Farm Camp 2016: that’s a wrap!

Summer Day Camps in 2016 went great. We had more campers than ever and thanks to generous donors and partner organizations we were able to offer more scholarships and financial aide to local kids who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance. Thank you Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, Second Harvest Food Bank, CASA, Loaves and Fishes, and to our many donors including, Scurich Insurance Services and Watsonville Coast Produce.

We think our Day Camp Program is especially impactful and effective at nurturing healthy relationships with food and nature. When kids can spend an entire week on the farm they are able to haveimg_0154 deeper and more transformational experiences. Spending a few minutes in a garden is fine, but spending several days working, exploring and playing with others in the garden creates a lasting memory. Campers created beautiful arts and crafts with natural materials. My favorite project this summer are found object mobiles. The campers enjoyed collecting redwood sticks, feathers, pine cones, flowers, seeds and lots of other objects on a farm adventure hike. Then they tied, glued, painted and hung them together in an amazing variety of ways. They even asked for extra time and spent several hours perfecting these creations.

We had lots of great help again from out “Leaders in Training” teen camp councilors. Developing their leadership skills is one of our goals during camp. Seeing them achieve greater independence and gain confidence in their abilities throughout the week is rewarding. We also want to thank Willow Limbach and Claire Bruder, our two Junior Staff members who stepped up and took on much of the work of making camp so fun and full of activities.

Now, Fall Farm Tours are underway. Fall is such a great time for students to visit the farm. They can experience the changes in the trees and fields. And with apple season here, we are making apple cider with students who visit using our old-fashioned apple press, tasting lots of different kinds of apples and learning what it takes to grow this delicious and quintessential fall food. If you are interested in booking a tour, email

Welcome Tara Walker

possible headshotWe are so pleased to welcome our new Development Coordinator, Tara Walker. She has already had many successes in getting her own network of friends and family connected to Farm Discovery.

A longtime Santa Cruz resident, Tara has more than 12 years of development experience including several years doing donor stewardship at UC Santa Cruz. As a journalist, she has written about chefs, restaurants, and farms in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. She lived in Santa Cruz from 1986-1991 when she earned a B.A. in creative writing from UCSC, and returned to Santa Cruz in 2004 after spending a few years in Texas (where she earned an M.A. in creative writing from UT Austin).

You can look forward to meeting Tara at one of the many food events she attends around our county or on June 27th, 2016 at Love Monday at Discretion Brewing where 20% of beer sales and a few signature dishes will raise money for Farm Discovery to empower youth to make great food choices.

Spring Field Trip Season Brings New Schools

StrawberriesThis Spring Field Trip season 12 different schools, over 32 classes and more than 650 students became farmers with us for a day or more. They learned to grow food and what they can do to participate in the food system in a positive way. Specifically they learned to sort their lunch waste and what the compostables can do for plants. They cared for the plants in our fields by top dressing them with finished compost. They learned how our farm animals contribute to the nutrient system the healthy food we grow depends on and they observed the decomposition process at work in our piles. It was one of our best and busiest springs.

We received a grant from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County to bring 4th and 5th grade students from MacQuiddy to the farm for science based field trips. We developed a new field trip curriculum that reinforces some of the science content the students are learning at school. These students were full of energy and so eager to see all the different parts of the farm it was hard for us to keep up with them. After their full morning diving deep into compost, they were each made a pledge to recycle or compost more or to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. They went back to school with a better understanding of the affect their choices have on the local food system, their community, and the natural environment.

Starlight Elementary sent four classes of 3rd graders to the farm this spring to learn about where healthy food comes from and how fresh fruits and vegetables can improve their nutrition and physical fitness. Sending students into our organic strawberry field is always one of our favorite activities. Eating sun-warmed strawberries from the field is the best lesson on freshness we know. Several kids in each class always ask if they can take some home to share with their family. Students learn first hand that these berries are sweet and full of vitamin C that improves their immune systems. Starlight students also visited our small herd of goats and our chicken flock. Third graders are learning first hand that some body parts, like feathers, horns, beaks, and hooves are uniquely adapted to improve the animals chance of survival and ability to thrive.

As part of the ongoing relationship with these schools we will be able to bring some of these same students back to the farm in the fall. They will get to taste the apples that they saw growing on the trees this spring. With more exposures to farm fresh fruits and vegetables students will continue to develop habits that will lead to stronger communities and healthier families.

Williams College Farm Discovery
Williams Colleges students help build a compost pile

Williams Colleges students help build a compost pile.

In January Farm Discovery hosted students from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts for two weeks of working and studying sustainable farming at Live Earth Farm. Their work in the fields lead to high level discussions about the serious issues surrounding our food system. The students explored the effects of globalism on our food system and economy, they weighed the higher nutritional value of organics foods against their higher cost to consumers, and they performed a cost benefit analysis of animals in the food system and farm ecology.

