Category Archives: Spring 2013

ESLP: Food Perspectives and Gardening Practicum

    -2I have had the great honor to co-facilitate an ESLP (Education for Sustainable Living Program) class on food systems and gardening with my dear friend and PICAn Matt Sanford. Our class has had such vibrancy throughout the quarter, my peers came in with eagerness to get dirty in the garden, and to learn skills to implement in future endeavors. It has been an amazing  and enlightening experience to discuss the challenges surrounding the food system with our class.  We have a wide range of life experiences and majors, so every perspective sheds light on the topic from a different point of view.  By meticulously journaling our consumptive choices in a food journal we discussed our impact within the food system and questioned all the factors involved, which generated awareness and stimulated change.

We tended to the garden, breaking our backs double digging, created a compost pile that reached the top of our heads, mulched and cover cropped, planted tomatoes in our hugelkultur bed, propagated and exploring the Chadwick garden and farm for inspiration. The PICA garden has been the home to our class for the past 10 weeks, and each Thursday after laboring away we have come together to share a community meal. I have loved the excitement of our class and will miss it dearly.

63711_10151266080389154_790539103_nAbout the Author:

Lidia Tropeano is a 2nd year PICAn, Environmental Studies major with an emphasis in Environmental Education and Sustainability, and beet lover! When she’s not speaking Italian she likes to communicate via garden dance moves.


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Connecting with Other Campus Gardeners

166714_10151432532794154_418415471_nYou might have seen us on a Friday morning in front of S&E or McHenry library, kind garden gnomes sitting behind a table with veggies, fliers, and CAN coffee, eager to share our garden work hours and the delicious greens from that morning’s harvest. It has been a great experience to collaborate with all of the other campus gardeners this past year. PICA in addition to Kresge, College Eight, Stevenson and Oaks garden have come together to put on bi-quarterly student garden market carts. Student garden market carts happen throughout the year to promote all the various events gardeners are involved in and to share our modest produce with all UCSC students, which are given away for free. In our best efforts we are trying to provide fresh and organic veggies to all! There are beautiful, bountiful student gardens on campus and we want to make their presence known to the greater UCSC community.

Lidia2About the Author:

Lidia Tropeano is a 2nd year PICAn, Environmental Studies major with an emphasis in Environmental Education and Sustainability, and beet lover! When she’s not speaking Italian she likes to communicate via garden dance moves.

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Civic Agriculture, Food Access, and Civic Engagement

621_10151054926145378_863910452_nThe following is an excerpt from a Chelsey Klimowicz’s essay “Civic Agriculture, Food Access, and Civic Engagement,” which is based off of a focus group that was conducted with PICA residents. The focus group was held on May 12, 2012 at a picnic table in The Foundational Roots Garden in The Village quarry. The focus group was forty-five minutes and thirty-seven seconds long and consisted of thirteen questions on demographic information, PICA participation, food preferences, civic agricultural practices, and campus involvement.

At PICA, residents take turns cooking vegan and vegetarian meals for one another three nights a week. The use of local and organic produce is encouraged during these weekday community meals. After Saturday workdays in the garden, residents eat a lunch together that is prepared by the Community Meals Coordinator and several residents. Participants explained that they enjoyed community meals because “not only is it good to know that what you are eating has been grown by you and your community, but the meal you are preparing is for your really good friends and people that you care about.” Due to the fact that many of the focus group participants’ meals are cooked by others, there was a debate over how much of participants’ diets were sourced from the PICA garden. Most of the participants agreed that greens, such as kale, could often be found in each meal in the form of a salad. One participant said, “all of my greens and produce come from the garden because I don’t buy any of that. Although it probably is about ten percent of my diet, it’s still invaluable because I don’t have to buy any of my greens and stuff from the market.” This idea seemed to hold true for many of the other participants.544829_10151824954445451_1478320018_n
PICA purchased CSA boxes from Farm Fresh To You during the winter quarter, as this season is when the garden is the least productive and additional produce was needed for cooking weekly community meals. Therefore, each participant had first-hand experience with CSAs, as well as opinions on their effectiveness. One participant explained, “I think that CSAs are great, but something that I noticed when we were getting the CSA box was that the produce went bad a lot faster than the produce I got at the farmers’ market.” Another PICA member elaborated on this by stating that the delivery schedule of the particular farm did not match up with the days in which the produce was needed. On the other hand, a different participant said “I think it’s really cool and it shows you what is in season by you and connects you with the farmers that grow it.” This participant enjoyed the variety of produce that came in the CSA box and liked trying to come up with a dish that would utilize the provided ingredients.
Participants told me that they did their personal shopping at a variety of different stores, including: Staff of Life, Trader Joe’s, Food Bin, Kresge Food Co-Op, Safeway, and the farmers’ market downtown. The participant who stated that they shopped at Safeway expressed that they felt that it was the “black thumb” of grocery stores within the PICA community. As far as the farmers’ market, one participant pointed out that “they are for a very privileged select few.” This participant had experience working on a CSA farm noted that “everything at the farmers’ market has to look pristine” and said that they prefer CSAs because it gives the farmers more flexibility with what they can sell. Conversely, other participants saw farmers’ markets as a means of supporting their community and creating a direct connection to growers. One participant explained that she had a relationship with her farmer and could ask them questions, try things, and has been given free fruit for being a regular customer.
In this civic agricultural community, I think it is important to the participants to cook, eat, shop, and garden with each other as a way of forming bonds with their neighbors. The concept of community appeared to be the underlying theme of this focus group. Involvement with local grocery stores, CSA farms, and farmers’ markets seemed to demonstrate PICA members’ feelings responsibility to the greater Santa Cruz community.
480625_10151855408934569_847078766_nAbout the Author:
My name is Chelsey Klimowicz. I’m a junior transfer living at PICA and this year’s Community Meals Coordinator. I participated in PICA’s Garden Education Internship this spring, where I taught elementary school students from the Pajaro Valley Unified School District lessons on nutrition, the three sisters, and compost. As a sociology major, I have become interested in social issues regarding food access, community development, civic agriculture, and urban self-reliance.

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PICA Spring Workshops

PICA has hosted three workshops in the Spring of 2013: Permaculture, Sourdough, and Sprouting.

004UCSC students were welcomed to PICA on April 21st, 2013 for the Permaculture Workshop to learn about ecological design and self-maintained agricultural systems. Cabrillo College Permaculture teacher (and founder of local business, Terranova) Ken Foster, lectured about the 10 principles of agriculture. Then participants implemented them in the garden in a group led by Alex Aaron, founder of Natural Abundance Landscape, a nursery in Kauai.

002On May 5th, 2013 PICA resident Matthew Sanford taught the Sourdough Workshop in the Village’s F-quad kitchen. UCSC students learned how to make homemade sourdough, sampled different kinds of sourdough and took home starter and instructions.

001On May 24th, 2013 PICA hosted a Sprouting Workshop in the village F-quad kitchen. UCSC students learned how to make sprouts and started their own sprouting kits. Students also received handouts on all the information covered and recipes made.

About the Author

loraHi, I’m Lora Johansen, the events coordinator here at PICA. I am a sophmore studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology here at UCSC. I love sailing, gardening, cooking,reading, and meeting new friends. So please feel free to introduce yourself!

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Urban Garden Internship

-1This spring quarter, I and two other interns, Casey Wing and Monica Salandra, have been working on transforming the once empty space between A1 and A3 in the Sustainable Living Center into an “urban garden”. Although that space typically would not be considered urban, it serves as a demonstration site on the practice of urban gardening. The garden’s purpose, apart from providing yummy fruits and vegetables to all, is to educate on urban gardening techniques. We want the garden to encourage others to reclaim vacant spaces for producing their own food. The garden also seeks to raise awareness on issues that are prevalent in urban communities, such as food deserts, which are districts with little or no access to fresh and affordable foods. I learned a whole lot through this internship; it has expanded my thoughts on food and has made me truly appreciate how lucky we are to have access to such an abundance of fresh food in gardens not only in PICA, but on our UCSC campus and in our Santa Cruz community.

Throughout our internship, we had different guests who came to speak to us on a variety of topics. Some guests were community members who had started their own organizations related to food, like Steve Schnaar of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project. Schnaar’s project aims to seek out residents who are willing to share their surplus fruit. The fruit then is given to friends, neighbors, soup kitchens, anyone else who might make use of it. Guests like Schnaar definitely enriched my experience as an intern; meeting local people actively involved in the food justice movement really put into perspective for me the saying “I cannot do everything, but I can do something.” I believe that at times, trying to make a difference in one’s community can seem overwhelming and infeasible, but as long as someone is passionate for what they are trying to accomplish, then anything can be done. We also became familiar with several other urban gardens in the U.S. and the changes that these gardens are bringing to their respective communities. One that struck me was a garden project in South Central Los Angeles, led by renegade gardener Ron Finley. In a video we watched, he said that he wants to transform his neighborhood’s food deserts, “where the drive-thrus are killing more people than drive-bys,” into food forests. All of these different outlets to learn about food issues – guest speakers, videos, readings – were integral in helping me and the other interns understand the challenges that people face in relation to food.

003In deciding on the design of our garden, we wanted the supplies we used to be things that could be found relatively easily in urban neighborhoods. We have a total of six raised garden beds, and each bed is made of something different – wood, rocks, hay bales – to show the diversity that is possible in an urban garden space. We also incorporated an old dresser drawer and a sink into our garden! The dresser drawer is my personal favorite; I can’t wait to see flowers blooming beautifully from it. We hope that what we designed in the space between A1 and A3 is a nice model of what an urban garden can look like.

As this quarter and year is coming to a finish, we want the community to know that our garden is open to all. For those of you staying in town over the summer, help yourself to a mandarin orange! They should be ready for picking in July. Over the next months, there will also be cucumber, potatoes, tomatoes, and more. In the fall of next year, when our garden will be very bountiful, Casey, Monica, and I hope to hold a workshop of some sort in our garden, that relates to the issues we learned about as interns under the supervision of the fabulous Bee Vadakan. This internship would not have been as fun and interesting and wonderful had it not been for the guidance of Bee. This experience has been one that I loved and that has raised my awareness in food justice issues, and I thank every one who was a part of it.

