Frequently asked questions about the Center for Agroecology reorganization

December 09, 2022

The Center for Agroecology is advancing agroecology and equitable food systems through experiential education, participatory research, agricultural extension, and public service.

In support of an intentional, strategic focus on increasing its programming centered on food equity and security and serving diverse and underserved populations in agriculture, the Center for Agroecology is creating three new positions and has made the difficult decision to eliminate five existing positions.

Why is the reorganization happening right now?

As the center continues to strengthen its support of the campus mission and its overall impact, it moved forward with plans to create new roles to support programming for students and community members by reworking staff positions that were strictly focused on crop production. The center’s increasing contributions to the teaching, learning, and research at UC Santa Cruz is reflected in the launching of the recent agroecology major, a new USDA grant for scaling organic research across the UC system focused on BIPOC students, foundation support for work supporting basic needs and food security on campus and, most recently, and designation as an Agricultural Experiment Station.

Why are staff being laid off as part of the reorganization?

We are excited about the center’s new directions and the potential of these changes to have increasing impacts on transforming the food system, though it is always a difficult decision to eliminate positions. 

As we plan for the years ahead, we need to carefully manage our budget. The organizational changes will also enable us to address financial challenges connected to the ending of a 5-year, $500,000/year gift that derived from multiple sources, as well as the cancellation of the Apprenticeship Program in the fall of 2022. These budgetary issues have required that the center make some difficult staffing decisions about how to staff the center in a fiscally responsible way. We continue to seek additional public and private support to advance our work.

How many positions are being eliminated and can those who worked in those roles apply for the new positions within the center?

Five positions are being eliminated and three new positions are being created. The reorganization is structured so that all staff are able to apply for the new positions. Layoffs were delayed to enable time for current staff to apply to the new positions and to prevent gaps in employment. This would support as much continuity in the center’s programming as possible.    

What are the new positions being created?

One position is an agroecology program specialist, which will focus on the coordination and implementation of student and community programming and support access to the farm for traditionally underrepresented populations in agriculture. This position will be responsible for supporting integration of student and community programming across all the center's sites and will report to the center’s executive director. It is classified as a Community Education Specialist 4. 

The second position is a Field production and education manager, which will support further implementation of the breadth of programming in the Field Site of advancing student access around research, food security, and academic programming. This position will report to the Field Site manager and is classified as an Agricultural Supervisor 1. 

Additionally, a more narrowly focused facilities position has been created that aligns with the reorganization of the center and which will support the ongoing maintenance of the farm and other sites. This position is classified as a Senior Building Maintenance Worker and will report to the center’s assistant director of finance, operations, and administration. 

How will the new positions support the center’s work of centering the experiences of traditionally underrepresented students in agriculture?

Two of the newly opened positions will be student-facing roles  to support hands-on programming at the center. They will interact with academic, co-curricular and community audiences to help coordinate and deliver the experiential learning that has been the hallmark of the Farm and Garden for over five decades. To ensure that these positions will be able to deliver programming to specific populations, they will include the following qualifications for hiring:

  • Required - Demonstrated experience meeting and understanding the needs and issues related to serving diverse and underserved populations in agriculture
  • Preferred - Experience working in a minority-serving institution of higher education

What is the center doing to support traditionally underrepresented students in agriculture?

Over the past ten years the center, along with the Environmental Studies Department, has brought in $10 million in US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants focusing on pipeline programs that serve traditionally underrepresented students in agriculture. These pipeline programs have been developed in partnership with local community colleges and California State Universities to promote recruitment and retention activities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income students on the UCSC campus.

Additionally, a new $750,000 USDA grant for scaling organic research will support a University of California collaboration to improve and expand undergraduate education in organic agriculture, with an emphasis on supporting underrepresented students. The project will be led by UC Santa Cruz, in partnership with UC Berkeley (UCB), UC Davis (UCD), and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). This project will support the integration of sustainable agriculture majors at UCD and UCB, creating internship opportunities with researchers in the UCANR system through the new Organic Agriculture Institute. The project will culminate in the creation of a summer ‘Super Course’ in organic research and agroecology. This course will be hosted by the center and will see students travel across the state studying organic practices and research on location.  

The center has also supported basic needs programming on campus that is delivering wrap-around support services that many students need to help them succeed and ultimately graduate. In particular, the center has helped to support food security programs that reached 30% of the UCSC student body serving ~250 free meals each day with 24,000 pounds of organic produce grown on campus by students. As part of this effort, the center offers student employment starting at $17/hour and employs more than 45 students a year.

Why was the fall 2022 Apprenticeship Program canceled?

The Apprenticeship Program was paused in 2020 as part of a broader revisioning process at the center prior to the arrival of Covid-19. Unfortunately, the strategic planning and revisioning of the program was interrupted by the pandemic. As members of the center community came out of lockdown, the planning process was forced to be more insular, making it difficult to adequately connect with outside partners and individuals. As a result, after running the first 10-week revised program in the summer of 2022, we recognized that further adjustments needed to be made. The Apprenticeship staff advocated strongly for the cancellation of the fall program in order to reassess how to best relaunch the program at a later date.

How much of the center’s budget is covered by the campus?

The center has functioned as an autonomous unit on campus with its own budget since its early origins and development, with the campus contributing less than 20% of the center's budget. The Division of Social Sciences, where the center is situated, contributes funding for 3.45 staff positions. The remaining funds necessary for the operation of the center are generated from income, grants and donations.