Farm-to-Fork dinner supports scholarships for farm apprentices

Farm-to-fork tables
With a field of corn and the Monterey Bay as a backdrop, tables await diners at the 2012 Farm-to-Fork Benefit Dinner at the UCSC Farm.

Late summer sunshine bathed rows of corn, pumpkins, salad greens, and strawberries as 125 guests enjoyed the recent Farm-to-Fork Benefit Dinner at the UC Santa Cruz Farm. With the Monterey Bay sparkling beyond, students in the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture served a bounty from nearby fields and other local farms run by apprenticeship alumni.

Chancellor Blumenthal kicked off the evening with a message about the importance of the apprenticeship training program, the campus farm and garden, and the mission of sustainable agriculture. He also introduced Daniel Press, UCSC professor of environmental studies, as the new executive director of the Center of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS).

The apprenticeship is a six-month, full-time program in organic farming and gardening run by CASFS, now celebrating its 45th year at UCSC. In a vibrant example of "paying forward" the 2012 Apprenticeship class volunteered to plan the fundraiser, organize a silent auction, and prepare and serve the dinner. Funds raised will help reduce fees for all members of the 2013 apprenticeship class and provide scholarship support.

Farm-to-Fork is the brainchild of 2011 apprenticeship graduate Matthew Raiford, currently executive chef at Little St. Simons Island resort just off the Georgia coast and farmer/owner of Gilliard Farms. For the second annual event, Raiford teamed with apprenticeship grad Amy Padilla and her catering partner Heidi Schlecht of Feel Good Foods to create a five-course meal. The dinner raised nearly $30,000 including proceeds from a silent auction and a post-event donation inspired by the evening's speakers.

The program's scholarship program has never been more robust thanks to funds from the dinner, along with scholarships from businesses, individuals, the Friends of the Farm & Garden, and a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 2012 apprenticeship class will graduate in mid-October; a new class of approximately 39 arrives in mid April 2013. More information about CASFS and the apprenticeship training program is available at and