Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls


The Agroecology Program at UCSC


Despite the shabby treatment of Alan Chadwick by the University of California at Santa Cruz, the impulse that he established there in 1967 has continued to unfold in many positive directions. An academic program, now called the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, has become well established within the University, and it carries-on many of the themes that formed Chadwick's original approach there. These include: the training of apprentices in the techniques of organic gardening and farming, research and demonstration of how conventional crops can thrive under organic husbandry, and providing outreach to schools and other groups who wish to incorporate these principles into their practice and curricula, to name only a few.

Other aspects of Chadwick's approach have, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside. His emphasis on beauty and enchantment within the garden, for example, has given way to a much more utilitarian focus on prosaic food production. While this is obviously important in its own way, the aesthetic experience of Alan's gardens was probably the most essential aspect of his message for those who worked with him. He understood in a profound way how the beauty of nature, as magnified by the astute gardener, can uplift the human spirit and help to repair the breach between the soul and its intrinsic home in the natural world.

Also gone is the Zen-masterly influence of a teacher who will not accept nonsense from his students. Alan Chadwick would call you on your stupidity and ineptitude, and that helped immeasurably to wake you up from the pretensions and illusions that you had inevitably picked up from incompetent parents and school teachers along the way. Those qualities in Chadwick were highly valued by most of his students, although they hurt the tender feelings of a few weak individuals.

But, in the interests of acknowledging the good work that is being done at Santa Cruz today, we present the following article on how sustainable agriculture is fostered there. Its assessment of Chadwick's visionary foundation of the program is presented in a fair way, one that is in contrast with other highly biased accounts provided by UCSC in its treatment of Alan Chadwick.



Sustainable Agriculture at UC Santa Cruz

by Patricia Allen and Martha Brown


A food and farming system that exploits neither people nor resources and lasts indefinitely has come to be called “sustainable agriculture”. While this concept is familiar and even supported in many American agricultural universities, it hasn’t always been so. For decades, issues such as soil erosion, exploitive working conditions, pest resistance to pesticides, and small farm viability were brushed aside as the price of progress in the industrialized agrifood system. Few thought about sustainability in agriculture until spikes in petroleum prices during the 1970s caused many to question the energy intensification of industrialized agriculture and its attendant problems.1 Some twenty years later a government report heralded sustainable agriculture as the fourth major era in agriculture (following the horsepower, mechanical, and chemical eras)—and one that could have more profound effects than those of the previous agricultural revolutions.2 This did not mean, of course, that agricultural universities joined a sustainability bandwagon, preferring instead to stick to the tried and true perspectives and technologies.

California, however, was an “early innovator” in the development of sustainable agriculture programs. It was in 1985, at a time when the concept was considered heretical within the agricultural establishment, that the University of California held its first conference on sustainable agriculture. The next year, the California State legislature passed the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Act of 1986, directing the Regents of the University of California to establish the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. This systemwide program is complemented by sustainable agriculture programs at individual campuses of the University of California, the nation’s largest agricultural land-grant university (see addendum).

And yet ironically—or perhaps predictably—it was a non-land-grant University of California campus that had the first and most diverse program in sustainable agriculture. Based at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the work of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (the Center) is wide-ranging, including natural and social science research and multiple teaching and learning approaches. It covers a spectrum that includes research (theoretical and applied), education (practical and academic) and public service (with audiences ranging from local school children to international agencies). This article tells the story of the development of this unique program and reflects on the challenges it faces as interest in sustainability grows.

We are now at a turning point in the evolution of sustainable agriculture research and education. In the nearly forty years since the center’s beginnings, organic agriculture has grown from fragile, “fringe” origins to become a multi-billion dollar business, with companies such as Safeway and Wal-Mart starting their own organic product lines. Universities around the country are responding with new undergraduate, graduate, and research programs in organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Nongovernmental organizations and citizen groups are developing community supported agriculture, farm-to-school programs, and farmers’ markets. As we watch these developments, it’s an interesting time to look back at the way that the programs at Santa Cruz have helped drive the changes taking place today. Here in brief is the story of the center’s metamorphosis from a small student garden to a catalyst for the sustainable agriculture movement both within the University of California system and beyond.

Laying the Groundwork: a Farm and Garden at UC Santa Cruz

Beginning in 1967, long before sustainability became part of the vernacular, students at UC Santa Cruz were practicing organic gardening under the exacting direction of British master gardener Alan Chadwick. Chadwick had been brought aboard at the fledgling campus to start a garden project that would help give students a “sense of place” amidst the chaos of construction at the newest of the University of California campuses.

Chadwick brought with him a blend of gardening practices he called “French intensive biodynamic.” He emphasized a craftsman-like approach to soil care, using compost and other organic fertilizers and eschewing anything synthetic. The methods he espoused—creating double-dug or “raised” beds, placing plants close together to limit weed competition, amending the soil with organic inputs—would eventually become standard practice for many organic gardeners across the U.S. and around the world. (For a more detailed history of the Garden Project, see The Farm and Garden Projects at the University of California, Santa Cruz.3)

Some UC Santa Cruz science faculty objected to Chadwick’s approach and advocated his ouster, calling his practices “unscientific.” But the students who were attracted to the Garden Project found in Chadwick an engaging teacher with a missionary zeal, preaching an earth-friendly approach to gardening that inspired his young charges and many others on the campus and in the community. In a 1997 interview with Jim Nelson, one of Chadwick’s student gardeners, writer Christina Waters noted, “Nelson agrees that Chadwick’s offbeat approach to agriculture—one that fell through prevailing scientific cracks—might have threatened some administrators as much as his popularity with students did. ‘He had a huge following at his lectures,’ recalls Nelson of Chadwick’s spellbinding interweaving of poetry, storytelling and philosophy. ‘He would fill the giant hall of Thimann 3, and even that wasn’t big enough. He had to start giving lectures in the Quarry, so many people from town started attending.’”4

Chadwick’s students formed the core of an informal student “apprenticeship,” laboring alongside him to transform a chaparral-covered slope in what was then the heart of the growing campus into a lush, vibrant organic garden. This apprenticeship approach to teaching—in which instructors worked side-by-side with the students, gradually giving them increased responsibility—would become a hallmark of the training approach used at UC Santa Cruz.

Inspired by the garden’s success, students lobbied for a larger plot of ground on which to put Chadwick’s organic practices to work. In 1972, seventeen acres on the lower campus were set aside for an organic campus farm. Later expanded to twenty-five acres, the Santa Cruz Farm became a demonstration and teaching site for small- and medium-scale organic farming techniques. Faculty and student involvement in the garden and farm grew in the 1970s with courses in organic horticulture and agriculture offered as “practicums” through the Environmental Studies Department, as well as appropriate technology and natural history classes based at the farm. Students took advantage of opportunities provided by the farm and garden to design thesis projects and learn through independent studies. Students and staff planted orchards, windbreaks, and perennial borders, creating a diversified organic farm on the growing campus. They also designed and constructed buildings and demonstrations gardens.

In 1975, the loosely organized apprenticeship that began under Chadwick’s direction was formalized into a full-time, year-round program offered through UC Santa Cruz Extension. With a dedicated work force, the original Garden Project expanded and the farm grew to include tractor-cultivated row crops, as well as hand-worked garden beds, generating enough produce to support a small direct marketing and wholesale effort.

For many years the farm and garden were supported primarily by student fees and volunteer efforts. Student fees paid the salaries of the farm and garden managers and covered necessary materials. Dedicated community members organized a support group named the “Friends of the Farm & Garden” to assist the students and apprentice course members, provide public education, and raise funds, including enough to construct two buildings. This primarily student-, volunteer- and staff-run initiative, successful in many ways, nonetheless needed a more solid academic and financial footing in order to thrive in the University of California system.

Institution Building: the Agroecology Program

In the early 1980s three forces combined to change the role of the farm and garden within UC Santa Cruz. The first of these was a desire on the part of the campus to add academic content to what was seen as a largely recreational program. The second was declining campus financial support as reduced enrollment and tax cuts shrank the pool of student fees and discretionary funds that had long supported the project. The third was increasing public concern over the environmental and social consequences of the conventional food and agriculture system, and the recognition by the Santa Cruz Environmental Studies Department of the possibilities for wider academic application of farm and garden activities.

