The community partner I worked with for my Food Systems minor capstone project was Farms to Grow, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Oakland, CA and co-founded by Dr. Gail P. Myers in 2004 which advocates for black, brown, and marginalized farming communities in California and across the country. Farms to Grow, Inc. has many exciting projects that they have been sharing with the community throughout the years, such as their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which delivers produce bags and is available for pickup around the East Bay, San Francisco, and Marin, the Freedom Farmer’s Market located in Oakland’s Temescal District, and their newer program of hosting free educational workshops for farmers in Fresno, Yolo, LA, and Bakersfield Counties with the support of a California Department of Farm and Agriculture (CDFA) Specialty Crop Block Grant.
A lot of the work I specifically did for my internship experience was working closely with the Executive Director of Farms to Grow, Elaine Smith, by conducting research on crop growing specifications for specialty crops as well as finding nurseries nearby the workshop locations for Elaine to source dwarf fruit trees from to give to the workshop participants. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to continue working with Elaine and Farms to Grow, Inc. as I began volunteering with them back in Fall 2020 and interning for the organization helped me expand my working knowledge of engaging in local food systems.
I highly encourage people to check out the Farms to Grow, Inc. website and look into subscribing to the CSA, attending the Freedom Farmer’s Market, or getting involved in other ways such as: volunteering opportunities and the many events and resources available to the community. https://www.farmstogrow.com/
Conscious Kitchen is a local nonprofit that aims to address food equity, education, and access by working with school districts to shift their food services from conventional to Fresh Local Organic Seasonal and Nutritious (FLOSN). My work with CK included creating a comprehensive cost analysis of all the scratch-cooked organic meals served at West Contra Costa Unified School District. This was done to determine the cost per serving of each meal in an effort to prove their affordability and was followed with recipe development to reduce costs of the most expensive meals and introduce four new seasonal salads. There is so much opportunity for climate mitigation through food systems, especially at the institutional scale, so I love that this program works so hard to create demand for this shift in an accessible way
I partnered with Foodwise (formerly known as CUESA) a Bay area based nonprofit organization focused on connecting members of the Bay Area community with fresh, local food and sustainable farms. During my partnership with this organization, I provided support in Foodwise’s youth education program (Foodwise Kids), leading discussion around topics on nutrition, wellness, and sustainability. I also assisted in introducing children and their families to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that they had not previously known and led demonstrations on how those foods can be worked into their diets. A key takeaway from this experience has definitely been witnessing the value in the collaboration between agribusiness and community organizations and how it has the potential to improve nutrition and wellness of local communities.
I partnered with the Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit dedicated to pollinator conservation through research education, and initiatives including the NAPPC (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides. With this partner, I aided in organizing the 2022 National Pollinator Week campaign which will occur this June from the 20th to the 26th. I also aided in building and sending educational materials and pollinator conservation curriculum and school garden kits around the United States and Globally. Pollinator conservation is essential for the health of our food system and Pollinator Partnership’s efforts help to protect and conserve them.
I partnered with the Housing and Dining Sustainability Advocates (HADSA), continuing my position as the Food Literacy & Communications Coordinator. HADSA is a group of students working on sustainability outreach and advocacy in the residence halls and dining halls through peer education initiatives related to energy and water conservation, gardening, plant forward diets, food waste reduction, sustainable food systems, and waste sorting. As the Food Literacy & Communications Coordinator, I was responsible for organizing sustainable food events, running our team’s social media (Links to an external site.), producing weekly newsletter content, and running the communications for our internship. One of the highlights was helping to organize a series of successful Earth Week events showcasing delicious, plant-based food both at the dining commons and at the annual CACS Summit. I am also incredibly proud of all the work I have put into the Dining Digest newsletters, which are published on the Cal Dining websiteLinks to an external site. and feature a staff member, a recipe and sustainable ingredient served in the dining commons, and a HADSA project.
