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Photo of apprenticeship staff

Staff who support the UCSC Apprenticeship in Ecological Farming include, left to right, Orin Martin, Nancy Vail, Christof Bernau, Julie Stultz, Diane Nichols, Jim Leap, and Ann Lindsey

January 29, 2007

UCSC apprenticeship program receives top honor in sustainable agriculture

By Jennifer McNulty

In the world of sustainable agriculture, it doesn't get any better than the "Sustie" award, and the UCSC Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture took home the top honor at this year's Ecological Farming Conference.

Established in 1988, the "Sustie" award is presented each year by the Ecological Farming Association to "stewards of sustainable agriculture" who have made a significant contribution to the well-being of farming and the planet. Past recipients include chef Alice Waters, publisher Robert Rodale, and several graduates of the apprenticeship itself.

UCSC Farm manager Jim Leap and apprenticeship coordinator Diane Nichols accepted the Sustie on behalf of the apprenticeship during the conference's awards banquet on January 26 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.

"There are more than 25 extremely motivated and dedicated individuals who are instrumental in making the training what it is each year," said Leap. "All of us work collectively to teach and train and run the UCSC Farm, and it is all of us who will be sharing in the acknowledgment that this award represents."

As Leap invited the rest of the apprenticeship staff and long-term supporters to stand, they were greeted by a sustained round of enthusiastic applause.

The apprenticeship, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is the nation's premier hands-on training program in organic farming and gardening. Widely regarded as one of the most significant influences in the growth of sustainable agriculture, the six-month full-time program has prepared more than 1,200 graduates who have spread their expertise throughout the world.

"There's simply nothing that compares to the apprenticeship for the depth of its program or the breadth of its impact," said Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UCSC, who attended the awards banquet.

The apprenticeship is the oldest program of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, which is part of the Division of Social Sciences.

Graduates of the apprenticeship go on to operate commercial farms and market gardens, run community and school gardens, and work at the forefront of international development, food policy, and social justice programs.

The impact of the apprenticeship is apparent in the number of graduates who have received Sustie awards, including Cathrine Sneed of The Garden Project in San Francisco; Wendy Johnson, garden manager at Green Gulch Farm in Marin County; Jim Nelson of Camp Joy Gardens in Boulder Creek; Gloria and Steven Decater of Live Power Community Farm in Covelo, CA; Orin Martin, manager of the Alan Chadwick Garden at UCSC; and Kay Thornley, who helped launch UCSC's agroecology program.

Its success is also evident in the number of similar college-based farm-training programs sprouting up at the University of Georgia, Michigan State University, the University of Montana, and other campuses.


                                            

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