To develop this potential, in 1981 the Environmental Studies Department hired plant ecologist Stephen Gliessman. He created the Agroecology Program, which attracted the attention of a philanthropist, Alfred E. Heller. In 1983 Heller funded an endowed chair (the first at UC Santa Cruz) in agroecology, held by Gliessman. His arrival marked the beginning of a formal emphasis in agroecology in the environmental studies curriculum. He developed undergraduate classes and attracted graduate students from the U.S. and abroad to study agricultural ecology. With no school of agriculture on the campus, the Environmental Studies Department served as the institutional home for agricultural research and education, while the farm and garden offered an organic testing ground for studying agroecosystems. Some of the program’s early research examined such topics as polycultures—planting a diversity of crops—versus conventional monocropping systems to compare the differences in pest damage and productivity; and allelopathy, the ability of plant species to affect the growth of other plants, as a weed control option. Other projects tested alternatives to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, including predatory insects to control pests, cover crops to control weeds, and compost to build soil nutrient levels.

As Gliessman explained, “The underlying principle of our work is to understand better the ecological processes of natural ecosystems and apply our findings to what are largely manipulative agricultural systems. There is a tremendous need and opportunity to develop and promote agricultural practices that are environmentally sensible, economically feasible, and socially responsible.”5 Developing an agricultural system based on those three tenets formed the mission of the Agroecology Program. It was the first University of California project to focus specifically on what would come to be known as “sustainable” agricultural and food systems, and to pursue research, teaching, and outreach in organic production techniques. The program also reflected Gliessman’s ties to and interest in agroecosystems in other countries, particularly in the tropics. He sent graduate students to Mexico and Costa Rica to conduct research on centuries-old farming systems and was invited to teach courses at international universities. Visiting researchers arrived from China, Brazil, and Mexico to work with Gliessman on basic research in agroecology.

While the Agroecology Program was becoming more established academically, its “practical” aspects were on less solid footing. The Environmental Studies Department covered Gliessman’s salary and the endowed chair provided a small amount of research funding, but funds were still needed to continue the operation of the farm and garden programs. Kay Thornley, a student at the time, volunteered to write grants to find funding. Together, Gliessman and Thornley developed a vision for a program that would serve both University of California students and a much broader audience composed of farmers, gardeners, and the general public. They were able to secure sufficient grant funding to establish a program that kept the farm and garden apprenticeship and other efforts operating and included a major outreach component (see addendum).

In 1984 the Agroecology Program hired social scientist Patricia Allen, who initiated some of the nation’s first work on social issues in sustainable agriculture. Allen was connected to small farm and direct marketing projects as a result of her prior position as coordinator of the Small Farm Center at UC Davis. She continued to work with these groups, integrating sustainability into programs and projects from which it had been absent. In order to bring greater attention to the subject of sustainable agriculture, it was Allen who conceptualized and spearheaded the first University of California systemwide conference on agricultural sustainability in 1985. At UC Santa Cruz, she worked with faculty to establish a working-group seminar that focused on special topics in sustainable food systems. Reaching out to an international audience, in 1986 Allen and Gliessman held the first international conference on sustainable agriculture at a University of California campus, marked with the publication of Global perspectives on agroecology and sustainable agricultural systems.6 Allen continued to develop social science research and education projects, and consideration of social issues began to be integrated into many of the program’s activities.

As interest in organic production expanded in the 1980s, growers in the area began to look to the Agroecology Program for answers to farming questions that more traditional extension services did not address. Entomologist Sean Swezey was hired in 1989 to develop the Farm Extension Project and began working with other researchers and local, small-scale growers on their farms to analyze the transition of a conventional production system to organic farming practices. “Steve [Gliessman] put together the team to work with local growers because he recognized a need,” says Swezey. “It was the first attempt by the University of California system to formally assist organic growers with coop-extension style services,” (Swezey, pers. comm., September 2005).

The first of the program’s off-campus efforts focused on strawberries, a major crop of the region. Grower Jim Cochran worked with program members to compare conventionally and organically managed strawberries on land recently cropped in conventional Brussels sprouts. This study of a farming system in transition was the first of what was to become a major feature of the Agroecology Program’s research efforts.

As the research and undergraduate education aspects of the program developed, the already well-established Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture grew from a dozen students a year in the early 1980s to thirty annual participants, under the direction of instructors Orin Martin, Olivia Boyce-Abel, Jim Nelson, and Dennis Tamura. The apprenticeship catered to a nontraditional student audience—most already held a bachelor’s degree and were looking for practical skills to apply in a variety of settings.

