Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems

The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, and the Farm & Garden Apprenticeship


The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (the Center) is a research, education, and public service unit of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, dedicated to increasing ecological sustainability and social justice in the food and agriculture system. Center research and education efforts seek to increase understanding of the social, economic, political and ethical foundations of agricultural sustainability; to establish the ecological and agronomic basis for sustainable production systems; and to demonstrate and facilitate the use of information critical to the adoption of sustainable food and agriculture systems.

The Center’s work covers a spectrum that includes academic education and practical training, theoretical and applied research, and public service for audiences ranging from international grower groups to local school children. The Center’s Alan Chadwick Garden and the 25-acre UCSC Farm are unique organic demonstration, education, and research sites on the UCSC campus. The Farm & Garden Apprenticeship is a six-month training program held annually at the Center’s farm and garden sites.

Initiated by Alan Chadwick in 1967, this full-time course now brings participants of all ages from around the world to learn the basic skills of organic gardening and farming, while also studying the complex social and environmental issues surrounding sustainable agriculture and food systems. The program combines classroom instruction, small group demonstrations, and readings with hands-on learning in the fields, gardens, greenhouses, and orchards.

The main instructors in the Apprenticeship course are the Farm Manager, the two Garden Managers, and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Manager who work daily alongside the apprentices, present classes, and lead training sessions. UCSC faculty, researchers, and members of the agricultural community add a wide range of expertise to the course.

To date more than a thousand apprentices have completed the Apprenticeship training program. Graduates have established their own commercial farms and market gardens, run community gardens for inner city and prison populations, and developed

school garden programs. Many graduates take part in international development and food security project. Others have raised the standards of the organic food industry through work with certification programs and retailers. One of the most important outcomes of the Apprenticeship is the ripple effect our graduates have working locally, nationally, and internationally to promote, practice, and teach sustainable, organic farming and gardening.

Our 25-acre farm and 3-acre garden are vibrant demonstration and education sites open to the public year-round on the UCSC campus. Thousands of visitors come annually to see the hundreds of varieties of annual vegetable and flower crops, fruit trees, and perennial plantings and to learn about sustainable growing methods.

The Center and the Life Lab Science Program work together to put on school group tours and a children’s summer camp using the Life Lab Garden Classroom at the farm. In conjunction with our community support group, the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden, the Center offers a year-long series of organic gardening classes, workshops, and seasonal celebrations

Preface to the Second Edition

In his 2003 review of Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors, Raymond Poincelot, editor of the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, wrote that “Both the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship have been in the forefront of organic farming and gardening for many years. Their track record has been excellent and this resource guide is no exception.

This resource guide is likely to become the benchmark for such materials and promises to be very useful to educational, extension, research and other professional institutions and programs interested in training organic farmers and gardeners.”

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