By Alan Miles
My hope for the future has been encouraged by meeting some of the smart, energetic and hardworking individuals in the emerging generation of sustainability leaders. I’m optimistic that their commitment to organic growing and social justice will have a positive impact on our world.
If we’re to have a sustainable future, these leaders will have to continue to build upon our current consciousness and practices of sustainability, addressing both the environmental and social issues of a growing world. The annual scholarship our co-op endowed in 2009 for the farming apprentice program at the University of California Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) is one way we’re helping build this next generation of leaders — and one that I’ve personally enjoyed being part of.
Responsibility and awareness
When the scholarship was being set up, our then–Vice President of Sustainability Kathy Larson visited the Center and said afterwards, “I was impressed with the quality of the program — and even more so with the apprentices enrolled in the program.”
Having interviewed all five of the apprentices who have received the scholarship so far for their profiles on Simply Organic’s website, I agree completely with Kathy’s assessment. Our scholarship recipients’ sense of social responsibility and awareness of the role our food systems play in it are qualities that can help build a better world.
The CASFS program teaches apprentices the basics of organic growing — from soil management, composting and pest control to crop planning, irrigation and marketing techniques. And it also emphasizes the role food plays in a just and universally prosperous society. The Center utilizes leaders in the organic agriculture industry to inform and inspire apprentices but also explores Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) practices, community gardens, urban agriculture, and other alternatives to the top-down food systems that predominate today.
Thousands of apprentices have already been trained at CASFS. They’ve begun working to promote local, healthy, organic food in communities around the country in roles such as farmers, market gardeners, urban agriculturalists and school garden teachers.
One percent makes a difference
Every time you purchase a Frontier or Simply Organic product, you support worthy causes like the CASFS apprentice scholarship. (The scholarship was established with funds from our Simply Organic 1% Fund and the Frontier Foundation.) Each year, it provides tuition assistance scholarship for one CASFS apprentice, offering an opportunity to learn and lead that might otherwise not be available. Since we established the scholarship five years ago, these scholarship recipients have impressed me with their range of experience, talents and aspirations:
- This year’s recipient, Alex Vaughn, was a CSA production manager before he became a CASFS apprentice. He hopes he can develop a combination CSA/food bank sustainable farming operation to produce fresh, organic food for families in need.
- Our first recipient, Evelyn Rosas, worked on non-profit urban farms in Chicago and near her home in Austin, Texas. She wants to use what she’s learned in the program to help provide access to fresh, affordable, organic food in urban areas.
- Victoria Gutierrez praises the community benefits of urban gardens, based on firsthand experience helping reclaim a neglected plot of land in East Oakland for gardening and beautification.
- Previously a partner in a bike courier co-op, Israel Dawson wants to use that as a model to create a co-op CSA near a low-income neighborhood to encourage positive neighborhood relations and provide healthy food alternatives.
- With a focus on creating more just food systems, Robert DuBois hopes to help people learn to grow their own food — especially people who don’t otherwise have access to good food.
I’m delighted to have gotten to know these five committed young people and proud that Frontier Co-op gave them the opportunity to participate in the CASFS program’s advanced training. I have no doubts they will contribute to the organic community and the society of tomorrow.
About the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball (Go Hawks!). Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 35 years, his four kids and four grandkids.