This semester we partnered with the ASUC LEAD Center as Sustainability Commission Co-Chairs. Our community partnership aimed to promote student leadership and institutionalize environmental justice both on campus and in the broader Bay Area. We worked on three primary projects this semester: 1) Ethical Eats is a restaurant sustainability rating project that aims to help local businesses make sustainable transitions, 2) Environmental Justice and Education was a collaboration with ASUC President Chaka Tellem’s office where we went to local schools and taught an environmental justice and food systems curriculum, and 3) Sunstock Solar-Powered Music Festival where we worked with campus organizations to promote renewable energy to host a concert on campus to make this information accessible and engaging. We learned so much about how to collaborate with like-minded peers with varying interests in the sustainability field and worked hard to create productive teamwork that includes everyone’s input both within STeam and throughout campus.
This semester I had the opportunity to volunteer with BUSD through Washington Elementary’s gardening program. I learned a plethora of things related to garden maintenance and how to inspire future generations to have a healthy relationship with the foods they eat. A day at this site includes a combination of tending to the garden and hosting one class in the afternoon. My supervisor taught me about what plants to grow together, how to handle diseases or pests, composting, and weeding. She was a wonderful mentor who always answered my questions with care and included me in the entire garden’s process. During classes, I engaged with the kids by helping with supplies, assisting where needed, or exploring the garden together. My supervisor would check in with me after the classes to answer any questions I might have. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to assist the school community. The experience has been incredibly meaningful to me and has inspired me to pursue similar work in the future.
This semester, I worked with Turning Green to help them develop their Conscious Kitchen Student Ambassador program in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. Each week, I went to a different elementary school around Richmond to teach a group of students about nutrition and organic foods. It was really fulfilling work to introduce kids to topics they had never learned about before and get them interested in healthy eating while also helping them to get their voices heard in decisions around school lunch menus for the district. As a food systems minor, I didn’t get exposed to information like this until much later in life, so to be engaging students with this knowledge has been so exciting and satisfied my hopes for this capstone project.
“Know History, Know Self. No History, No Self.” – José Rizal
This semester, I partnered with the Filipino Farming Cooperative (FFC) as a student shadow for a grant writing course in order to secure funding for their operations. They are one of the last, if not the last, Filipino farming communities in the United States. Additionally, I had the opportunity to integrate with the Manangs (an Ilokano term of respect) and volunteer at the farm in Orosi, CA. I was so impacted by my first trip that I organized a separte visit during Spring Break with my partner and our friends! I walked out of this experience with a greater insight into the lives of rural communities and smaller farms as well as a deeper understanding of the histories that come with being Filipino-American in the diaspora.
FFC is still welcoming donations! If you feel inclined to support Filipino farmers please venmo them @FilipinoCSA.
I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work with the UC Botanical Garden this semester. The garden is best described as a plant museum as they have an extensive collection of over 10,000 plants that span 34-acres of land. I was eager to learn more about running a large scale garden/farm and the botanical garden met all my expectations. I was regularly given new tasks to complete adding a nice diversity of responsibility during my time there. I did everything from hands-on work like repotting plants to helping track inventory during our plant sales. I am excited to take these skills I learned at the botanical garden and apply them to my goals of starting a farm!
I partnered with Food For Thought, a food bank started during the AIDS crisis serving people with chronic health conditions in Sonoma County, and Edendale Farm, a small farm and nursery on the Russian River. My main project was conducting interviews about FFT’s “Bags of Love” program, to find ways to improve the bags’ contents and collect impact assessment material for future grant applications. Between these two locations, I explored the way local fresh produce is distributed among local residents in holistic support of health. Food banks are often thought of as providing food security but not food sovereignty, and my experience has taught me that a food bank model emphasizing personal preference and customized nutrition is both viable and incredibly impactful.
This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with UC Berkeley Basic Need Center’s Food Pantry, which acts as an emergency food resource for students, staff, and people in the campus community. I assisted with setting up for and bagging groceries during open hours, when pantry visitors point at an assortment of fresh produce, canned goods, and pantry staples that they want to be bagged. I also participated in picking up recovered meals from campus dining halls and repackaging them into single serving containers for visitors to take, as well as picking up produce orders and receiving bakery and grocery donations. Given that 39% of undergraduate students report having experienced food insecurity as of 2020, the food pantry provides a needed food resource that is both physically and financially accessible due to its location on campus. Visit basicneeds.berkeley.edu for more information about the work of the Basic Needs Center!
