CASFS Blog & Forum



Saturday, March 17, 2012

And We Bid You Goodnight...

Greetings Dear Reader,
As you may (or may not) have noticed, this blog has fallen victim to neglect some six years since its inception. At this point, I'd be more than happy to hand the reins over to another member of the CASFS Apprenticeship Community. If anyone's interested, please be in touch. In the meantime, the Friends of the Farm & Garden, along with other generous grantors, have created a new space on the interwebs for Apprenticeship Alumni and community members to gather and connect...

Please visit:
for up to date news on the work of Apprenticeship Alumni and CASFS Faculty.

There is also an alumni directory, a farmer's forum, job & land postings, an events calendar, a growing library of resources, and much more. The site's crown jewel however is the Alumni Farm Map, which is beginning to fill in from sea to shining sea. Please add your farm today!

Thanks for reading, happy farming and Abounding Harvests!

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 12:56 PM 0 comments

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Weight of the Nation

This 4 part series is a compelling and comprehensive documentary on the state of our Nation's health and food system. Many thanks to HBO for allowing it to remain online and available free to all in its entirety. Please visit the Weight of the Nation website to get started, and please distribute it widely to friends and family.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 10:13 PM 0 comments

Monday, October 24, 2011

Congratulations Class Of 2011!

A UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship video featuring the faces of the 2011 apprentices and staff, music by Martha Scanlan, art by Stephanie Lin, and inspiration via Leon.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 8:39 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Government Austerity Measures Threaten the Country’s Oldest Organic Farming Program

by Apprenticeship Alum, Jason Dove Mark ('05)

The U.C. Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Apprenticeship changed my life.

In the winter of 2005, I was burning the candle at both ends and burning myself out. I was working too hard, moving too fast, and my doctor had warned me that I was at risk of chronic fatigue. Then, that spring, I found myself living on an organic farm perched above the waters of Monterey Bay. Before I moved to the farm, my to-do list as an environmental campaigner had been packed with conference calls, protest organizing, and press conferences. After arriving at the farm, my biggest priorities became keeping the onions free of weeds, thinning the young fruits on the apple trees, and waking up early to cook for 35 other aspiring farmers.

The switch blew my mind. As I worked in the fields and the orchards I could suddenly see the myriad interconnections that knit together a farming ecosystem; ecology went from an abstraction to a visceral reality. Perhaps more important, living with a few dozen other industrial society dissidents gave me a new appreciation for the ideals of solidarity and the practice of community. The time I spent at the UCSC Farm & Garden deepened my hope that farming, done right, could help heal a battered environment and perhaps even remedy some of the world’s injustices.

So I was horrified when I learned last month that, due in part to state and federal budget cutbacks, the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture (as it’s formally called) may be forced to double its tuition—a move that would put this invaluable program beyond the reach of many people and set back efforts to educate a new generation of organic farmers.

Founded in 1967 by an eccentric British gardener named Alan Chadwick, the Farm & Garden Apprenticeship is the oldest organic farming education program in the United States. It is one of the few organic farming apprenticeships that combines in-the-fields, hand-on instruction with science-based classroom lectures and also one of the few that provides a certificate upon course completion. Demand for this unique curriculum far outstrips what the Apprenticeship can supply: For the 2011 season the apprenticeship received more than 150 applications for 36 openings.

The Apprenticeship is like a greenhouse for the organic farming movement, a place that (if you’ll excuse the extended metaphor) helps germinate crop after crop of passionate farmers and gardeners. Here in Northern California, the names at the farmers market stands and on the menus of farm-to-table restaurants are like a Who’s Who of Apprenticeship alumni: Dirty Girl Produce, Blue Heron Farm, Freewheelin Farm, Dinner Bell Farm, Pie Ranch, Blue House Farm, and the organic nursery Sunnyside Seedlings are all run by alums. And the ripple effect stretches far beyond California.

