Four upper school students, senior Emma St. Amand and juniors Thomas Hoover, Annie Nottingham and Lex Trevelino, were selected from a competitive group of applicants to represent the Isdell Center for Global Leadership for the Year of Food. These students will spend the entirety of the school year and part of the summer traveling, studying and immersing themselves in all things food.
To kick off their studies, these students, along with upper school faculty members Tricia Anderson and Julie Hall, traveled to California over the fall break. After landing in San Francisco, their itinerary started with a visit to the Berkeley Food Institute to meet with Policy Director Nina F. Ichikawa. There, they learned about programs and research that grad students are currently working on concerning food cultivation in California. Next was the ride to Monterey via the Pacific Coast Highway. In the hills of Northern California, Monterey is home to many acres of farmland where the students spent 10 days, exploring irrigation, farming and fishing on the West Coast.
Many days entailed experiencing cultivation processes firsthand through farm tours. These included a tour with Sakakihara Farms Operation Manager Rich Uto, and Myra Goodman and Jenna Williams of Earthbound Farms. Mr. Uto discussed water conservation initiatives and migrant labor issues, while Goodman and Williams focused on the history of big organics and where it fits into the current marketplace chain. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the whole farm-to-table process which entails the fumigation of the ground, the planting of the produce, and transportation across the country,” said Thomas.
On top of learning about cultivation of food, they learned about the economic concepts that go into the farming system. “The farmers go through a long process of using certain algorithms to determine how much certain crops should cost,” said Annie. “The whole system is extremely complicated and impressive and I learned so much about this extensive process.” Several days were spent listening to lectures and attending informative meetings by acclaimed company representatives, including market analyst Joe Stave of Central Cali Lettuce Producers Co-op, Jim Bogart, president of Grower Shipper Association of Central California, and Eric Lauritzen, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner.
Additional highlights of the trip included a visit to the Monterey Aquarium to see the otter exhibit, along with learning about fish populations in need of protection from Ocean Policy Managers Letise LaFeir and Karin Stratton. Outdoor experiences included hiking in Big Sur National Park, kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough, and whale watching on the coastal waters of Monterey Bay.
The leaders and teachers spent their last couple of days in California taking a morning ranch tour in Watsonville with Rich Uto. There, they discussed climate change and its impact on growing seasons and production. They also spoke with Jon Pharr on their visit to the Aquaponics Farm. “I really loved speaking with the Jon Pharr,” said Emma. “He has dedicated his entire life to maintaining this incredibly sustainable farm that is fascinating to imagine, let alone visit. It was incredible to see how organized and immense his farm was and how everything had a certain place.”
The ICGL leaders are assigned a topic to write about throughout the year: the Salad Bowl, Migrant Labor, the Food Supply Chain and Water, and Irrigation. Through experience and travel, they will expand their knowledge on all aspects of food and will teach others as well. “It was pretty cool to see how wherever we went we could relate all four of our research topics to the subject at hand,” said Lex. “I thought it was interesting how everything could be so closely related and it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
For more details on the trip, go to Lex’s blog: http://www.diaryofaveggie.com/california-trip-part-1