In anticipation of budget cuts, students and faculty are taking preemptive action to protect the programs they deem important.
As talk of extensive cuts to the UCSC farm and the CASFS circulate, members of the community take precautions to protect the campus resource
An email petition is being circulated by Christopher Krohn, an environmental studies internship program coordinator, and second-year graduate student in environmental studies Michelle Glowa, urging Chancellor Blumenthal and dean of social sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki to consider the ramifications of issuing extensive cuts to the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Farm Systems (CASFS).
Kamieniecki, however, said in an email that no final decision has been made regarding any cuts in the division of social sciences, including CASFS.
The petition states that CASFS is set to lose $1.4 million out of its $2.3 million operating budget — roughly 60 percent of its funding.
Faculty, staff and students are still uneasy about the impact these potential cuts could have on the program’s effectiveness.
“CASFS is an integral part of the environmental studies department’s commitment to experiential learning,” said professor Karen Holl, chair of the environmental studies program, in a email regarding the potential cuts to the program. “Assuming CASFS continues to function, it will have a substantially reduced ability to support both coursework and research. Depending on how deep the cuts go, it is questionable how long CASFS will continue to be able to exist.”
The CASFS, which started off as the Student Garden Project in 1967 and officially became the Farm in 1974, supports a number of programs on its 25-acre property located on the UCSC campus, including apprenticeship programs, the Farm Stand, and various undergraduate classes. The six-month apprenticeship program at CASFS is a hallmark of the center, and boasts over 1,400 graduates since 1967. Upon completion, graduates of the program receive a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture.
“The environmental studies department realizes that difficult choices must be made in response to severe cuts in state funding for higher education in California,” said environmental studies professor Deborah Letourneau in an email. “The faculty is nevertheless extremely concerned about the lasting damage that these budget cuts to CASFS will cause to a central feature of the UCSC campus that has attracted excellence and has more than paid for itself in indirect funds from federal research grants and worldwide prestige for over 30 years.”
Upper division courses in environmental studies — such as Ecophysiology, Integrated Pest Management, Soils and Entomology — depend on the CASFS for the field portion of the course curriculum. The ability of the CASFS to adequately provide for the student body has also been called into question by environmental studies faculty.
“Undergraduate education in environmental studies relies heavily on the CASFS in a number of ways,” Letourneau said. “Two core courses in the agroecology emphasis — ENVS 130A/L Introduction to Agroecology, and ENVS 133B Agroecology Practicum — rely entirely on the farm for field laboratories and hands-on experiences.”
Ian Wilson, a second-year apprentice for the CASFS who takes part in the day-to-day routine of the farm and mentors new apprentices, emphasized the farm’s relevance to the larger Santa Cruz community.
“The farm and all of the programs related to the farm are important for the people on the farm and also for the community at large,” Wilson said. “We provide academic internships for students who are coming onto the farm and learning the fundamentals of organic farming and gardening. It seems really clear to me that it’s a place that is vital to the community and the university.”
Members of the Santa Cruz community are concerned about the potential impact of such cuts as well.
“It’s a jewel in the community,” said Gail Harlamoff, executive director of the Life Lab Science Program, an agricultural non-profit program that seeks to educate school-age children about sustainable agricultural practices and works with the CASFS. “I think these cuts will have a ripple effect,” she said. “It’s one of the few organic research and training farms in the country.”
According to their mission statement, the CASFS’s autonomy of research capability would also be in question. As university funding for the program decreases, its dependence on external sources of revenue increases, which may lead to its research focus being determined by the agendas of those external sources of funding.
“It’s sad,” Harlamoff said in reference to the university. “If they aren’t able to fund these programs, someone else will have to, or it won’t get done.”
The Farm’s value for Wilson is reflected in both the consistent participants in the program, and in infrequent visitors as well.
“We get regulars on a daily basis,” he said, “but we also get people who just wander in and are enchanted by the space and beauty of all the work that we’re doing here.”