In New York City, alum Karen Washington is an instructor at the Farm School NYC. In Missoula, Montana, alum Josh Slotnick runs the innovative PEAS Farm, which combines a stellar CSA with agricultural education for University of Montana undergrads. Jones Valley Farm in Birmingham, Alabama is run by an Apprenticehip alum, as is Persephone Farm in Washington and Full Sun Farm outside of Ashville, North Carolina. For my part, I doubt that I would have the confidence to co-manage San Francisco’s three-acre Alemany Farm were it not for the instruction I received at the Farm & Garden.

Now, the austerity measures sweeping the country are jeopardizing the apprenticeship’s ability to continue its important work.

After a while, the budget battles and debt talks in Washington can come to seem like capital clownery. Even a political junkie like me can start to zone out: The details dissolve into abstractions, and from there into absurdities. But with the announcement of the Farm & Garden tuition increase, I saw the government austerity measures threaten something I intimately care about. And now I’m angry.

What’s especially galling about the impending tuition increases is that the Farm & Garden Apprenticeship itself is fiscally solvent and has been for many years. It is suffering now because of how fiscal cutbacks have cascaded down from the federal government, the state government, and the broader University of California system to this one little (but highly effective) program.

The financial details of interlocking institutions are confusing, but here’s the story in brief: The Farm & Garden Apprenticeship is technically housed within the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), a research group within UCSC that was founded in 1997. In the last year, the center has lost more than half of its state funding ($167,000), as well as a $335,000 annual U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. To make up for the shortfall, CASFS staff has had to dip into the Apprenticeship coffers. At the same time, the entire UC system is in belt-tightening mode and looking to reduce costs or increase revenues. Suddenly, the Farm & Garden Apprenticeship is being asked to pay more for some of the services it receives from the main UCSC campus.

The upshot? Tuition for the six-month program is expected to increase from $5,300 this year to $12,800 in 2013. Next summer, the tuition will technically be $8,500, though apprentices will pay $6,000 thanks to an anonymous donor who gave a special $100,000 gift to blunt the tuition increase. When I was an assistant instructor at the Farm & Garden in 2006, the tuition was $3,250. If the tuition does increase to $12,800, the admission price for this unique farming curriculum will have nearly quadrupled in just seven years.

And that, say longtime Apprenticeship staff, would be disastrous for efforts to educate a diverse group of farmers and gardeners. “Most of the people who go through this program are working adults, so typically they are not the highest wage earners out there,” said Christof Bernau, who has been an Apprenticeship instructor since 1999.

Bernau himself was an apprentice in 1994 and he worries that few people will be able to pay $12,000 for a six-month program that prepares one for a career in farming, hardly the most lucrative profession. “They come to gain more training, and go back out into a field or profession that by and large is not the highest paying,” he said. “They are giving up their jobs, and if they have a family they have to find a way to support their family while here.… It’s a leap and a commitment to come here.”

Big deal, I can hear the bean counters saying, why should the government be supporting farmer education in the first place? Well, for starters, because the average age of the American farmer is 57-years-old, and the largest cohort of farmers are 65 and older. Within the next decade this country is going to experience a wave of farmer retirements. We desperately need new growers to fill their places, and the Farm & Garden Apprenticeship has a proven track record of giving people the skills they need to become successful organic farmers.

As Bernau points out, the impending tuition increase is yet another example of how government austerity measures fall hardest on an already struggling middle class. If tuition skyrockets to more than $12,000 a summer, the elite will probably still be able to afford the program, and some half dozen of the poorest applicants will still receive scholarships. But everyone else will be turned off by the high prices, bad news for a sustainable food movement already struggling to shed the image of being the exclusive project of the affluent. “If you keep raising tuition, we are going to be pricing people out,” Bernau told me.

I know I couldn’t have done the program at the $12,000 price. I doubt very much that my buddy Matt McCue, who now runs Shooting Star CSA , could have swung that tuition. McCue had finished a combat tour in Iraq before coming to the Apprenticeship and his Army wages wouldn’t have been enough. Same with Robyn “Rose” Hosey, a working class gal from Pennsylvania who now works at Morning Glory Farm, one of the most successful organic farms in Massachusetts. Thinking about the alternate universe in which Hosey or McCue couldn’t have afforded the Apprenticeship is like imagining the agrarian version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”—only in this case the bastard Mr. Potter triumphs and the world is the worse off for it.

