CSA Flower Garden, Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems

Contributed by Nancy Vail and Jared Lawson

“The Farm and Garden program taught us that relationship building is fundamental for good farming and good food to be more readily available. We saw first hand here how relationships can grow from farming practices …. we even got married here in this garden.”

In Conversation With Nancy Vail and Jared Lawson

My name is Jered Lawson and I was an apprentice here at the UCSC Farm and Garden in 1994.

My name is Nancy Vail and I was an apprentice in 1997. I came back for a second year in 1998, and then I stayed and worked here until 2008.

The CSA Garden is a meaningful place to us both as a couple and individually. I was the CSA manager, and this was a special place where CSA members came to pick flowers and herbs. They could come with their families and not only pick up a beautiful box of produce but they could make a beautiful bouquet and interact with where their food was grown and with the apprentices. So, it is a real community space.

Jered and my wedding procession also started in this garden, so I think of this garden as the beginning of our life work together at Pie Ranch.

CSA stands for community supported agriculture, of course, and Nancy and I were both inspired here by the idea that a community can support a farm while a farm supports a community. This creates a more meaningful, honest, and authentic relationship to the source of our food. The great model supplied by all this garden represents drew us to this spot, this location, to celebrate our wedding and to embark on our shared life work that we continue.

We are the co-founders and co-directors of Pie Ranch. Pie Ranch is about 30 minutes up the coast from Santa Cruz, near Ano Nuevo State Park. It is an educational farm and organization where we teach people about where food comes from. We work with high school students and adults. We work with many different stakeholders in the community– schools, hospitals– and partner together to envision a healthy and just food system.

We understand that creating a healthier food system is a complex challenge that involves changing the relationships of both food production and food consumption. We know we need more farmers who will grow sustainable food for local markets. We know we need farmers to have affordable access to land and capital for this production. We know we need informed and active citizens to leverage their purchasing power to enable the best stewardship of the land and care for the people who will continue to feed us all into the future.

One of the things that the Farm and Garden program here taught us is that relationship building is fundamental for good farming and good food to be more readily available. We saw first hand here how relationships can grow from farming practices. Having this farm on campus with this CSA, has helped create a greater relationship between the people who are on the hill above the farm in their offices or classrooms and the families in the broader community. Between the CSA, the youth educational programs at the Farm, and the other events that the Farm hosts, it has created a bridge between the campus and the Santa Cruz community while also educating these overlapping communities about health and food systems. Our core goal is to continue to foster good relationships between people through farming, while emphasizing more healthy relationships to farming itself.