Category Archives: Fall 2009

Fall Garden Update

Fall has been a great time in the garden and now we’re starting to settle into winter. Meeting many new faces in the garden and at community meals has been a pleasure. We came back from summer to a thriving garden, and what soon turned into a thriving new community. Meals have been excellent, lots of zucchini and pumpkin bread in the kitchens. Saturday workdays have been happenin’, with so many helping hands that it’s sometimes a challenge to find enough projects to work on.

We spent a day out at Shumei farm in Bonny Doon learning about “natural agriculture” and building terraces. A few weeks ago we decided to take out some asphalt in the C quad that was cut long ago. We broke out the digging bars, protective goggles, pickaxes and went to town. Now the asphalt and gravel is out, lots of compost was incorporated, and cover crop is in. In the spring we’ll put in an herb spiral.

In the garden we made a new bed in front of the apple trees, right now it’s planted in a brassica mix of collards, kale, and cabbage. Under the fruit trees we’ve been working on a perennial vegetable section, with tree collards, a perennial tomatillo (Incan ground cherry), and a melon-like perennial squash for now. Other new plants in the garden include a loganberry, two currant bushes, and a mulberry tree. Over by the compost area we dug out the coyote brush and planted a few more pineapple guavas and a cattley guava. In progress projects are the construction of the A quad herb spiral and also a medicinal herb spiral in the garden.

As always, the garden continues to be a place for our learning, enjoyment, growth, and connection to each other and to the Earth. Come by if you get a chance, check out the new solar-powered fountain and grab a fig or two.

Sean Dugan, Garden Coordinator


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Green Kitchen at the Sustainable Living Center

Imagine a place where university students from diverse disciplines are engaged in learning projects that give them experience with sustainable communities and teach them about different aspects of our environment. That is the vision for the Sustainable Living Center (SLC): a space on the UCSC campus where students can apply academic knowledge in real settings, gain experience in sustainable technologies and community food systems, and prepare for becoming environmental educators and leaders. The SLC is being developed around the foundations that the Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) has built for the last 7 years.

The Sustainable Living Center’s hands-on education and demonstration site on the lower campus of UCSC engages students through its unique focus on community food systems. Here students learn about all aspects of food systems sustainability: by growing organic food in the gardens, cooking it together, and sharing it at the table as a community. Fundraising is currently underway for a Green Kitchen that will serve as a dynamic learning space with solar technology, a rainwater catchment system, recycled building materials, and a living roof. The kitchen will be linked with PICA’s numerous educational gardens at the Sustainable Living Center and be connected to a curriculum in Environmental Studies. The Green Kitchen complements our vision to create opportunities for students to engage with sustainability at every step of the food system.

As interest in sustainable living, local food systems, social justice, and community engagement grows on the UCSC campus, the Green Kitchen will become a vital part of a hands-on curriculum in sustainability. Here engineering and environmental studies classes can hold field laboratories where hands-on monitoring, measurement, adjustment, and observation will give students a basic understanding of the design and management of alternative energy systems. Education students will engage with an experiential educational model, where learning happens outside of the traditional classroom. Sociology and community studies majors will be able to examine how a student community engages critically with issues of environmental quality and social justice through connections with their food system. At the Green Kitchen classroom concepts can be converted into direct experience, but most importantly, in a fully operational living system.

The Green Kitchen will contribute to the life-enriching educational experiences that connect students to their local communities and food system. The kitchen is an important gathering place where relationships are cultivated, where old family recipes are tested, where talk about sustainability becomes action. Yet in the average Northern California home, the kitchen uses half of the household’s energy. In response to this, the proposed Green Kitchen model will use energy efficient appliances and be powered by a renewable energy micro-grid with solar panels and storage batteries. This stand-alone system will be designed to provide the power needs of the kitchen and create enough excess energy to charge electric cars & bicycles. Through this sustainable kitchen model we will reduce our carbon footprint and show that food—from how we grow it to how we cook and share in it—can be sustainable.

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To donate funds to support the development of the Green Kitchen, please visit UCSC’s online giving form.

Checks can also be sent to: UC Santa Cruz Foundation, Dept. 44787, PO Box 44000, San Francisco, CA, 94144-4787
Please mention “for PICA – Green Kitchen” on the check.

Contact Bee Vadakan, PICA Program Manager, at for further information.


Thank you!

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Reflections from a PICAn

There was always a lingering interest I had in gardening and getting back in touch with the delectable side of nature. But I never did anything about it until I moved into The Village next to a neat little garden at UCSC. That is where I got my first taste for well earned food that was grown by me and my friends. Winter or summer, there was an array of activity and foods coming out of the little PICA garden and I was trying to get my hands on to each experience possible and each ripe produce. I remember there was always a lack of volunteers to help turn the compost piles and shovel in the new green waste that the UC cafeterias donated and dropped off for us, so I would always be part of the compost crew. From that I got a great understanding of how to make the most of left over food (nitrogen) and weeds and dead trimmings from the garden (carbon) by combining them in layers with manure and straw and a dash of water here and there. What fun science it was and by the end of a few weeks we had amazing soil that you never would have guessed came from unwanted resources. And there it was ready to be returned to our gardens to feed the soil which feeds plants which feeds our bellies. How’s that for a sustainable cycle! Other fun activities were cobb oven making and baking, pruning workshops, greenhouse building, and of course biking downtown to the local farmers markets and to support CAN, the Fair Trade Direct coffee exchange based out of Santa Cruz.

But above all, the most lasting memories I had were from the social events held around community meals. Each week (or more) we would gather in one of many shared spaces with shared kitchens for a delicious meal prepared by each other and often supplied by the garden of course. More often than not, it was the Saturday meal I would get nourished the best since that particular day was a Work Day and nothing tastes better after hours of working the dirt than a large, fresh, organic, homegrown, home cooked meal from the dirt you just tended to. In fact, many years after the fact, I can’t remember many occasions or meals that rival those Saturday Workday lunches. Good friends, great foods, and above all – a sense of reward and satisfaction in knowing your efforts are ecologically in tune with the environment.


Gulliver Perry was a PICA student in 2007. After PICA Gulliver spent some time WWOOFing in Carmel Valley and Mendocino, became certified in permaculture through the Regenerative Design Institute and the Bullock Brothers, and with that experience he has taken to implementing as much as he can and with the help of many friends and family the household and backyard of his dad’s house. There are a few dozen varieties of fruit and nut trees on site, a three-terrace garden, a greywater system, roofwater catchment that gravity feeds the garden, an herb garden, a perennial garden, a chicken coop with four hens, and a greenhouse. He believes that now, the concepts are setting in and the homestead lifestyle is proving to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

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Building Community Through Food

How do you spell ‘community’? For PICAns, it is spelled M-E-A-L, and they happen anywhere from three to five times a week! It is through the Community Meals that we come together socially, enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) of our labor in the garden and spend time decompressing from the toil of being a student, even if it is only long enough to savor the flavor and get right back to the books!

For the length of each quarter, PICAns can sign-up to work in groups of three on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We collaborate on a theme for dinner, we shop together, we prepare together, and then present the meal to our partners in sustainability. Everyone claps in appreciation, and the chefs get the pleasure of serving their meal, making sure that everyone gets a sample of the delicious bounty! It is a practice in evenhandedness–a quality necessary in the kitchen, in the garden, and in life!

Being the authors of a meal is a collaborative effort, an activity that develops the creativity, generosity, consideration, and commitment of the people involved. Being the recipient of the meal is symbolic recognition and acceptance of the aforementioned qualities in our PICA brothers and sisters. We gain inspiration from all the meals, each one feeding into the next.

If you are involved with the PICA seminar, the meal is an educational component of each class, and if you participate in the Garden Work Day on Saturday, lunch is served! To participate in Community Meals, one need not be a resident of PICA–all it takes is a balance in giving and receiving. We give $20.00 per school year to buy bulk goods for the meals, and we give our time to the preparation of minimum two meals a quarter. And for this giving, we receive the love and care expressed in the food we are served and the community it encourages!

From our happy bellies to yours, here is a great opportunity to invite some friends over for dinner and nurture a community of your own:

Raw Kale Salad (Serves 2-4)

1 bunch of kale (Green or Red Russian)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lime or lemon (juiced)
sea salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

Optional: 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, diced

Step 1. Finely chop kale (including the stems) OR, if you’re pressed for time, tear the leaves into smaller pieces and put them into a food processor, pulsing a few times with an S-Blade until you achieve bite-sized pieces.

Step 2. Transfer kale to large bowl and pour in the olive oil and the citrus juice. Use your hands to massage the wet ingredients into the kale–the action will soften the texture of this vegetable, help coat it completely with the flavors of olive oil and the citrus, and make your dish easier to digest.

Step 3. Add salt and pepper to taste, and any of your favorite salad toppings.

Marion Clark, Community Meals Coordinator

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Food Systems Education Internship

Have you ever wanted to work with youth and teach about food systems, social justice, and garden nutrition? This fall the Sustainable Living Center at UCSC piloted its first environmental education program focusing on food systems awareness.  This unique internship combined the strengths of the two main programs based at the SLC- The Program in Community and Agroecology & the Community Agroecology Network. The internship gives students the opportunity to teach exciting and engaging lessons to middle and high school students about the local and global food system. Interns gain first-hand experience in K-12 schools and learn valuable skills as an environmental educator in the classroom and in the garden. The three schools we are pleased to work with this fall are Watsonville High School, Cypress Charter School in Live Oak, and Cesar Chavez Middle School.

Here is what our interns have to say:

“The Food Systems Education internship this quarter was a great experience that not only allowed me to transfer some of my environmental education to other students, but has taught me much about effective communication and ways to engage students into group learning. Even in the small amount of time that the other interns and I have spent teaching, I feel like we have done something truly meaningful.

I’m really enjoying the internship and it is inspiring me to further pursue teaching. Although teaching as a future career has been in the back of my mind for years, it wasn’t until this past week that I noticed it forcing itself into my heart.”

Derek Emmons

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“It has been beyond one of the most practical experiences I have had in college thus far. A lot of the students had never even considered where their food journeyed from and its impacts on the environment or their health. It was great to have them both in the classroom and outside in their school gardens doing hands-on activities. This is how I want it to be when I have my own classroom someday. The experience really felt like this was real education, not only for the students but for me. I’m really grateful to be given this internship opportunity. It allowed me to tie my passions of the environment and connecting with kids together.”

Heather Odegard

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“The food systems internship has taught me how fun, rewarding and important teaching kids about environmental issues is. Our elementary education involves lots of algebra and history, but very little of some of the most pressing topics of today such as environmentalism, food systems and social change. Through teaching students basic principles such as biodiversity and different food systems, we give kids a peek into a mostly new world of environmental problems and social issues. It’s always rewarding to see how surprised and engaged the kids are when they learn that the plantation workers get such a little portion of the money they spend on a banana or that the ingredients of a burrito can travel 22,000 miles. But what they really take away is not the startling facts, but an awareness of how they affect the whole and why they should care. It’s unfortunate that so few kids grow up knowing about the importance of the environment in this crucial time, but one step at a time, though reaching out to more and more classrooms, we can create a new generation of kids who care.”

Emma McDonell

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“I jumped into the internship understanding the dynamics within each food system, but with no understanding of how to communicate these complexities to 6th-12th grade students. Through the food systems internship I’ve learned to be more comfortable talking in front of a group, better presentation skills, communication with different age groups, group management techniques, and various food system topics. I’m very interested in food systems, and generally believe that bridging the ‘knowledge gap’ should be a priority in every environmental issue. Many environmental issues deal directly with what we have learned in food systems, and few people know about them!”

Ashley Stalzer

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