Oral history is a tool for conveying first-hand experience and sharing knowledge. It also provides a medium to weave experiences together, crafting a whole patchwork of personal stories into a larger history. The 29 oral history excerpts in the recently released, Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History of Organic Farming & Sustainable Agriculture on California’s Central Coast, capture the integral 40-year history of the organic movement in Santa Cruz and its rippling effect onto the rest of the world. As part of the Regional History Project set in motion by the University of California, Santa Cruz, this curated anthology defines an organic food revolution. And according to forward, written by Linda L. Ivey, Ph.D., the organic movement is indeed a revolution: “a historic shift in the way a society operates within its natural environment.” Twenty-nine voices attest to the large-scale shifts in cultural, economic, societal, and environmental practices by explaining their strategies for navigating a sustainable way of life.

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I’d like to introduce you to CC; he’s 19 years old and he’s a new friend of mine.  About a month ago, my fiancé and I opened a little coffee shop in an old gas station in Santa Cruz, California. Our friend, Fran Grayson, came to us with a vision of collaborating on the idea and now she parks her food truck on-site. Together, we are The Truck Stop and Filling Station. We strive to promote good, honest, and quality food and drink. This is where CC comes in.

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In my neck of the woods of California, namely the Santa Cruz Mountains, there are a few things that put us on the map.  As with any locale, there are the natural landmarks, the historical facts of significance, and the cultural legacies that bring a sense of pride to the place residents call home.  And more often than not, regional foods bring acclaim to an area, especially when famous restaurants incorporate them into their menus. For us, one of those places is Manresa. Read more

It was lunchtime at Harbor High School, and the cars were backed up three stories down to the parking lot at the bottom of campus. The thump of the bass resonated from jacked-up trucks and Toyota Forerunners as students tried to break out for a burrito or at Joe’s sub before their afternoon classes started. At the top of the hill on the other side of campus, a throng of teenagers waited to cross over to the gas station that sells slurpies and Hot Cheetos. These students, including my daughter Carly, hadn’t heard that chef Jamie Smith was at that very moment serving noodle bowls with the veggies he’d stir-fried in the Harbor High kitchen.

Jamie is not just flipping broccoli; he’s trying to “make it cool to eat at school.” He knows it is healthier on multiple levels for high school students –not just at Harbor but all across the country– to stay on campus during lunch. Read more

Today’s world is budding with innovation…brand new systems created by a generation of people that find technology as familiar to their fingers as I find a wooden mixing spoon. We are seeing an emergence of people taking this newness and coupling it with craft, with older, perhaps simpler ways of life. Preserving traditional methods of quality by injecting a bit of adaptive contemporary sheen is introducing what may be a key to saving our planet. A perfect example of this in my own town goes by the clear-cut name of Santa Cruz Local Foods, an online Ebay of sorts where food and technology meet. Essentially, on a weekly schedule, farmers and producers register their items into the database while consumers login to shop. There is a single drop off and pick up location, money is handled through the facilitators of the website, and everyone goes home happy. Read more

My obscure Community Studies undergraduate degree provided a multitude of lessons, but the main things I gained were these two ideas: 1. The personal is political. 2. To affect change you must begin right where you are. With these dictums in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communities that are coming together to become self-sustaining. With food safety threats, economic destruction, globalization, outsourcing of jobs, and the homogenization of our food sources, it is no wonder that people are starting to get more and more organized. It seems like just this week, I have heard about a variety of examples, not just nationally but really close to home here in my small-ish town of Santa Cruz. Read more