Post-trip Reflection :'(

Ahh, my last blog post. Feels kind of weird, like high school graduation on a mini scale. I really loved this trip, even though it was far from relaxing, because I saw so much, and what I saw changed me. I don’t like the word life-changing, but this trip definitely made me reconsider the way I interacted with my environment, and also the way I interact with the food I eat.

I said this so much over the trip, but it’s because it stuns me: I don’t get why I ate so much on this trip.

I still don’t know why, but that was one of the greatest highlights of this trip: trying to help make food, and then eating with everyone. It wasn’t anything glamorous, nor new, but it was somehow really great for my appetite.

The week might be composed of: the Shirley Show, really fun car rides, battles over the aux cable, inspirational people, farming, berries x2, and lots of reflection, in the form of blog posts and thank you notes. Note that I left sleep out (granted, we got good hours of sleep, but it was always a struggle to wake up, even with the mold song).

I focused on the little things because I feel like that’s what I’m afraid of forgetting. I don’t want to forget our little lunch at Pt. Lobos, nor the moment before when Shirley, Yuto, and Joe (?) were up on the high peak. I really don’t want to forget being inspired by the WATCH high school students who were so driven and smart. I don’t want to lose the tune of the mold song, nor our bbq at the Hopkins Marine Station (and the pasta lunch before that).

This trip, I got to really value the little things that made me happy: good places, good people, and good food.

Thank you all!


P.S. I can’t forget that I really want to participate in a CSA near my home during summer, and also go to farmer’s markets all the time, and try gardening with some easy veggies or herbs. And cooking, too! I won’t pepper-salt the chicken too much next time, I promise.


Wrap Up of Farms by Oceans

It’s hard to believe that this ASB’s really over. Was it only 11 weeks ago that we met up for the first time in the Nitery and ate some of Aliza’s amazing chocolate chip cookies? What about the improv name game? Or the mini activism and allyship class?

I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip, but was more than pleasantly surprised. I was always interested in farms but had never really looked as much how our land systems worked with the ocean (which, by the way, covers 71% of the Earth’s surface). I’m now that much closer to understanding some of my friends’ obsessions with the deep unknown of the water surrounding us.

Something that stuck out to me was how effective children are at motivating their own communities to change their behavior. Although some of the organizations we met with dealt mainly with others who already had environmental beliefs, a good number of the places we visited also provided examples of how to involve others in environmentalism. Oftentimes, children were the starting force in getting their families to change their behavior for the better.  Sophia from ALBA decided to join because her children talked to her more about organic food. The high schoolers in the WATCH program were getting their own families to compost and recycle. Parents were going to WIC to learn more how to provide better food for their children. The Monterey Bay Aquarium worked hard to get children from all socio-economic backgrounds interested in their water and get them thinking beyond environment.  If not for this trip, I wouldn’t have valued the power of educating children about the the natural world as much as I do now.

Post-trip, I’m more certain that I want to learn more about agriculture, food and farming. I’m also very thankful for Grace and Aliza’s hard work throughout the quarter and the trip, constantly organizing and planning what we were doing each day. They did an fantastic job keeping us well-fed, well-housed while creating a close group for our trip.

Thank you to everyone who made this trip work so well!


Final Words…

This week I learned a lot about marine biology and sustainable agricultural practices. Even more so, having ventured out of campus and traveled across California, I got to see the economics disparities between areas like Watsonville and Carmel. I learned about ways local governments can intervene and provide aid in the form of vouchers to low-income mothers of small children in WIC, and that there people working to ensure that no family subsists on saturated fats bought at cheaper, local drug stores. 

My biggest takeaways from the trip are probably the following: to NEVER leave bags hanging around the ocean because leather-back turtles mistake them for jellyfish, which they then eat and die. I also got to observe how fresh farmer markets truly foster community growth and can be a healthy, affordable option for many middle-income families. 

It is difficult for me to choose my favorite experience because there are so many, but if I had to pin down one it would probably be the Seder. To me that dinner represented how close our group had gotten over the past week, whether it be through cooking together, staying up late telling jokes, or writing letters during nap times =) It meant so much for me to share a tradition that is usually observed with family members with a new group of people I had never imagined getting so close to. 

Other great moments include: kayaking down Elkhorn Slough with Aliza and spotting flotillas of baby otters doing flips with their mom and, of course, picking strawberries in ALBA!!!! I also really enjoyed hearing about the projects Pajaros High School students were working on and getting to connect with them over things like the college admission process, which we were all once fearful of and excited about.

I think this class made me a lot more aware and conscious about how my lifestyle decisions affect not only my health but also the health of my surrounding environments. My biggest hope is to take my trip leader’s commitment to healthy food, reflective and insightful dinner conversations, and long hikes in many of California’s BEAUTIFUL natural parks and integrate them in my busy life at Stanford. In other words, to enjoy life and all that is offers to the fullest and take care of our environment, considering all that it does for us both in terms of leisure and resources. Here are some group pictures to enjoy: Maria and I at ALBA, the beautiful scenery of Point Lobos, and jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Image 


What A Week!

Now that I have gotten home, taken a long steaming shower, and slept about 30 hours over the past two days, I am ready to reflect on the amazing week we shared along the central coast.  I learned a lot of new words, for example culvert, discing a field, and the root ‘pug’ (yeah, Shirley’s dog is evil).  I got to see first hand how organizations focused on environmental education, public health, and youth empowerment all come together in the agricultural communities of Salinas and Watsonville.  And also to connections formed between environmentalists and agriculturalists in small and large farms, organic and conventional.  Whoa!  But most of all, I got to see how eight minds other than my own process all of these experiences and site visits.  I learned immensely from all of the new perspectives and perceptions that we shared with each other.

