Following the Youth Day event at the UCSC Farm, 2012 Apprentice class member Victoria Gutierrez wrote this article for a recent Field Notes, the newsletter of the UCSC Farm’s CSA project
My desire to learn about food systems, and the way that humans interact with these systems, is what led me to become an apprentice at CASFS. It was only a few years ago that I began exploring my relationship to food and the land upon which it is grown. Indeed, at 16 I had no idea that there are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes out there in the world, much less that they are part of the solanaceae family. And the notion that I, a young person from a working class Los Angeles barrio could actually grow my own tomatoes—well this thought never even came close to crossing my mind. It might be safe to assume that the majority of young people in this country find themselves in a similar situation, having little to no point of reference for where their food comes from, much less how to grow it themselves.
Thankfully, there are various organizations all over the country that are working with youth of all backgrounds to encourage an active participation within the growing food justice movement—a movement that asks the question “how do we create dignified/ sustainable food systems that are readily accessible to all communities?” One such organization is Food, What?!, a youth empowerment program run out of the UCSC Farm & Garden that works with young people from traditionally marginalized communities. This past Saturday, the CASFS apprentices joined forces with the Food, What?! crew to host Youth Day, an annual gathering that brings together young food activists from different parts of California to come explore the farm and learn about various aspects of sustainability and social justice. Workshop sessions included bee and goat keeping, terrarium an bouquet making, and using theatre and poetry as tools for creating change.
Along with help from the apprentices, the youth were also responsible for making enough pizzas to feed over one hundred people with toppings that they harvested directly from our garden! Before sharing all of this wonderful food— accompanied by delicious homemade pies provided by the youth from Pie Ranch—everyone gathered to listen to the moving experiences of our guest speakers: migrant farmworkers employed at different farms in the Central Valley. Our guests gave us all a unique insight into the challenging conditions under which many agricultural workers are currently forced to make their living, whether they are working on organic or conventional farms. When asked how we could stand in solidarity with land-workers in California, our guest speakers encouraged the youth to continue to educate themselves around issues of food justice in order to become the leaders who will influence the policies affecting the people who grow our food. Additionally, we were all encouraged to commit to taking small actions in our every day lives to help encourage a sustainable lifestyle and environment. Examples include making dinner over going to the fast food drive-thru; walk/bike instead of driving your car; choose fruit over candy; etc. I definitely walked away from Youth Day feeling incredibly inspired and hopeful about the direction that the food justice movement is going. Thank you to all the youth who participated in Youth Day, and to the adults who made the time to share their skills and knowledge with the generations who are currently coming up.
Organizations involved in Youth Day included: