Apprenticeship Information

The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems

The mission of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS, the Center) is to research, develop, and advance sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, nonexploitive, and that serve as a foundation for future generations. Center staff work toward this mission under several program areas: education, social issues research, agronomic research, and public outreach.

The Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture 

The Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture is an educational program of the Center focusing on practical training in organic gardening and small-scale farming.

The six-month Apprenticeship offers instruction and daily work experience in organic gardening and farming, focusing on ecological interactions amongst plants, soils, climate, insects, and pathogens. In a hands-on education approach, apprentices work alongside staff in the greenhouse, gardens, fields, and orchards, as well as attend lectures, demonstrations, and field trips. Apprentices are exposed to the different aspects of growing plants organically on both a hand-dug garden scale and a tractor-cultivated field scale. The apprentices selected to attend the course each year are interested in practical training that will prepare them to teach others and/or to run their own operations.

Since 1967, over 1,400 graduates have gone on to apply this training in a variety of ways around the world: developing their own commercial farms, market gardens, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, starting inner-city community gardens, working as environmental educators, participating in international rural development projects, managing organic landscaping businesses, and pursuing degrees in agricultural studies.

A Certificate in Ecological Horticulture is awarded by UCSC Extension upon successful completion of the Apprenticeship. This certificate and transcript may be pass/fail or carry a letter grade and gives 20 Extension credits. Whether or not these credits transfer to another academic institution depends on that institution.

The goal of the Apprenticeship is to increase the number and diversity of individuals who have a command of the fundamental skills and concepts associated with organic horticulture and agriculture, such that they will be prepared to actively participate in commercial or social service projects that aim to improve human health and environmental quality through organic practices.

The structure and content of this program have provided a huge amount of information in a very absorbable context . . . thanks again.
- Alumni Apprentice



Located at two different sites on the UC Santa Cruz campus, the 30-acre Farm and 3-acre Garden serve as the facilities for the Apprenticeship and other activities of CASFS, which include undergraduate and graduate classes, research, and public tours. Although the Farm and Garden are situated less than a mile from one another, they differ in soils, topography, microclimate, and history. Apprentices are exposed to different management strategies at the two sites.

The Alan Chadwick Garden

The Garden was established in 1967 by the late Alan Chadwick, a master horticulturist who pioneered both an organic gardening method and an apprenticeship model. The Garden is where the French-intensive method of horticulture first gained recognition in the United States. Under Chadwick's direction, a cadre of dedicated student and community volunteers transformed a steep, brushy hillside into an incredibly diverse garden that stands as a graphic example of how marginal land can be transformed into a productive garden.

Propagation and cultivation of a wide range of annual and perennial flowers and vegetables, many of them uncommon to most gardens, are a major focus of activity at the Garden. In addition, there is a diverse collection of deciduous and evergreen fruit trees. Buildings on site include a greenhouse, two propagation hoophouses, and a small chalet used for lectures, discussions, and meals.

The Farm

In 1971, the 30-acre Farm was established as an extension of the Garden in order to increase the area under cultivation and to include row crops and orchards. Located on a lower meadow of campus, the Farm's gardens and fields support several acres of vegetable and fruit crops, perennial and annual flowers, and herbs. A wide variety of apples, pears, plums, kiwis, and persimmons grow in the Farm's two acres of orchards. The 10 acres of tractor-cultivated fields includes crops for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, and new fields will be brought online starting in 2014 to increase production for the campus dining halls. The 1.5-acre hand-dug garden area features vegetables, flowers, and herbs for the direct-market stand, as well as a demonstration nutrition garden. Four acres of research fields are used by CASFS researchers, graduate students, undergraduate classes, and UCSC researchers.

Farm facilities include a handcrafted barn, a potting shed/lath house, modern greenhouses, packing shed, reading room, tent cabins, solar showers and the Farm Center. Designed and built by students, the Farm Center is used for meals and socializing. The Louise Cain Gatehouse serves as a multi-purpose building for lectures and meetings. Also at the Farm site are the laboratory and administrative offices of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Through the years, the apprentices and their instructors have been primarily responsible for maintaining and strengthening the Farm and the Chadwick Garden. The increased soil fertility and wide diversity of plant species found at the Farm & Garden are a testament to these many years of labor and love on the part of past apprentices.