The way Bernau sees it, the tuition increase isn’t just a threat to farming education, but is also an assault on the broader principle of public education. “I believe the cost of education cannot and should not be borne entirely on the students’ backs,” he said. “The cost of educating an apprentice is $13,000 per student per year. So the tuition for 2013 is supposed to be $12,800. Even at elite, private universities, the full costs of education are not borne by the students. And certainly at a public institution there is a public role and a public responsibility to bear some of those costs, because the benefits from that education are accrued by all of society.”

In the case of the Apprenticeship education, the benefit is obvious and tangible: Real food, grown by people with a commitment to environmental stewardship and social justice. For more than 40 years, Apprenticeship alumni have been at the forefront of the movement to create sustainable food systems. Surely that’s a public good, one that deserves to be supported by the public purse.

Click here to make a donation to support the farmer education at UCSC.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 9:17 PM 0 comments

Friday, September 09, 2011

Farm-To-Fork Benefit Dinner This Sunday!

It's not in the water, it's in the soil.

"There are superior powers at work here," Chef Matthew Raiford says of the UCSC Farm & Garden apprenticeship, a full-time program offering enrollees the chance to learn the ins and outs of organic food.

Raiford, along with a team of apprentices, are preparing to unveil the literal fruits and vegetables of their labor at 3 p.m. Sunday in a Farm-To-Fork Benefit Dinner to be held on the grounds of the UCSC Farm. Proceeds from the event will be used to provide scholarships to next year's Apprentices.

Chef Raiford, an Atlanta native who makes his career in the nation's capital, says his family jokes that they've always gone organic.

Last year, the 44-year-old father and former Desert Storm veteran split an inheritance of 25 farmable acres with his sister. The land, which at its zenith amounted to some 476 acres, has been in the family since 1876.

"My great-great-great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard, a farmer and sharecropper in Georgia, bought the land," he recounts. He goes on to mention that the fertile acreage "never had any chemicals put into it, so that's why [they] say that [they've] always been a part of the food revolution." Gilliard was a former slave turned freedman who came upon the coastal property soon after the Civil War. It was passed down six generations, ending with Raiford.

Cooking has always come natural to Raiford. For a guy who says he goes to bed at night dreaming about creating new dishes with things like "wild hog, sturgeon, lemon verbena and honey," the culinary arts were about innate ability. Adding to his hesitancy was his father's opposition. A professional baker himself, the elder Raiford hoped his son would put his intelligence to a different use.

Raiford overcame these obstacles and went on to graduate from New York's Culinary Institute of America. He would later work at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas before landing his current position as executive chef at Haute Catering in Washington D.C., where he's responsible for feeding such governmental institutions as the House of Representatives, the Pentagon Center, the National Archives and the Canadian Embassy.

After he received his inheritance, Raiford decided to combine his love of fresh ingredients with his newfound agricultural goldmine.

Hoping to take the knowledge he's gleaned from his apprenticeship at UCSC, the enterprising chef plans on harvesting his Georgia farm.

The apprenticeship program allows for virtually anyone to gain first-hand experience in the world of small-scale farming and gardening. A day in the life of an apprentice is spent pulling roots, learning irrigation methods, attending lectures and participating in labor-intensive field work. In addition, teams of two apprentices prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.

Sunday's dinner will see attendants, elderberry spritzers in hand, treated to a tour of the grounds and given a brief overview and welcoming. The main event is a five-course meal made almost entirely of ingredients on-site, complete with wine pairings and live music.

Like most chefs, Raiford places a premium on fresh ingredients. And he also believes in 'food justice,' or the idea that great, high quality food should be available to all. But he said that he's keenly aware of the fact that, especially in impoverished communities, terms like 'organic' or 'locavore' still have a ways to go before they lose their exoticism.

"If you look at the lineage of great chefs, it was about sitting on your grandmother's lap, and being around cooking," he says. "Well, I was around great ingredients my whole life. And now as a farmer, there's a responsibility to make sure that things are accessible."

