20 April 2009

Home Is Where Your Tent Is

It all comes down to where you care to bare your backside, perhaps. And so far, so good.

On one of many frigid evenings last week, I had unfortunate reason to exit the warmth of my mummy bag, unzip my nylon door, and try not to wake my close neighbor with a midnight potty break. Temps were in the low 40s methinks. Wearing long johns and a wool sweater, I blindly bushwhacked to a back corner of my tent, near a wire fence that lines the perimeter of the farm. I tried to think not of the coyotes that had been howling earlier, nor of the poison oak that runs rampant across the farm campus, nor of how many cups of post-dinner tea were fueling this bio-break... I avoided thinking of how such a midnight break would have functioned just the week prior, in my tiny DC apartment, with Gravy following me the 10 feet to the bathroom door, then back to my nice, cushy bed.

I did think of (or just feel?) the farm’s cool air that surrounded me, the fields and hills and trees just beyond, as well as the further landscape that spills down towards the Monterey Bay, providing our TentLand with one of the best views in the county. I thought of the other apprentices sleeping somewhat nearby, and, only half awake, wandered into memories of the day's interactions with them, my new community of neighbors, peers, cohorts.

So, yes, with all that I squatted outside my tent for far too long a spell, but a telling time. I hated the thought of leaving my tent much more than the actual standing outside…and once the process was going, my mind wandered into what was more striking and important to me: the overall experience, the “wash,” the collective of being in this awesome opportunity. Inconvenience is everywhere; the rest of this experience is not.

This collective includes 39 apprentices ranging from their 20s to their 40s, 6 second- year apprentices to lend us experience and guidance, 3 instructors for the three different farmscapes (Up Garden, Down Garden, Field), 4 toilets, 3 solar showers, 1 kitchen, 1 small library, an army of bikes, a gaggle of bee hives, and immeasurable enthusiasm. From all over the US, as well as Canada and Ireland, 39 of us have left the things we were doing that weren’t this, and brought all our contained enthusiasm to a place where we can readily unleash it into learning about and producing food, flowers, honey.

From http://casfs.ucsc.edu/index.html:

The Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture is an educational program of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), focusing on practical training in organic gardening and small-scale farming. The Center’s mission is to research, develop, and advance sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, nonexploitative, and that serve as a foundation for future generations. Center staff work toward this mission under several program areas: education, social issues research, agronomic research, and public outreach.

The six-month apprenticeship offers instruction and daily work experience in organic gardening and farming, focusing on ecological interactions amongst plants, soils, climate, insects, and pathogens. In a hands-on education approach, apprentices work alongside staff in the greenhouse, gardens, fields, and orchards, as well as attend lectures, demonstrations, and field trips. Apprentices are exposed to the different aspects of growing plants organically on both a hand-dug garden scale and a tractor-cultivated field scale. The apprentices selected to attend the course each year are interested in practical training that will prepare them to teach others and/or to run their own operations.

Since 1967, over 1,400 graduates have gone on to apply this training in a variety of ways around the world: developing their own commercial farms, market gardens, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, starting inner-city community gardens, working as environmental educators, participating in international rural development projects, managing organic landscaping businesses, and pursuing degrees in agricultural studies.

A Certificate in Ecological Horticulture is awarded by UCSC Extension upon successful completion of the Apprenticeship.


Blogger Brent said...

I will now pollute your blog in customary geek fashion....FIRST!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Way to go E! You painted a wonderful, and vivid picture of your potty break. Gravy even got a mention! I look forward to you keeping me posted on all the activities you enjoy and endure. Be sure to mention the food because that's what Nancy and I (and you :-)) really care about. We miss you.

12:51 PM  

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