The intention of the Apprenticeship course instruction is to provide students with a mastery of basic practical skills and concepts necessary for the sound management of organic gardens and small-scale farms. The daily activities of gardening and farming–planning, production, care, and marketing–form the basis for this learning. Integrated into daily activities are discussions, talks, lectures, demonstrations, and investigations that help form the theoretical framework for the practical horticultural skills. Instruction generally falls into these categories:

  • Growing Methods — asexual/sexual plant propagation, greenhouse techniques, crop planning, French-intensive bed preparation, transplanting and sowing, crop care, cultivation, seed saving, and irrigation.
  • Botany and Crop Culture — botanical characteristics and cultural requirements of specific vegetable crops, herbs, flowers, fruits, and trees, and how they may be combined in a farm or garden.
  • Soils — soil physical properties, soil/plant interactions, soil fertility management, soil testing, composting, and cover cropping.
  • Pest and Disease Management — management of weeds, vertebrate and invertebrate pests, and plant pathogens in organic systems.
  • Marketing — harvest and post-harvest handling, marketing strategies and outlets, direct marketing through Farmers Market-style produce stand, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) management.
  • Environmental and Social Issues in Agriculture — brief survey of modern agricultural production's effects on environmental quality, and historical and contemporary overviews of social, political and economic structures created and shaped by the modern food system.


Instructional Techniques

This is a full-time course with approximately 300 hours of formal instruction and 700 hours of in-field training and work experience. There are four permanent instructor/managers and eight assistant instructors who teach and coordinate apprentices as well as manage the gardens and fields. The instructors and the Apprenticeship Coordinators work together to create the curriculum and to deliver the course through a variety of instructional techniques, as outlined below:

1. Garden- and Field-based (4 days per week on average)

Much of the learning in this program happens through the doing. Garden and field work provide time for ongoing instruction, practical demonstrations of horticultural methods, structured work sessions, informal walks and talks, questions and answers, and observations before, during, and after work hours.

2. Lectures and Workshops (2 three-hour sessions per week)

Whole group classes, lectures, and workshops provide the opportunity to disseminate core information to the entire group and to provide the theoretical background for the skills being taught in the gardens and fields. Visiting speakers, brought in to increase the range of topics covered, are drawn from the richliz milazzo teaching pool of agricultural scientists, extensionists, farmers, and gardeners in our area.

3. Practical Skill Classes (once per week)

The field and garden staff lead classes on site-specific topics such as irrigation, equipment, and plant groups. Staff also lead field/garden walks, discussions,
and demonstrations, allowing for students to have a more interactive learning experience.

4. Field Trips (three to six per six-month program)

During the six-month program, apprentices take field trips to different farm and garden operations. Opportunities abound for apprentices to organize their own informal field trips to interesting horticultural and agricultural sites in and around the Santa Cruz area.


Apprenticeship Instructors and Staff

- Chadwick Garden Manager Orin Martin has run the Alan Chadwick Garden since 1977, acting as a main instructor for the Apprenticeship course throughout. Orin also teaches workshops and writes extensively on horticultural topics for the general public.

- Farm Garden Manager Christof Bernau worked previously with the Apprenticeship Program as an Assistant Garden Manager and also as Propagation Manager from 1995-97. He has extensive experience in nursery plant propagation and production.

- Field Production Manager Liz Milazzo joined the staff in summer 2007, after managing the field production at Zen Center Green Gulch Farm in Marin County for 7 years. She has gardened and farmed in the Bay Area for 25 years, growing a diversity of fresh vegetables for diverse markets.

- Facilities Assistant Andy Webster joined the staff in 2011. Andy studied hydrology at UC Santa Barbara and is a licensed landscape contractor. His landscaping work includes orgnaic edible gardening systems, habitat restoration, and ecological storm water management using local native wetland and upland plants. He has also farmed organically at Blue House Farm in Pescadero, and has experience as a skilled carpenter and welder.

- Farm Site and Research Lands Manager Darryl Wong joined the staff in 2013. He has a degree in Environmental Studies and for a number of years ran his own small farm north of Santa Cruz. Along with managing the new fields being added to the farm and the on-site research projects, Darryl helps teach classes in the Apprenticeship Program.

- Apprenticeship Coordinator Diane Nichols joined the program in 2002 and works on recruiting new applicants, developing curriculum, administering the course, and teaching propagation and greenhouse management skills.

- Outreach Coordinator Melissa Betrone joined the staff in 2013. Her background includes farming in Baja, California, running her own small farm in Colorado, and working in public radio. She provides administrative support, marketing expertise and outreach to increase diversity and expand funding for the program.