Our job at Farm Discovery is to empower youth to make healthy choices for themselves, the environment and their community. Through real work, we build real understanding of the true value of local, sustainable farms and food systems. Now, when these students visit the market, they know the physical, financial, environmental and economic costs of growing the food they purchase, they have skills to grow their own and they understand the real consequences of their choices.

Most of the students and visitors to Live Earth are young children who are being exposed to the source of their food for the first time. It is a refreshing change for us to interact with college students, who are able to make their own choices about what role they play in their local, national, and global food system.

2015 Summer Day Camp Success!

The 2015 Summer Day Camps with Live Earth Farm Discovery Program were a great success!

Almost 100 children attended our five weeks of camp this year. More than ever! We also exceeded all prior years’ scholarship generosity, thanks in part to two generous grants from two local family foundations. These grants additionally helped to fund a wonderful Leader in Training Program for local youth from all walks of life.

Day camp 1We believe that campers have a richer experience when they can socialize and make friends with kids from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. This year we revamped Young Farmers camp into “Farm to Table” camp. It involved a lot of hands on activities in the kitchen classroom, harvesting, preparing and cooking with the farm produce. This is a wonderful way to encourage children to eat more fruits and veggies! We will certainly have “Farm to Table” camp next year.

Part of what makes our summer camps to great are our teenage volunteer Leaders in Training (LIT’s). The mix of first year LIT’s with some of our more experienced leaders made for a dynamic learning and personal growth opportunity for everyone. Thank you LIT’s!

We can’t forget to thank the parents, guardians, and grandparents who make it possible for these children to have the chance to spend  a week on a farm learning about arts, crafts, food, and farming. Thank you!


Tell your friends that Day Camp at Live Earth Farm is the best and next year will be better than ever!

Success in the Spring

plantingOur spring tour season is coming to an end this week. We had the privilege of serving over 25 different groups, classes, and schools. Some students visited for a few hours and others stayed for a few days. We never know what kind of long term or life changing impact the farm visit will have on visitors, but we know they all had fun and learned something about where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their personal, community, and environmental health.

farm hike

farm hike 2

We hosted over 150 students from H.A. Hyde and Calabasas Elementary Schools this spring. 20150522_121854These Pajaro Valley kids were able to explore the farm because of the generous donations of our supporters. Thank you for making it possible to for them to hold a chicken for the first time, pull a carrot out of the ground, and eat fresh picked peas from the garden. These experiences connect them in a real way to the soil and to their food. Their wide eyes and big smiles show us that they will have fond memories of the day they visited Live Earth Farm.

Homeschool Students Eat All 6 Plant Parts

six plant part burritoThe Homeschool Program has been a huge success this season. Each month 50 kids and parents arrive on the farm for 3 hours of exploration, gardening, tasting, science and free play. Parents are enjoying the day just as much as the kids. In February we explored plant physiology and photosynthesis and “the 6 plant parts.” Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds! Each student created a unique 6 plant part burrito. The six plant part burrito is one of the best ways to introduce new foods to kids.  The students learn about the role each plant part plays in the life cycle of the plant. They go in search of each one, harvest, clean and prepare a burrito with a large leaf as the tortilla. Each burrito contains at least one leaf, fruit, flower, seed, stem, and root. It is such a joy to see young kids stuffing their faces with foods that they have likely never eaten before. Would you eat a collard green, kohlrabi, carrot, broccoli, apple, and radish seed pod burrito?

Our Homeschool Program is so successful there is a waiting list! Contact me if you would like to get on the list for next season 2015-2016 or for more information.

Peter Nelson

Our Sincere Gratitude and Warm Fuzzy Feelings Coming Your Way

IMG_0072_smOn behalf of the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program staff, board of directors and 1500 students, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks for your support! In 2014 you, our community, have given us so much. You have given more than 500 hours of your time to help us teach farm-based nutrition education at Live Earth Farm.You have also contributed $20,000, and most importantly, you participate. Thank you. We are blessed and look forward to working together in 2015.

El Pajaro, A Magical Evening on the Farm

IMG_3343_cropAfter some very warm days, the fog descended early on this Saturday afternoon at Live Earth Farm. All those little adjustments made the day before so that  guests would not have to stare into the sun were for naught on this almost cool, foggy afternoon.

We began with appetizers under the oaks: Tomato consume paired with Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery Rose of Pinto Noir, Croation calamari and greens on polenta, with Storrs Winery and Vineyards Chardonnay and for the first time ever in the history of the Discovery Program’s dinners on the farm, beer. We sipped Santa Cruz Ale Works Hefeweisen to be exact, with a delicious salsa verde and tortilla chips. The silent auction was bigger and prettier than ever, laid out on redwood apricot drying trays that were salvaged from the old barn.

