Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Apr 25th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Growing History

blog_slugUCSC library to launch an online oral history of organic farming

Dale Coke grew up on an apricot orchard in California’s Santa Clara Valley. In 1976 he bought 10 acres of farmland near Watsonville in Santa Cruz County but continued to work repairing fuel injection systems rather than farming at his new home. In 1981, a struggle with cancer inspired him to rethink his life and become an organic farmer. His neighbor, who had grown strawberries using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, asserted that strawberries could not be grown organically. Coke set out to prove him wrong.

Coke—who did, in fact, prove he could grow organic strawberries (and sell them to places like Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley), is just one of the many sustainable agriculture pioneers documented by UC Santa Cruz’s Regional History Project in “Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History Series on Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming on California’s Central Coast.” The Regional History Project’s Director, Irene Reti, came up with the idea to interview local individuals and organizations that played a major role in the development of organic farming and sustainable food systems. “[The oral history office]’s mission is to document the history of not only UCSC but of this entire region,” says Reti. “Sustainable agriculture is one of the major contributions that this area has made both national and internationally so it just stood out as something we wanted to document.”

The project examines the past 50 years of the sustainable agriculture movement in Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. It includes interviews with large- and small-scale farmers and a host of farm advisors, activists, educators, researchers, policymakers, Farmers’ Market managers, and food distributors—58 in all. “We started out thinking we were going to interview 15 people and we ended up with 58,” laughs Reti.

Transcripts of the interviews, audio clips from the oral histories, and photographs will all be available on the UCSC Library’s website (library.ucsc.edu/reg-hist/cultiv/home) on April 22, and can be sorted by narrator, organization, and role (farmers, activists, researchers, etc.). The site also offers a Google Map with the locations of the participants and a timeline listing key events in Central Coast organic and sustainable agriculture in the context of historical events and trends in the international movement.


In addition to the website, the UCSC Library will feature an exhibit based on the project in the fall. Transcripts of the interviews and photos that are on the website are also available in printed volumes through several local libraries, including the UCSC Library. To purchase copies of some or all of the volumes, or to learn more, email Irene at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . A book of edited excerpts from the oral histories will be published in 2011 by the UCSC Library and distributed by the University of California press.

Photo: JP Perez of JP Organics poses with a bounty of his fresh, organic produce. Credit: Gerry McIntyre

 

Comments (1)Add Comment
Chief Gardener on my private plot
written by Francis Smith, January 22, 2014
This collection serves a valuable purpose in tracing the history of the organic farming and gardening movement from its beginnings in California. Many of the contrlibutions are careful and accurate descriptions of the struggles that were necessary to begin looking at farming in a new way. Others, unfortunately, suffer from inaccuracies and distortions that marr the whole effort.In particular, I take exception to the misleading statements made by some of the interviewees about the role and character of the most important figure in the organic movement, Alan Chadwick. In particular, Orin Martin, Richard Merrill, and Steve Kaffka provide less than reliable information about Mr. Chadwick. For a good look at the other side of the story, see the following website:

Alan Chadwick

The section on "Memories of Alan Chadwick" has commentaries on the interviews of these three persons, as well as by many others who knew him.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise