cob Building class held last Spring quarter at the Sustainable Living Center as part of the Student Environmental Center’s Green Building Campaign.  PICA students have participated in the Farm’s Harvest Festival and the Practical Activism Conference, and also hosted a Student Garden Market Cart. This small-scale farmers’ market provides a venue in which all student gardens on campus are invited to participate by providing produce and flowers grown by students in campus gardens to be offered free of charge to students, and student gardeners gain the opportunity to outreach to the campus community about the campus gardens and sustainability issues in general.

I feel lucky to be a part of such a vibrant and dynamic community here at PICA, one in which issues of sustainability, social justice, and global food systems are contemplated, discussed, and digested, all against a backdrop of students engaged in organic gardening, composting, and homegrown community meals.  The best part of my job as PICA’s Program Assistant is getting to interact with students who are as excited as I am about the prospect of being a part of the change we want to see in the world of food systems, sustainability and social justice. I am confident that if anyone can bring about a sea change in those arenas, it is these students who, full of energy, gumption, and the passion of their convictions, can accomplish anything they put their hearts and minds to.

Bethany Hecht is the Program Assistant for the Sustainable Living Center and the PICA Program 



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