Unlike most traditional college agronomy programs, the apprenticeship offered a unique blend of classroom and hands-on training that emphasized learn by doing. Students received intensive training in organic soil management, crop planning, greenhouse skills, orchard care, pest and disease control, and small-scale marketing. The apprenticeship was clearly meeting a need for this kind of training since every year it received far more applicants than it could accommodate. Graduates of the program went on to start their own organic farms and gardens, teach in school and community gardens, work in international development programs, and start organic landscaping companies. Some returned to school for advanced degrees; others got in on the ground floor of the organic food industry.

Despite the extent of its work, the Agroecology Program lacked secure funding until 1985 when the University of California Office of the President provided stable, permanent core funding through a line item in the university budget. Although the systemwide Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program (SAREP) was initiated in 1986, the Agroecology Program at UC Santa Cruz retained its importance. A 1989 academic external review extolled the program and stated that it was unique in three ways: 1) it is the only research and education unit at a major research university dedicated to research in agroecology; 2) it is the only such program to address the socioeconomic dimensions of agricultural sustainability; and 3) it is independent of the established research traditions of agricultural experiment stations. This review provided an important endorsement of the program’s critical role within the University of California.

Expanding the Framework: the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

By 1990, sustainable agriculture was gaining increased attention as the social and ecological costs of conventional agriculture mounted and the organic food industry expanded. A federal Organic Foods Standards Act was proposed to create a nationally defined standard for organic and a federal list of allowable materials. Little by little, universities began to respond to the interest in sustainability, developing sustainable agriculture programs at many of the nation’s largest land-grant universities.

Although gratified by this growing interest, Allen and Gliessman raised concerns over the direction research efforts were taking under the rubric of “sustainability.” In a 1990 Agroecology Program newsletter article, Gliessman wrote: “Rather than viewing sustainable agriculture as a system that encompasses environmental, social, and economic considerations, many of the efforts now in place have focused solely on substituting one type of farm input or practice for another. A number of new programs have been established around the county, many of which have the word ‘sustainable’ in their title, but most of which suffer from what I call this ‘input-substitution’ narrowness”.7 Gliessman published his perspective on sustainability in his 1990 book, Agroecology: Researching the Ecological Basis for Sustainable Agriculture.8

To address this concern over the narrowing of the definition of sustainability, in 1990 Allen organized a conference, Sustainable Agriculture: Balancing Social, Environmental, and Economic Concerns. She sought to reverse the narrowing trend by broadening the concept to explicitly include important issues of social needs and human welfare. Allen wrote, “A major challenge to implementing sustainability is not only to resolve differences in how the concept is defined and consequently in how its goals and policies of action are structured, but to recognize how social and ethical issues factor into the equation."9 In an effort to encourage thinking and discussion about the need to integrate social and environmental issues in sustainability, Allen invited chapters and produced an edited volume, Food for the Future: Conditions and Contradictions of Sustainability,10 the first book to articulate the social aspects of sustainable agriculture.

While working to incorporate social issues in sustainable agriculture, Agroecology Program members also recognized the urgency of finding environmentally and economically viable ways for growers interested in organic farming to make the transition from conventional management. In order to provide much-needed information to these growers, program researchers initiated a suite of “conversion projects,” building on the work with strawberries they had begun in 1987. The projects teamed Agroecology Program and UC Cooperative Extension entomologists, plant pathologists, soil ecologists, and agricultural economists to study changes in crop yield, pest and disease populations, beneficial organisms, soil fertility, and costs and income as local artichoke, strawberry and apple growers converted their operations from conventional to organic practices. The work eventually expanded to include studies of organic and conventional cotton production in the Central Valley.

A number of factors marked these projects as unique to the Agroecology Program: they examined “whole systems” rather than isolated factors within the farming system; they took place on local farms rather than agricultural experiment stations; they focused on small- and medium-scale growers rather than large, corporate farms; and they included the growers as integral parts of the research team. According to Sean Swezey, “These relationships [with growers] are now commonplace throughout the land-grant universities across the country. However, that wasn’t the situation in the late 1980s—that’s one reason the program was unique,” (Swezey, pers. comm., September 2005). The 1990 hiring of Jim Leap—an experienced organic farmer from Fresno—to manage the Santa Cruz Farm also enhanced the program’s link to the local farming community.