Tickets for Sunday's Farm-To-Fork Benefit Dinner are still available. Additional donations to the Scholarship Fund are welcome and encouraged even from those unable to attend the dinner. Checks can be made out to the UCSC Foundation with "Apprenticeship Scholarships" in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to: Amy Bolton, CASFS, UCSC, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. Please contact Ann Lindsey with questions or for more information on how to make your gift count where it matters most.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 9:52 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Farmers Press GOP on Hiring

Recent Republican solidarity on illegal immigration is showing cracks under pressure from agriculture groups, with two GOP congressmen floating programs that would make it easier for foreigners to work legally in U.S. fields and orchards.

Labor researchers say more than 1.4 million people are employed as field workers in the U.S. each year, and the Labor Department estimates more than half of them are here illegally. Grower groups say that number exceeds 75%, and say measures pending in Congress could deprive Americans of homegrown food.

"We need land, water and labor to produce the food that feeds this country," said Tom Deardorff, a fourth-generation farmer in Southern California, who is on the board of Western Growers, a large trade group. "They've been trying to take away our labor."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), an immigration hardliner who now heads the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would revise an existing guest-worker program and allow up to half a million foreign farm workers a year to work in the U.S.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.), whose district includes almond, rice and grape growers, also is seeking the creation of a new visa category for agricultural workers. He said it would allow "hundreds of thousands" of foreign farm laborers to work in the U.S. for 10 months at a time, the same time frame allotted by Mr. Smith's proposal.

Stepped-up lobbying by farm groups on the issue amounts to a frank admission about their dependence on a foreign-born work force—whether legal or not. Their argument is that most American workers have shunned farm jobs because many are of a seasonal, migratory nature as well as being physically arduous.

But concern is also rising for a wider swath of corporate America about the need for a more business-friendly rationalization of immigration policy. Other sectors like fast food, hotels and construction, which also employ low-skilled workers, have been subjected to federal enforcement actions that have resulted in the loss of employees who are in the country illegally.

In general, Republican White House contenders say it's premature to discuss changing immigration law until the border with Mexico is secure. Requests for comment from the major GOP presidential campaigns went unreturned late Tuesday afternoon.

The two agriculture-related proposals in Congress are an attempt to placate farmers who have been descending on Washington since June to fight a separate bill being pushed by Mr. Smith.

Farm groups claim that bill, known as the E-Verify bill, would lead to a severe labor shortage for a sector that relies on undocumented farm hands.

"If we don't have a fix to this proven labor problem in agriculture, I don't think you can get an E-Verify program passed," said Mr. Lungren in an interview, adding that he was "dealing in reality."

Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.), who said he has been hearing from farmers who rely on immigrants in his state and talking to Mr. Smith about their concerns, says "there is now recognition that agriculture workers have to be treated differently" from other sectors.

Since President Barack Obama took office, the agricultural sector has been hit by federal immigration audits of payrolls that have forced some growers to shed hundreds of workers. Growers say Mr. Smith's "Legal Workforce Act" would devastate their industry. It would require all employers to use an electronic database called E-Verify to check whether their employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Amid high unemployment, mandatory E-Verify had resonated with many in Congress and appeared to have a solid chance of passing the Republican-controlled House. But farmers, who traditionally back the GOP, are pressuring lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Tension over E-Verify has erupted among Republican leaders, according to people involved in discussions.

Frustrated farmers have orchestrated a campaign called "Save America's Food and Economy" to raise awareness about the risks of E-Verify's passage. The group's website cautions that if Congress passes the bill, "we will find our farm industry collapsing and our nation outsourcing our food supply to nations like China and Mexico."

A House Judiciary staff member noted that while all employers would be required to use E-Verify, it would apply only to future employees. The measure would allow seasonal workers to leave the country and not be covered by E-Verify if their employer remains the same and they are allowed to return.

Meanwhile, farmers in several parts of the U.S. are already suffering from worker shortages thanks to a spate of state laws to quash illegal immigration.

Georgia and Alabama recently passed tough laws that prompted many undocumented workers to leave those states, undermining the harvest of tomatoes, blueberries and other crops.

In Michigan, some apple growers are concerned about a smaller influx of migrant workers, who normally come north from those states in time for the harvest beginning in September.

