SF to Santa Cruz: Orientation 2015

We packed this year’s orientation with an incredible diversity of activities in both San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Stewards from Haiti, Taiwan, Ecuador, South Korea, Grenada, Thailand, and Peru got a crash course in sustainable food systems with some of the workers, educators and farmers who are radically changing the way we grow, eat, and distribute our food. Let’s re-cap some of the highlights…

Bay Area Art Movement and Urban Community Farms

Mural Walk SF

Our first day in the city, we took the Stewards on an art mural walk through San Francisco’s historic Mission District. With arguably the most dense quantity of street art in the world, the Mission is home to a diverse population of artists, many of whom are immigrants or from immigrant families. A vast number of the murals express the emotions around globalization of the food system, the dismantling of indigenous traditions, capitalism, and the “free” market. To contrast these heavy lessons, we visited an all-volunteer run alternative food market called the Free-Farm Stand. Here we experienced the power of neighborhoods to organize and to freely share the bounty of local produce.

The following day, we travelled to the Gill Tract community farm in Albany and met some of the most active and passionate members. The Stewards learned about their struggle with the land owners to keep the farmland for farming, despite economic pressure to pave it over and sell it as commercial real estate. This type of struggle is universal, and it’s an important issue in urban farming. That evening, we toured a nearby market who supports local farms and fairly traded produce—MESA’s community partner, The Natural Grocery Company. Here, the group listened to farmers from the Chanchamayo Coffee Cooperative in Peru and to last year’s Forging Farmer Community Changemaker recipient Pandora Thomas. The Stewards left the Bay Area with a fresh perspective on urban farms, markets, and distribution and were inspired by the strength of community resilience.

Santa Cruz Farms

Strawberries at CASFS

In Santa Cruz, we visited three diverse farms, learning from their experiences in on-farm education, agrotourism and workers’ rights. First, we traveled to the University of Santa Cruz campus to speak with teachers at the educational Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) farm. Next, we discovered the innovative agrotourism and internship models at Pie Ranch. And finally, we harvested strawberries and learned about farmworker rights at Swanton Berry Farm. We spent the evening grilling veggie kabobs, eating berry pie from Swanton and enjoying the gorgeous California sunset on the beach.

All in all, a jam-packed and inspirational Orientation. Good luck this year 2015 Stewards!


Check out the photos




Food Donors:  Natural Grocery Company, Green Leaf, Acme Bread Company, Lundberg Family Farm, Berkeley Bowl

Gear Donors:  Patagonia, WomansWork

And our wonderful speakers and guides: Damien and Trisha from UC Santa Cruz Farm/CASFS, Bob and Carla Gerner, Marcelo, and Rosi at The Natural Grocery Company, Pandora Thomas from Earth Seed Consulting, Bear and Sam from Swanton Berry Farm, Nancy Vail from Pie Ranch, Pancho and Tree at the Free Farm Stand!