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Today was the first day of my Agroecology course at UCSC’s Sustainable Living Center where every meal begins with a story. It’s right up my alley because I love to know the story of my food. The passionate kitchen staff calls us all to circle and then each one takes a turn describing the meal with colorful images and mouth watering detail on both ingredients and origin.

We spent the better part of the today becoming more familiar with the practice of Agroecology which has roots dating back to the 1930’s by Basil Bensin. In the early 80’s, Miguel Altieri resurrected the study and with the help of Steve Gliessman (course director @ USCS) brought it to international attention. Now there are over 15 courses on the subject with classes at University of Vermont and the University of Pennsylvania. Steve is the foremost authority on the subject writing textbooks and serving as a consultant for schools looking to expand their agricultural programs traveling as far as South Africa’s University of Venda. Steve opened the course with, “The reason we need agroecology is because we need to treat agricultural systems as ecosystems in order to manage them sustainably.”


Here we are taking a tour of the Sustainable Living Center’s campus. In the center is course director, Steve Gliessman. Behind him are the farm fields which serve as study plots as well as a CSA. Behind Steve lies the beautiful Monterrey Bay where cool breezes move in off of the coast each evening and full sun drenches the crops during the day.

Small World Story…After passing Steve five times or more the first day, I finally stopped him and asked, “Were you ever in an environmental film?” I explained how I have been working for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival and that he looked so familiar. He nonchalantly mentioned one possible film, Birdsong & Coffee. To which my remark was, “Of course! That’s right! I knew I recognized you. But you were more than just in the film, you were one of the main characters.” He blushed! You can watch the full-length version on line. Click Here. The film talks about his work with coffee co-ops in Central America and efforts to help farmers get a fair price for their crops. The movie also advocates for the traditional shade grown style of raising coffee which not only prevents soil erosion as seen in deforested fields but provides necessary habitat for migrating song birds.