Literally standing between organic lettuces and endangered amphibian habitat, we learn about the challenges and successes of mitigation in agricultural lands.

Literally standing between organic lettuces and endangered amphibian habitat, we learn about the challenges and successes of mitigation in agricultural lands.

So one moment that will always stay with me?  There are a few.  Planting onions with Sofia, an ALBA farmer, on her strawberry plot.  She told me about the spiders she introduced as a form of integrated pest management.  Will quivered in fear.  There were definitely a few shrieks from our group when a bug jumped out of a dark hole.

Planting cebolla con las fresas at ALBA in Salinas.

Planting cebolla con las fresas at ALBA in Salinas.

What about when I had to go after Joe and Maria, after they drifted away from the group while watching sea otters rip clams out of their shells with their cute little paws.  Woops.

Joe and Maria! Left, right, left, right....

Joe and Maria! Left, right, left, right….

And of course, working with Aliza during the whole trip to keep everyone fed, happy and rested… will kind of rested.

Spreading mulch with Aliza at Food, What?!?!

Spreading mulch with Aliza at Food, What?!?!

And where will I go from here?  I am inspired to eat organic.  I am inspired to approach conservation through the lens of adaptive socio-ecological systems.  I am looking forward to finding my place in the amazing network of organizations working toward ecological health through social and environmental avenues.

Thank you everyone for allowing me to grow as a teacher and learner this past week!

The star fish is eating! at Hopkins Marine Life Refuge.

Post-trip Reflection

From this trip, I learned about how different organizations and companies are going about approaching sustainable agriculture. For example, Driscoll’s, the berry company, has its sustainability team dedicated to projects on recycling, food donations, and water conservation, yet only 20% of its production is organic. Then there are organizations like ALBA that are fully committed to organic farming and focused on education not production or profit. How does Driscoll’s balance the environmental consciousness displayed in their projects with their general non-organic approach? Anyway, all the organizations we visited had chosen some method that they believed would make an impact on the overall health of the planet, and the combination of all these projects initiated from a variety of interest groups and stakeholders, farmers, environmentalists, water quality monitors, will be the guide to the planet’s future.


There were so many highlights from this trip: kayaking in Elkhorn Slough, hiking in Point Lobos, water testing, picking strawberries and planting onions when we visited ALBA, just being outdoors with nature, hearing the variety of perspectives that people have because they are surrounded by such different landscapes.

Future interests:

Well, my PWR for this spring quarter is titled Domestication: How Humans Shape the Natural World, which will definitely allow me to explore our relationship with plants and animals, especially those that we grow and raise as food. Domestication is the change induced by humans on other organisms, inherently the opposite of natural selection, and with this definition, I’m really interested in learning more about GMOs and if GMOs still count as some sort of domestication or if they fall into an entirely new category. If we wish to create a sustainable food system based on organic farming and a much more hands-off approach to growing plants and raising animals, then why would GMOs fit into this system? Also, how did we, as a society, transition to monocrop farming?

How can we enact change?

Earlier this week, we got to do some water quality monitoring around Elkhorn Slough for the Coastal Watershed Council. We collected data about the water’s salinity level, which increased as we neared the Slough. Some areas had low levels of oxygen and were quite acidic, while others had very high levels of oxygen and a high pH level. We also took samples of the water to send to a lab that checks for nitrate levels. The ultimate goal of the project is to compare water quality of streams near organic versus conventional farms, from which there is greater chemical runoff. The Coastal Watershed Council is also involved in the restoration of a farmland called Triple M, owned by Alba Organic farms, where the hope is to restore the biodiversity and make the location more hospitable to species such as the California red legged frog, the tiger salamander, and the Santa Cruz long toe salamander. Despite the organization’s large data bank; however, it does not have the jurisdiction to actually enact laws that will help keep the water sources it monitors clean or suited for wildlife. This got me to thinking about ways to best distribute data to local leaders who can propose solutions to issues such as the growing piles of trash in nearby streams. To compare this approach, we also visited the sustainability headquarters of Driscoll’s berry corporation. To this end, we got to see their new water aquifer, which comprised of water tunnels leading to areas with high percolation rates where the water is collected and pumped for agricultural use. Driscoll’s also developed the technology of tensionmeter probes, which farmers use to measure the water levels of their produce as opposed to just sticking their fingers in the topmost soil layer, which is often dry. The probes not only prevents over-irrigation and water waste, they also foster cooperation among  farmers who share satellites that obtain the data from the probes. Driscoll’s efforts seemed like a more direct, encompassing approach to dealing with water issues in the area, addressing the salt water erosion that comes from pumping too much water from the Monterey Bay and inefficient water uses by local farmers. Finally, Driscoll’s also incentivizes farms to recycle their plastic tarps, which it sells for re-use as plastic bags and subsidizes farmers’ conservation efforts based on performance results rather than practice implementation. Ultimately, I found both trips to be insightful into ways that we can address water issues and broader conservation questions. Looking forward, I think a combination of both data compiling, law propositions, new technologies, and behavior changes would be the most effective way to combat and prevent the growing environmental issues our class studied.