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Seeding innovation at UC’s student farms

Long before UC Berkeley author Michael Pollan told us omnivores had a dilemma and questioned the industrial food complex, college students were at the forefront of a movement to rethink what we eat.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when organic was a foreign word to most Americans, students at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz were part of a wave of environmental activism that sought alternatives to agricultural methods that distanced people from farms and relied on heavy use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

In 1971, student enthusiasm for a garden at UC Santa Cruz that used natural cultivation methods grew so much so that 14 acres were set aside for the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden to create more opportunities to research and teach organic farming.

Meanwhile, a student-led seminar at UC Davis on alternative agriculture mushroomed into a group that lobbied campus administration for land to create a farm that would explore sustainable agriculture. With support from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science, the UC Davis Student Farm formed in 1977 on 20 acres of what was then a remote corner of campus.

In the decades that followed, these student-led movements helped spur the growth of organic farming and formed the foundations for innovative sustainable agriculture research and education programs at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz that have served as models for other universities.

“UC Santa Cruz was on the ground floor of this, thanks to students,” said Jonathon Landeck, assistant director of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. “It’s a natural evolution and maturation of consciousness born in the ’60s out of the environmental movement.”

Go to the UC Newsroom for Harry Mok’s complete story and a slideshow of images from a recent morning at the UC Davis student farm. (Photos by Ernie Granillo)

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