MESA works with farmers from around the world to share their culture and sustainable farming practices here in the US. They have grants and programs to help small/beginning farmers on their path toward the sustainable agriculture journey. They also have agroecology classes online which is the program I worked on. During my time at MESA, I spent most of my time reviewing the agroecology flower petals and student presentations recorded from their previous years to create content for the social media campaign to promote the Training on Applied Agroecology Program. Working with MESA gave me the opportunity to explore non-profits within the food systems; their structure and their challenges. This experience shaped my decision on my next steps and path after graduation.
Sierra Jackovics and Milan Adaea Zavolta Spring 2022
We worked together this semester for One Fair Wage (OFW), a national organization started by UC Berkeley’s Saru Jayaraman seeking to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which is federally only at $2.13. Aside from addressing income inequality, OFW’s mission also mitigates sexual harassment in the workplace. Not only does the restaurant industry (home to most subminimum-wage tipped workers) face the highest rate of sexual harassment than any other industry, but full wages with tips on top are the best way to reduce sexual harassment since workers do not have to tolerate it (or even encourage it) to make a living wage in tips. Over the course of the semester, we both closely collaborated with each other to complete many tasks for Lenore Goldman, the Policy and Legislative Coordinator at OFW. We made a master 2022 Election Calendar for all 25 priority states OFW will be campaigning in; conducted subminimum wage research by each state for various sub-groups like students, workers with disabilities, and farmworkers; put together democratic candidate spreadsheets for US Congress, State Executive, and State Legislature races happening in priority states with upcoming primary elections; and crafted/sent out candidate questionnaires for all of those candidates who are uncontested Democrats asking about their support for OFW initiatives. Overall, while this work was very nitty-gritty, it was rewarding to know we produced tangible tools that Saru herself and the rest of the OFW organization will use to drive forward large-scale policy change across numerous states in the U.S. This partnership allowed us to participate in working toward a better, more equitable food system for not just farm and restaurant workers, but all low-wage workers who are forced to survive in America without a living wage at all.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work with the Berkeley Student Farms and spent most of my time on the land at Oxford Tract. Oxford Tract houses the Agroecology Lab and shares space with INC garden, Fannie Lou Hamer garden, People’s Program, and other lab research groups. I had the joy of supporting Cole Rainey (PhD) in their long-term no-till vs till experiment and soil sampling trips across multiple farms in California. Relationship-building has been the most gratifying part of my work, as it has allowed me to connect with so many new and returning volunteers as I facilitated weekly open hours. It’s allowed me to learn under the wisdom and guidance of incredible community members like Keisha, the newly hired Agroecology Coordinator. It’s allowed me to explore deeper connections to my own ancestral lineage in relation to land stewardship. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to consider the question of how I might reciprocate the love and care that this land has and continues to offer me. There are so many avenues in how we might continue to uplift and advocate for the protection and wellbeing of human and non-human beings. Partnering with the Berkeley Student Farms is an incredibly fulfilling avenue that I hope future students consider devoting their time to.
During this past semester, I worked at the Gill Tract Community Farm in Albany, CA. The farm is a grassroots effort of protesting the development of the land. This protest was started in 2012 and today the land provides a bounty for the farmers and the local community they serve. The mission of the group is to work toward food sovereignty and regenerative agroecologies that center on socially and economically marginalized people. I worked on the land every week and assisted with the Education and Events working group. My main project was co-hosting the B’Earth Day Festival, a celebration of both the farm’s 10th anniversary and Earth Day! I learned enormous amounts of information about agroecology in practice and responsible stewardship of the land. I also experienced the power and beauty of community and will take these lessons with me through the rest of my life.
This semester, I worked with the Bowles Agroecology Lab at the Oxford Tract, an agricultural research facility that has been owned by the University since 1923. The agroecology lab is conducting a long term experiment across a large section of the tract, studying urban agriculture and no-till management strategies. The presence of the lab creates a framework of research that legitimizes the communities and relationships that have emerged through the context of the tract. Through active engagement with the land, plants, and humans, visitors to the tract embed themselves within complex and interwoven communities. Over the course of the internship, I worked with other stewards to facilitate open hours, dream up spring and summer crop plans, and assist with research projects looking at soil health across other small farms.