0About the Author:

Sandra Rodriguez is a second year Sociology major. She is a happy PICAn who enjoys the outdoors, food, live music, and other things that make this world great. She plans on taking what she learned in PICA, and continue living sustainably, wherever life takes her.

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PICA: More to Come

021Down in this beautiful hole in the Earth, we grow food that satiates the tastes of the most discerning student gardeners. In this ever-flowing harvest, the importance of the community’s labor is clear. Weeds, mulch, and the musky piles of compost will not tend themselves! As we enjoyably exploit our labor at least weekly, it is evident that we are not alienated from our efforts. Even the most casual of personal forays through the rows yields ripe rewards- if a closely observing pace is practiced. Therefore, community meals are a means of interacting with the garden’s production, and one of the many modes of bolstering togetherness here in this semi-intentional housing arrangement: A togetherness not only between each other, but also among the myriad living systems which surround us. But who benefits from this togetherness?

Further, a question of access inevitably arises in on-campus sustainability discussions, and if not within particular circles, then it should. Amid personal yearning for greater change-making, it is necessary to clearly delineate who receives a disproportionate distribution of benefits within these student-funded projects. As a part of PICA Leadership, and such role’s associated presumptions, it is a personal duty to imagine new ways of incorporating the interests and needs of others in garden planning and work. From this position is where I begin my analysis. The issue of attracting more students to this themed housing option comes up against several debilitating assumptions. I will touch upon the two that are perhaps most intertwined and pronounced in my past year of serving the community.

DSCN0651The first is that what we (as a representative part of the UCSC sustainability community whether each theme-associated community member realizes this or not) have to offer in terms of educational opportunities will convince people to make better, supposedly healthier choices for themselves as well as the ecosystem. Rather, welcoming non-affiliated students and workday guests to an open dialectic casually yet critically illustrating exclusionary veneers of privilege (that some appear to have grown accustom to looking through to some imaginary grain of effective social change in singularly-faceted action) is a means of shaping this uniquely edible place into a space for all. Moreover, why table at the same events for the same people? One need only to look within the garden to see that this obviously hasn’t led to the garden’s benefit. In example, increased paid work to counter weeds is the cumulative result of myriad factors, including the dropping of ENVS 91F/191F (PICA Seminar) but for Fall quarter. That appears ironic for such a community as PICA, which essentially aims to revolutionize the idea of “community supported agriculture” with that of “agriculture supported community” in a more explicit, albeit merely flipped, acknowledgment of agroecological horticulture and humanity’s interactive dependence upon food systems- not merely as a sustained relic of a yeoman Pastoral Myth.

Second, outreach projects are similarly oriented around the notion of “If only they knew…” thereby simultaneously assuming that everyone has an internalized striving for sustainable living somewhere deep within an esoteric conception of Self, and that PICA is something the student body not only needs, but unknowingly wants amid frequent low inter- and even intra-community engagement. I understand the principle behind leading a sustainability movement as a campus in figurehead projects like campus gardens, but it is a duty of fee-use to represent the present interest of students. The results of the GROW measure serve as a gauge to student body interest in these gardens as projects toward sustainability and alternative notions of healthy living (Yes: 48.17%, No: 51.83%, Undergraduate turnout: 23.67%). It presents an eye-opening metric to not only student interest in effectuating on-campus change (via voting in general), but also indirectly shows if these campus gardens are already a legitimate application of student fees (as presently via other student measures). All in all, a sense of malaise and uncertainty is palpable in the student body and student gardeners respectively.

DSCN0625If anything, PICA’s role within the sustainability community must be fostering open forums in which it is clear that the very nature of discussing issues of race, class, sex or gender do not make one necessarily racist, dissociatively privileged, sexist nor intolerant. This is the nature of functional community: not a problem-free close habitation, but one in which personal troubles are appropriately contextualized and addressed in broader issues so as to positively and diffusely contribute to each member’s personal interests. However, the ability to hold such open lines of communication between varied stakeholders is unto itself a demonstration of embodied privilege: Lest we forget how beautiful it is to pursue education, especially here (amid the student gardens in all subjective honestly)! Social and environmental justice herein are key to establishing agroecological horticulture with real democratic efficacy unto the student body at large. While UCSC is arguably the most liberal UC today in terms of modern political ideologies, these subjects remain controversial, and are thus summarily avoided. The sense of togetherness that is commonly expressed as bringing housemates together within PICA needs to be widened to incorporate those who would otherwise turn away from market carts and fliers. While traditional modes of outreach have proven to be marginally successful uses of time (as paid hours), ultimately, PICAns must at the very least keep in mind for whom projects like campus gardens (around which this themed-housing is principally centered) are created, and socially and fiscally sustained. Rather than serve as a site for mere observation of biological processes, PICA holds the necessary potential to actively engage the above interdisciplinary issues, and create a truly functional community.

About the Author:
Brandon Blackburn,
PICA Propagation Coordniator,
Sociology and Environmental Studies

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