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Farm Discovery welcomes students back to the farm for field trips and hands-on programs

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank
Hands-on programs with Farm Discovery include harvesting crops.
(Jessica Ridgeway)

Farm Discovery at Live Earth is a nonprofit organization offering hands-on education programs in the Pajaro Valley. These programs empower youth and families to transform their relationship to food, farming and nature. Farm Discovery grew from the seeds of the educational space offered to local pre-schools by Live Earth Farm, the 150-acre patchwork organic farm of Tom and Constance Broz.

Jessica Ridgeway, Executive Director of Farm Discovery.
(Farm Discovery)

In 2007, Jessica Ridgeway approached Farmer Tom and Constance with her passion for sustainability and its inclusion in teaching curriculum. Their partnership began and Farm Discovery at Live Earth launched in 2008, with Jessica as Executive Director. By reaching out to teachers in Santa Cruz County, offering on-site, hands-on environmental education with standards-aligned science curriculum encompassing farming, environmentalism, and economics, Jessica and Farm Discovery welcomed 800 kids to the farm in the first year.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Farm Discovery quickly adapted to fill the changing needs of their students and families. After identifying those changing needs, Jessica and her staff evaluated their capacity to adapt and then acted quickly. They brought their farm classes to a virtual platform, and created Farm Care, a program that temporarily replaced their popular summer camps. Through difficult and unpredictable challenges, Farm Discovery provided a safe and supportive learning space. They also broadened scholarship opportunities to all children not thriving with the at-home schooling made necessary by the pandemic.

Farm discovery logo

This Fall, Farm Discovery is excited to welcome kids back to the farm for field trips and other hands-on programs. During fall field trips, the curriculum “Applemania” focuses on the history of the apple economy in the Pajaro Valley and includes harvesting apples from the farm’s trees, and making fresh cider. Groups also meet the resident milking cow and ponies and learn about their roles on the farm.

Farm Immersion participants tend to goats and other farm animals.
(Farm Discovery)

Spring field trips focus on life cycles, adaptation and ecology through examining flowers, planting seeds, harvesting strawberries, and observing (and caring for) goats and laying hens.

Farm Camp and Farm Immersion programs are also back, providing even more hands-on adventures. Camp sessions include activities in farming, art, cooking, and shelter building, as well as hikes around the 150-acre organic farm. Farm Immersions are 2-3 overnight stays on the farm that build new respect for the land and those who farm it, a deeper connection to food, and a better understanding of their role in the local and global food system. Students sow seeds, plant crops, cultivate fields and garden beds, harvest their own lunch, and tend some of the farm animals.

Farm Discovery took the opportunity to grow their education programs during the pandemic, developing a new partnership with Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). This alliance benefits both organizations as well as students and educators.

“We do farm education really well. Salinas schools want a chance to participate, and ALBA needs help running field trips for North Monterey County youth. It’s a good fit for everyone!”

— Jessica Ridgeway, Executive Director of Farm Discovery

Farm Discovery also collaborates with Food What?! in educating low-income and struggling youth to grow, cook, eat, and distribute healthy, sustainably raised food, as well as addressing food justice issues in our community.

Farm Discovery programs provide hands-on planting, tending, and harvesting of crops.
(Farm Discovery)

Farm Discovery is also growing more produce in their education fields with the addition of a newly created Field Manager position. Their new Field Manager, Ulises Castillo, is a two-time recipient of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) Future Farmer of the Year award, and is preparing to graduate from the Cabrillo College Horticulture program. He has grown and distributed nearly 5,000 pounds of produce from the Farm Discovery fields since March!

Through their produce distribution relationships with partners that include Live Earth Farm, Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes, Encompass Services TAY program, and Holy Cross Food Pantry, Farm Discovery ensures children, families, farmworkers, former foster youth, seniors and those experiencing homelessness have access to fresh produce. Through these distribution partnerships, approximately 8,200 people receive fresh produce every month.

“Through expanding our produce community organizations, volunteers and partners, we project that in 2023, Farm Discovery will grow, harvest, and deliver more than 5,000 pounds of produce through the Farm Discovery fields, and 70,000 pounds in partnership with Live Earth Farm.“

— Jessica Ridgeway, Executive Director of Farm Discovery

Kids prepare a snack with fresh strawberries picked during Farm Camp.
(Farm Discovery)

In addition to the new Field Manager, the growing Farm Discovery team welcomed and expanded the Summer Camp staff with three new camp leaders, who hosted 113 children during the 2022 summer camp season, their largest to date. In 2021 more than 3,000 students and their families visited, and they expect that number to continue to grow. According to Jessica, “through our field trips, we will engage over 1,000 children and youth from Santa Cruz and Monterey County schools, and all participants will be involved in the produce distribution program.”

Volunteers contribute to the upkeep of the Farm Discovery grounds at Live Earth Farm.
(Farm Discovery)

Farm Discovery’s public events include the Annual Fall Feast, a multi-course dinner in the fields featuring the best local, seasonal food and wine. The popular event raises funds for the organization’s programs and provides an engaging opportunity for the community to gather in support of Farm Discovery’s mission of education and sustainability. Farm Discovery and Live Earth Farm are partnering to bring back U-Pick events around seasonal crops, offering a fun, interactive and delicious way for families and the community to experience the farm and enjoy fresh produce.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Farm Discovery turned to Santa Cruz County Bank to secure the PPP funding that allowed them to keep their staff and to make necessary program adjustments to meet the community’s changing needs.

“We’ve been so happy banking with Santa Cruz County Bank. Especially during COVID, we really saw the benefit of banking with a community bank. The Bank was so responsive to every call and email. The programs we were adapting were brand new, and every problem we encountered was solved with Santa Cruz County Bank.”

— Jessica Ridgeway, Executive Director of Farm Discovery

Santa Cruz County Bank is a proud supporter of Farm Discovery, and shares their focus on collaborative partnerships and meeting the needs of the communities we serve. Through volunteering at the farm, sponsoring events and programs, and supporting partner organizations, Santa Cruz County Bank continues our longtime relationship with Farm Discovery.

  • Farm Discovery at Live Earth
    We believe that we can transform personal & community health and improve our impact on Earth by building & sustaining collaborative agricultural, ecological and social systems. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and volunteer opportunities.

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