Apprenticeship Program

Apprentices harvesting crops in the Hay Barn field at the UCSC Farm. Photo by Jim Clark

The Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture

The Center's Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture has provided training in the concepts and practices of organic gardening and small-scale farming for over 50 years. Since its founding in 1967, the Apprenticeship has developed into an internationally recognized program that blends the virtues of experiential learning with traditional classroom studies. Topics covered during the course include soil management, composting, pest control, crop planning, irrigation, farm equipment, marketing techniques, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) practices, farm labor issues, food policy, equity and access within the food system.

Re-Envisioning the Apprenticeship

In order to better serve program participants, the traditional 6-month Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture has been revised as a 10-week residential program, to be offered twice a year, that will teach seasoned beginners practical skills in gardening and small-scale farming using an agroecological framework. Participants will be immersed in an experiential study of soil health and cultivation, plant physiology, and crop production and distribution, while considering the social/political context in which food is grown.

The Apprenticeship Program prepares graduates to enter various areas of the food system, offering hands-on training and the necessary context to support the transformation of the food system, to be more ecologically sound, economically sustainable, and socially just. Graduates emerge from the apprenticeship on the road to sustaining themselves and their communities with the knowledge they’ve gained and shared.

Graduates at Work

The Apprenticeship model of combining theoretical and practical instruction has been replicated both locally and internationally as apprentices go on to train others in hands-on projects. Graduates have also established their own commercial farms and market gardens, assisted with community gardens in inner city neighborhoods, facilitated gardening programs within schools, and worked with agricultural job training programs for people that have been incarcerated. Many graduates take part in international development projects, others have raised the standards of the organic food industry through work with certification programs and retailers. See the Graduates at Work page and the Apprenticeship Alumni Map for examples of what Apprenticeship alumni have done with their training.

Farmers of the Global Majority

Farmers of the Global Majority (FoGM) is a collective of Center of Agroecology People of Color Alumni and current apprentices that works towards creating social justice, food sovereignty, and self empowerment in their communities. FoGM advocates for institutional change and responsible environmental stewardship, and shares resources, provides mentorship, holds annual reunions, and builds scholarship opportunities for future apprentices of low-income communities that historically have been marginalized. For more information, visit the FoGM website.

If You're Thinking About Applying

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not offering our Apprenticeship Program in 2021. We are hopeful that we can resume offering the program in 2022 if state and campus regulations allow. Sign up for our email list to keep up with the latest updates.