IMG_3336_smThe guests, who could tear themselves away from the appetizers and drinks, enjoyed a photography wall. On one side a black and white historical display of the diversity of farmers who have worked the Pajaro Valley generously provided by the Pajaro Valley Historical Association and beautiful full color photographs of the LEF Discovery Students from the past year. On the other side there was a fun photo booth complete with costume accessories. The folky tunes by The Shapes created a pleasant atmosphere with their guitar strumming, beautiful harmonies and conscious lyrics.


With a very old Newton Pippin apple tree in the middle of our circle we gathered for the blessing by Norma Cordova in more of a clump than a circle this year. This tradition of giving thanks warmed our hearts and Chef Jonathan Miller took care of warming our bellies. Expertly lead by Chef Andrea Mollenaur of Lifestyle Culinary Arts and served by teen volunteers from Santa Cruz ROP and The Teen Kitchen Project, the first course was a slightly spicy, savory Caldo Verde made in the Portuguese tradition with Corralitos Meat Market Linguica. This with Companion Bakeshop Bread and Belle Farms Olive Oil and paired with Birichino’s 2012 Besson Vineyard Old Vine Grenache was a meal in and of itself, but it was just the beginning.

The table was set with grey linens, turquoise napkins, orange candles, a variety of mismatched plates, and mason jar water glasses. In the center of each stood a native plant generously provided by Sierra Azul Nursery and Gardens, surrounded by succulents, arranged by Bloemster in tin cans jazzed up with burlap and lace. At each place sat a little coir pot full of native grasses, wrapped in turquoise, orange and lime green ribbon and sporting a thank you card and planting directions made by Santa Cruz Montessori Wavecrest students.

SONY DSCJohn Kegebein of the Agricultural History Project took the stage to share a bit of the Pajaro Valley story of diversity in farming, while the vibrant green salad, a nod to Japanese farmers, featuring broccoli, green beans and peas topped with sesame dressing landed on the tables. The 2010 Cima Collina Riesling was a lovely touch alongside the salad. The Entrée of Morris Grassfed Beef Short Ribs prepared in the Chinese tradition was gorgeous and complexly delicious atop its bed of Chinese black rice and sautéed greens and paired with Zayante Vineyards 2010 Syrah.

Just before the sun set behind the oak tree lined cow pasture, we took a brief pause from devouring all of this delicious food for some live auction fun and then to hear a heart warming story about a teen who turned his work with Food What and The Discovery Program into a meaningful job at Live Earth Farm. As we opened our hearts and our wallets, the dusk darkened and the canopy of incandescent globe lights brightened, the dessert landed on our tables. It had only been a short interlude, but it was just enough time to wet our pallettes before we enjoyed Companion Bakeshop Apple and Strawberry Rhubarb Pies with Penny Ice Creamery Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

SONY DSCFull of good wine, excellent food, and the joy of sharing and supporting the good work of the Live Earth Farm Discovery Program we made our way along a candle lit farm road to the fire circle, where we met up with happily satiated children singing along with Doug Dirt and Airy Larry to Banana Slug String Band tunes reminding us why it all matters, because “dirt made my lunch.” Thank you to all of the people, the farmers, the artisans, the vintners, the ranchers, the mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the children, the businesses who made this great community effort a beautiful and successful celebration.

We could not have done it without our sponsors. Our special thanks tolakesideorg Lakeside Organic Gardens, Camphill Communities California, Staff of Life, Awesome Organics, Santa Cruz County Bank, Scurich Insurance Services, Coke Farm, Pajaro Valley Irrigation, Bulterman Electric, Chris & Linda VanHook, Richard and Carolyn Beahrs, J.E.Farms Inc.

Summer Camps at Live Earth Farm, A Blast For All

Our Summer Day Camps were a great success! We hosted more sessions and participants than ever. Thanks to all the donors who helped make it possible for kids to come to camp who might not have been able to come without financial support.

IMG_0064_50This year we had two art themed camps where we integrated crafts, drawing, and painting into the farm experience.  We also had two “Young Farmers” camps where campers experienced all the different aspects of farming. Our “Sprouts” camp for 3-6 year olds and parents was very well attended this year.

Highlights include the Pizza Dough making workshop and cob oven pizza dinner hosted by Companion Bakers, snacking on berries through out the week, catching tadpoles and fish, and eating fresh food from the garden, and of course the homemade ice cream. The overnight campout experience is often a first for many campers and a very memorable night. We gardened, we farmed, we crafted, we explored! What a fun way to spend a week of summer. Hope to see you at camp next year.