Learning Experience

Hands-on stewardship

Learning happens by doing, and transforming food systems begins with our day-to-day practices. The Apprenticeship Program blends classroom learning with plenty of hands-on experience and on-site practice aimed at strengthening your field and garden skills, bolstering your understanding of your own role in land stewardship and food systems change, and building your ability to transfer your knowledge to new contexts. Specific daily activities will be informed by observing the complex biology and ecology of each site; apprentices will learn how to assess and respond to ever-changing situations and implement a plan of action.

Week-by-week overview

This overview highlights the salient experiential activities and themes of the 10-week residential program.

farm-shot-wide-horizon-1.jpgWeek 1

Meet the Farm and Garden sites and begin to engage with field work. Explore and learn foundational agroecological principles while building community with your peers.

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Begin to develop harvesting and post-harvest handling skills. Study current produce distribution models at the UCSC Farm, including the CSA, Farmstand, and Basic Needs sites.

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Week 3

Investigate foundational principles of soil properties. Learn to analyze soils by look and feel as well as through methods of qualitative and quantitative testing.

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Week 4

Explore and practice a variety of soil tillage techniques, understand and discuss their benefits and challenges for various scales, soil types, and growing systems.

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Week 5

Explore practices to build, promote, and maintain soil health and fertility through monitoring, and maintaining compost piles, understanding cover crops, and  and soil remediation.

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Week 6 

Apply knowledge of plant physiological processes in the greenhouse. Sow seeds and steward crops through germination and early development.

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Week 7

Support the Farm and Garden ecosystem through observation and implementation of preventative pest and disease management strategies.

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Week 8

Sustain healthy crops by maintaining different irrigation systems and analyzing the impacts of these systems on weed management.

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Week 9

Explore innovative, alternative community-driven food distribution models that center food sovereignty and equitable access.  

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Week 10

Integrate your experiences and celebrate the work of your peers in the final project showcase. Affirm your vision for how you will engage in food system change and expand food access moving forward.

Instructors and staff

The Apprenticeship is led by a team of instructors and staff who bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and perspectives to the program.

  • Chadwick Garden Manager Orin Martin (he/him) has run the Alan Chadwick Garden since 1977, acting as a main instructor for the Apprenticeship course as well as instructing UCSC undergraduates through classes and internships. Orin also teaches workshops and writes extensively on horticultural topics for the general public. His special interests lie with fruit trees (stone, pome and evergreen), garlic, roses, the weather, and baseball.
  • Farm Garden Manager Christof Bernau (he/him) has been part of the Center for Agroecology since coming to Santa Cruz as an Apprentice in 1994 and has been an Apprenticeship instructor since 1999. Christof has extensive experience in nursery management, propagation, vegetables, and specialty cut flower production. He is especially interested in nutritionally dense crops, small-scale grain production, the cultivation of small fruits, and creating a learning/growing environment where everyone can thrive. He holds a BA in Asian History from Reed College and an MA in Equity and Social Justice in Adult Education from San Francisco State University. 
  • Kirstin Yogg (she/her) serves on the UCSC Farm Field Site team in the role of Field Manager, stewarding the tractor cultivated farm fields. Kirstin first came to Santa Cruz in 2005 as a Farm and Garden Apprentice and subsequent Second Year Apprentice. She has been engaged in small-scale diversified vegetable production ever since, running her own farm business as well as managing and consulting for other local projects. Kirstin joined the Center’s staff in 2014 with a strong interest in developing small scale farm systems that are productive, biodiverse, socially just and environmentally responsible. She is conscious that the nuance in this lies in place-based, daily decisions that are rooted in justice and supported by foundational knowledge and relationship to land. She is excited to support UCSC students and apprentices in taking concrete steps toward realizing their own visions for impactful and lasting food systems change.  
  • Kellee Matsushita-Tseng (they/she) is a Yonsei, fourth generation queer Japanese-Chinese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. Kellee is a graduate of the Apprenticeship and joined the staff in 2016 to help manage the Farm Garden. Kellee has over a decade of experience working in community, with a background in anti-death penalty work, youth empowerment, worker rights organizing, community education, and organizing with bipoc farmers. They are especially interested in seed conservation and preservation, and the links between genetic biodiversity, cultural diversity, and collective liberation. 
  • Research Lands Manager Darryl Wong (he/his) joined the staff in 2013. Darryl helps to manage the tractor cultivated fields at the Center for Agroecology, and, in addition to working with the apprenticeship, coordinates faculty-led research trials and undergraduate/graduate student classes and projects. Before joining CASFS in spring of 2013, Darryl co-owned and operated Freewheelin' Farm, a seven-acre, mixed vegetable operation that sold produce via CSA, Farmers’ Markets and direct to restaurants/grocery stores in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. In addition to his role at the Center for Agroecology, Darryl is concurrently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at UCSC where he is studying Organic no till vegetable production.
  • Assistant Field Manager Brent Walker (he/his) is a graduate of the Apprenticeship and joined the staff in 2017 to help manage the production fields at the UCSC Farm. After his Apprenticeship training, Brent worked at Phat Beets and Planting Justice in the East Bay.
  • Apprenticeship and Short Course Coordinator Pam McLeod (she/her) joined the staff in 2022, after spending 10 years leading Education and Inclusion programs for a multi-university Engineering Research Center focused on urban water. She also has extensive experience working at Bay Area farmers’ markets and was a UC master gardener. She holds a BS from Manhattan College and an MS and PhD from Stanford University, all in Environmental Engineering.
  • Community and Residential Life Coordinator Alex Roth (he/him) is a Black man who was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He received a B.S. in criminal justice from the University of Louisville. Before arriving at UCSC, he spent three years on the California coast working at Vida Verde Nature Education, a non-profit serving Black and Brown youth from the Bay Area. His background is in JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) work, youth education and dismantling systems of oppression. Alex’s work focuses on cultivating and facilitating a brave and supportive space for apprentices to live, work, and grow in. In his free time, you’ll find Alex lifting heavy weights, binge watching Netflix, soaking up the sun at the beach and eating lots of yummy food.
  • Grants Coordinator Ann Lindsey (she/her) does grant writing and other fundraising for the Apprenticeship, primarily from her home in Anchorage, Alaska. Previously she was the Apprenticeship Coordinator for seven years, worked for Life Lab Science Program, and managed a garden for a non-profit education center.