The program worked with the community in other ways as well. For example, Allen and Van Dusen developed the Santa Cruz Food Security Project to address food security issues, such as hunger and access to nutritious foods, by teaming with local organizations. Gliessman and environmental studies professor Jim Pepper initiated the Agriculture and Community Program that focused on strategies to preserve farmland and examined farm worker housing issues in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties in an effort to inform policymakers of threats to agricultural sustainability in the region.

Recognizing the Agroecology Program’s major role in addressing both environmental and social issues in agriculture, the Kellogg Foundation chose the program as lead agency for the California Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture [CASA]. Led by Gliessman as principal investigator and Allen as steering committee member, this two million dollar project united a diverse group of university programs and non-profit organizations to work together with a goal of redirecting agricultural practices and policies onto a more environmentally sound and socially equitable pathway. The consortium’s work culminated in CASA’s Call to Action, 11 which laid out a series of strategies for promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Acknowledging the interdisciplinary and whole-systems scope of the program’s work, beginning in 1989, various review committees and campus leaders recommended that the program’s name be changed to reflect its interests in environmental and social aspects of sustainable food and agriculture systems. In 1994, the Agroecology Program was renamed the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Shortly thereafter, under the direction of Dean William Friedland, the campus decided to invest in the further development of the center by creating a newly funded 50-percent-time director position. This commitment of university funds marked a major contribution by UC Santa Cruz to the center’s future.

In 1997, agroecologist Carol Shennan was hired as the center’s director and professor of agroecology in the Environmental Studies Department. Shennan brought an interest in agroecosystems and landscape ecology and developed a focus on intersections among agroecology, environment, and community. This involves examining landscape-level processes in agroecosystems, such as nutrient cycling and water quality impacts, and the mechanisms needed to implement more ecologically sound production systems without disadvantaging people who have limited power or access to resources, including land and capital. Shennan’s experience in working with divergent groups in agricultural landscape management provided an important complement to her academic expertise.

The creation in 1995 of the PhD program in Environmental Studies provided graduate students the option to specialize in agroecology and sustainable agriculture. Students also worked with the center through internships or independent studies developed in collaboration with faculty in a variety of campus departments, including Community Studies, Education, Environmental Studies, and Latin American and Latino Studies. Gliessman’s 1997 textbook, Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture and its accompanying lab manual, were the first resources for teaching about ecological concepts and principles as they apply to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.

Along with serving undergraduate and graduate students, experiential education remained a major part of the center’s work through the 1990s. An increasing number of international apprentices, including students from Asia, Africa, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Israel, Palestine, and Central America, joined participants from around the U.S. for the annual apprenticeship training program. Although its focus remained teaching basic organic farming and gardening skills, the apprenticeship evolved to reflect trends in the sustainable agriculture movement. The staff added training in community supported agriculture project (CSA)—an innovative marketing approach that connects growers and consumers, and is particularly appropriate for small- and medium-scale organic farmers. A series of talks on social issues in sustainable agriculture was also added to the curriculum, as students sought information on social justice aspects of the food system. With more restaurants turning toward specialty crops and organic produce, the program initiated a series of cooking classes to help increase apprentice knowledge of the “farm-to-table” connection.

Expansion of Research and Education Programs

Over the past several years, the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems has expanded and deepened its commitment to multidisciplinary research, relevance to the community, and dedication to social justice. Much of this work has been supported by Congressman Sam Farr who helped obtain U.S. Department of Agriculture funds to expand the reach of the center’s work in California’s Central Coast region. This multiyear funding made possible an ambitious, ongoing suite of center research projects to document land use and water quality; examine the effects of alternative production, marketing, and research efforts on both ecological sustainability and social conditions for growers and consumers; and identify barriers to the development of a healthier Central Coast food system, both ecologically and socially.

In addition to expanding empirical social science research on campus, the Farr funding also enabled social science staff to expand efforts to reach beyond the university. For example, Allen and assistant professor of Community Studies Julie Guthman, along with the California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and the California Food and Justice Coalition, initiated the Activist Researcher Consortium as a way for activists and researchers to share ideas and collaborate on projects focused on the social issues of sustainable food systems. Locally, center staff and students helped develop a Santa Cruz County Food Forum and worked with students in their efforts to bring local, organic, socially just food to campus dining halls. An active participant in both university and NGO efforts in sustainable food systems for many years, Allen collaborated with Environmental Studies professor Margaret FitzSimmons on a major study of programs and priorities of alternative agrifood institutions in California in 2003,12 and in 2004 published an analysis of alternative agrifood movements and programs in the U.S., Together at the Table: Sustainability and Sustenance in the American Agrifood System. 13

The Center continues its commitment to local growers. For example, Marc Los Huertos was hired in 1999 to conduct water quality monitoring research, measuring nitrogen and phosphorus levels in rivers, streams, and irrigation ditches to determine the effects of farming practices on water quality, with the goal of helping growers manage nutrients in their farming systems to reduce runoff from agricultural fields. Directed by Shennan, this landscape-oriented approach to addressing sustainable agriculture questions has led to collaborations with faculty in the Department of Earth Sciences and has garnered additional grant funds from the State Water Quality Control Board to increase work with local growers.