"We keep hearing we should be hiring the unemployed or prisoners," says Julia Rothwell, past chair of the U.S. Apple Association. But such individuals are either not applying for jobs or quit after a short time, she said, even if wages can reach $15 an hour.

"We are not going to be the ones to magically lower unemployment," said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, which represents growers of grapes, peaches and plums.

Mr. Smith's proposal centers on revising the existing H-2A program to bring farm workers to the U.S, including dairy workers, and would be known as the H-2C. But many agricultural employers deem the H-2A program as being beyond repair. Currently, fewer than 5% of all U.S. farm workers are employed through the program.

Under the H-2A program, employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic farm workers can apply to hire foreigners on a temporary basis. Farmers say they have to apply months in advance, before they can accurately estimate their labor needs for the harvest. They must also advertise for U.S. workers first, which results in people who sign on and don't show up or stay on the job, they say.

About half of H-2A employers are completely dissatisfied or only slightly satisfied with the program, according to a soon-to-be-released survey commissioned by the National Council of Agricultural Employers and conducted by Washington State University. Only about 45,000 farm workers a year come to the U.S. on the program, which involves the Departments of State, Labor and Homeland Security. "Theoretically, the number of visas is unlimited but the actual restraints of the program make it self-limiting," said Frank Gasperini, the council's executive vice president.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 9:27 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Farm-to-Fork Benefit Dinner

Join us for a gourmet field dinner on the landmark UCSC Farm to help raise scholarship funding for the CASFS Apprenticeship.

Tickets are available online. To reserve seats by mail, send a check for $125 per ticket made payable to UC Regents to: UCSC Farm, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA, 95064, attn: Benefit Dinner. Please include contact information.

The event will take place on Sunday, the 11th of September, with a tour of the Farm and a silent auction starting at 3 pm. Dinner will start at 4 pm and features a 5-course meal created with organic ingredients from the UCSC Farm & Garden and other local farms and ranches. The entrée portion of the menu will offer a choice of grass-fed Fogline Farm pork or chicken dishes, and all courses will include full vegetarian options. Fine organic wines will accompany the meal.

Tickets for the event are $125 per person. All proceeds will support scholarships for participants in the CASFS Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program.

Prior to the dinner, join members of this year’s apprenticeship class for a tour of the gardens, fields, greenhouses and orchards of the 25-acre UCSC Farm starting at 3 pm. Founded in 1971, the Farm serves students, apprentices, researchers and community members interested in learning about and improving sustainable farming and food systems. The UCSC Farm is located on the University of California Santa Cruz campus; click here for directions to parking. Please allow at least 20 minutes to park and walk or catch a free shuttle to the Farm.

For more information, call 831.459-3240 or email Guests are invited to bring their own plate for the main course.

The 44-year old Apprenticeship program is the premiere organic farmer and gardener training program in the country, with over 1,400 graduates now working across the U.S. and internationally as organic growers, educators, community garden organizers, researchers, and policymakers. The Apprenticeship is based at the UCSC Farm and Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, and is a program of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.

This special dinner will be prepared and served by students in the Apprenticeship program under the direction of Chef Matthew Raiford, a member of this year’s Apprenticeship class. Chef Raiford is trained in classic French cuisine and has an affinity for Mediterranean flavors. Most recently, Chef Raiford was the Executive Chef for Haute Catering in Washington D.C., the premiere catering company for the U.S. House of Representatives, Canadian Embassy, Pentagon Conference Center and the National Archives.


Farm-to-Fork Dinner Menu

First Course: Roasted Red Kabocha Squash with Aged Parmesan

Second Course: Quick Pickled Salad

Entrée: Roasted Pig ~ or ~ Herb Stuffed Smoked Chicken~ or ~Vegetable Strudel with Oaxaca Pepper Sauce, all served with Tongue of Fire Succotash and Garlic Parsnips

Cheese Course: Artisanal Cheeses with Farm Fruit

Dessert: Apple Tarte Tatin with Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Organic & Fair-trade Coffee and Teas

Wine and other beverages included

~Click Here To Reserve Your Seats!~

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 9:05 PM 0 comments