Efforts to help organic growers received a boost in 2004 as Gliessman, Shennan, and researcher Joji Muramoto were awarded a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund on-farm research projects in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties designed to improve organic production techniques while protecting natural resources. Commenting on the grant, Shennan noted, “Organic farmers face the same production challenges as conventional growers, but the research community has overlooked their needs. With one of the oldest university-based organic research and training programs in the world and one of the pioneering academic programs in agroecology, UCSC is in a good position to help fill in the gaps of scientific knowledge.”

In response to requests for training materials from college farms and other education programs that had long recognized the apprenticeship as a model for teaching organic production skills, in 1999 instructors took up the challenge of putting the program’s more than thirty-five years of training experience down on paper. Center staff members coordinated by Albie Miles and Ann Lindsey teamed with seven invited authors to document the curriculum of the six-month training program. The result was the training manual Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors (2002).14 Miles also headed an effort to develop an online sustainable agriculture curriculum for California’s post-secondary schools, now available on the center’s web site.

The efforts of center staff and faculty over the years had collectively produced a University of California program of high academic standing as well one that is valued by growers, gardeners, non-profit organizations, children, and others. The most recent (1999) academic external review of the center found that it was a unique resource and one of the most renowned sustainable agriculture programs, both domestically and internationally. The reviewers stated that, they believed that the social science dimension of the center was what provided much of its “national and international reputation and appeal.” The report also found that the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems is the University of California’s “most accomplished sustainable agriculture program in terms of instruction, research, and outreach.”

Moving into the Future

As the center moves into the next era, it will continue to focus on cutting-edge research, education, and public-service programs. For example, it is conducting basic and applied research on ways to conserve nutrients on organic farms, minimize the impacts of farming on surrounding ecosystems, and manage pests and diseases with organically acceptable techniques. It is at the forefront of research on social issues in the agrifood system, with current fields of study including perceptions of and priorities for social justice in the agrifood system, farm-to-institution programs, food-system localization efforts, gender issues in agrifood systems, priorities and pedagogies in sustainable agriculture education, and consumer interests and preferences. The center plays a lead role in the evolving field of farm-to-college programs, with staff working to spread the model of locally sourced organic food for campus institutions—combined with sustainable food system education—throughout the University of California system and beyond. Building on nearly four decades of training organic farmers and gardeners, center members continue to develop and improve education programs that offer students and apprentices experiential training combined with classroom work and to share these programs with educators nationwide.

As the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems continues to move forward however, new realities require shifting some of its focus and abilities. Most importantly, the California state budget situation has meant substantial cuts to the center’s budget. The result has been the elimination or significant reduction of some programs and an amplified search for extramural funding. Extramural funding is only available for certain kinds of activities, which means that its priorities will be inevitably shaped more by the priorities of funders than by the mission and priorities of the center itself.

A second factor in reshaping the center’s priorities has been the increased legitimacy of sustainable agriculture in university programs nationwide. Where once UC Santa Cruz stood virtually alone in pursuing the study of agroecology and sustainable food systems, now land-grant universities such as Ohio State, Iowa State, and North Carolina State have developed large research farms and programs focused on organic and sustainable agriculture. Each of these campuses can bring far greater resources in terms of staff, faculty, students, facilities, and equipment than will ever be possible at UC Santa Cruz, which does not have access to university land-grant resources. Accordingly, the center needs to complement, rather than duplicate, the work of these new efforts, and focus on the areas in which it can make unique contributions. As it adapts its programs, however, the center’s mission remains holistic, interdisciplinary, and progressive: to research, develop, and advance sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, non-exploitative, and that serve as a foundation for future generations.


  1. Buttel, F. H., O. F. Larson, and G. W. Gillespie, Jr. 1990. The sociology of agriculture. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
  2. U.S. General Accounting Office. 1992. Sustainable agriculture: Program management, accomplishments, and opportunities. GAO/RCED-92-233. Washington, DC.
  3. Brown, Martha. 2000. The Farm and Garden Projects at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Chronicle of the University of California, Issue 3 - West of Eden, pp. 29-41.
  4. Waters, Christina. 1997. Metro Santa Cruz, October 2.
  5. O’Leary, Tom. 1982. A new approach to agriculture. The UCSC Review, Vol. 8 #1, October 1982, pp. 1-2.
  6. Allen, Patricia, and Deborah Van Dusen (eds.). 1988. Global perspectives on agroecology and sustainable agricultural systems. Proceedings of the IFOAM scientific conference. Santa Cruz, CA: Agroecology Program.
  7. Gliessman, Stephen R. 1990a. Sustainability is not just input substitution. The Cultivar, Summer 1990. Agroecology Program.
  8. Gliessman. Stephen R. (ed.). 1990b. Agroecology: researching the ecological basis for sustainable agriculture. Ecological Studies Series No. 78. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  9. Allen, Patricia. 1990. Conference to broaden concept of sustainability. The Cultivar, Summer 1990. Agroecology Program.
  10. Allen, Patricia (ed.). 1993. Food for the future: conditions and contradictions of sustainability. John Wiley & Sons.
  11. California Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA). 1996. A call to action. Santa Cruz, CA.
  12. Allen, P., Margaret FitzSimmons, Michael Goodman, and Keith Warner. 2003. Shifting plates in the agrifood landscape: the tectonics of alternative agrifood initiatives in California. Journal of Rural Studies 19 (1):61-75.
  13. Allen, Patricia. 2004. Together at the table: sustainability and sustenance in the American agrifood system. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
  14. Miles, Albie, and Martha Brown. 2002. Teaching organic farming and gardening: resources for instructors. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.


Addendum: Other University of California programs

UC Berkeley’s Center for Sustainable Resource Development conducts research in natural resource management, integrated pest control, and global sustainable management strategies. The UC Berkeley Center for Biological Control conducts research and offers classes in pest management and biocontrol, and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Division of Insect Biology offers graduate research, courses, and international short courses in the United States and Latin America in agroecology, biological control, and sustainable agriculture. UC Davis’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences houses the Department of Agronomy and Range Science, which offers research and classes on sustainable agriculture as well as a specialization in sustainable production practices. The UC Davis Student Experimental Farm offers research and practical education on sustainable agriculture and organic gardening.

Addendum: Outreach a High Priority for Center

From the beginning, the Agroecology Program invested significant energy in outreach efforts for audiences that include researchers, farmers, teachers, students, backyard gardeners, and local school children. This dedication to public service and public access continues to mark the center’s work as unique amongst sustainable agriculture programs.

Soon after the Agroecology Program was founded, Gliessman worked with Sarah Steinberg, then a graduate student in UC Santa Cruz’s Science Communication program, to launch The Cultivar newsletter; for twenty-five years this free newsletter has kept a worldwide audience of researchers, educators, gardeners, students, and many others apprised of the program’s activities. Today, under the direction of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ senior editor Martha Brown, The Cultivar reaches nearly 3,000 readers in sixty-five countries and many more via the worldwide web. Other center publications include a Research Briefs series, information “tip sheets” for organic gardeners, the News & Notes of the UCSC Farm & Garden newsletter, and training materials, including the popular Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors. Much of this material is available free from

Center members also put on conferences, short courses, field days, and on-site demonstrations designed to introduce organic farming and gardening techniques, present issues in sustainable food and agriculture, and inform the community about the center’s work. In conjunction with our community support group, the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden, the center sponsors a year-long series of free and low-cost organic gardening classes, workshops, and seasonal celebrations. The center also offers both docent-led and self-guided tours of the UCSC Farm and Alan Chadwick Garden.

A variety of children’s activities are available through the affiliated Life Lab Science Program, which develops garden-based science and nutrition curricula. Opened in 2002, Life Lab’s Garden Classroom on the center’s Farm offers children and teachers a model garden for learning and exploration. Life Lab sponsors school tours, after-school programs, summer camps, family activities, and teachers’ workshops at the garden classroom.


The original source for this article is the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, and is used by permission courtesy of Martha Brown.




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