-Fundraiser Ann Lindsey has been with the Apprenticeship for many years, serving as its coordinator from 1995-2001 before moving to a new grant-writing position.

-CASFS Program Assistant Amy Bolton joined the Center in 2010. She serves as the administrative assistant at the Farm, responds to the many inquiries that the Center receives, and assists with many of the tasks involved in running the Apprenticeship and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

- Second-year Apprentices act as assistant managers and field instructors. Traditionally eight are hired at the end of the Apprenticeship in October to work through October of the following year.

- CASFS Executive Director Dr. Daniel Press is an expert in U.S. environmental politics and policy. His research interests also include social capital and democratic theory, industrial ecology, land and species conservation, and regionalism. Press joined UCSC's environmental studies department in 1992 and currently holds the Olga T. Griswold chair in environmental studies. He served as environmental studies department chair for six years.


The Weekly Schedule

The Apprenticeship is full-time (40 hours a week) and runs continuously from mid-April to mid-October. In 2015 the course will begin April 13 and end October 16. Most program activities take place Monday-Friday, but apprentices need to be available for occasional weekend greenhouse and watering duties (on a rotational basis), for our annual Spring and Fall Plant Sales, and the annual Fall Harvest Festival. Apprentices have a 5-day break approximately mid-way through the program.

This is a full-time program involving strenuous physical work five days a week. The program's work, class, and activity schedule is generally from 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM on weekdays. Apprentices are expected to participate fully in the program by being available for those hours every day. Examples of daily activities include bed preparation, transplanting, seed sowing, watering, weeding, thinning, composting, harvesting, produce handling, storage, and marketing. Rotational positions of responsibility, such as cooking, cleaning, greenhouse managing, watering, and market coordinating tend to require different and/or longer hours.

Because of the long hours spent working and studying, apprentices are strongly discouraged from holding part-time jobs or enrolling in school part time. Apprentices will get the maximum out of this experience by coming prepared - financially, physically, and emotionally - to make the program their singular focus for the six-month period. We will accommodate individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, if an applicant has a temporary health condition (e.g., broken leg) that might seriously affect his or her participation, we ask that the applicant reapply another year.


A Note on Marketing

Produce from the Farm & Garden is primarily marketed two ways: at a roadside stand on campus (the Market Cart) and through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Twice a week from June through October, apprentices are responsible for harvesting, packing, weighing, setting up the marketing area, and selling the produce. Through our CSA program, local residents subscribe to the Farm & Garden and receive a weekly share of produce harvested by apprentices. Care, harvest, and storage of field and orchard crops require intensive labor on the part of all the apprentices, especially in the second half of the program.

Apprentices take on the job of marketing coordinator or CSA coordinator on a rotational basis. Responsibilities for coordinators include organizing and overseeing harvests, keeping supplies in stock, setting up the marketing area or the CSA area, coordinating the CSA newsletter, bookkeeping and other record keeping. All apprentices are expected to participate as helpers in marketing endeavors, whether or not marketing is their primary interest. Produce income from the market cart and the CSA, combined with plant sales, covers roughly 25% of our operating costs of the program with tuition contributing another 25% of the total. Apprentices' labor in production and marketing contributes significantly to the costs of running the program and is therefore considered essential.


Living Scenario/Community

One critical element of the Apprenticeship has been the immersion learning made possible by a full-time residential program. Apprentices are given the option of living at the Farm (free of charge) in one of nine four-room tent cabins.

Apprentices share the Farm Center kitchen and dining room, library, bathrooms and solar showers. Group food supplies are purchased in bulk at a cost of about $100/month per person. The weekday group meals are vegetarian, but apprentices can prepare their own meat in the kitchen. Participation in group meals is optional.

The Apprenticeship community that forms each year shapes a big part of people's experience. This is not an intentional community, however, so people need to set their expectations accordingly. With up to 48 people living on the Farm, cooperation and communication are extremely vital to the daily coordination of work and domestic tasks. All apprentices take part in cooking, cleaning, and other domestic responsibilities. Outside of these basic community responsibilities and community meetings, apprentices can choose whether or not they wish to participate in social aspects of the community.

Due to organizational and space constraints, children, spouses, and significant others may not live on the Farm. Pets are not allowed on campus. Since the Farm & Garden are first and foremost public facilities, courtesy toward the visiting public by residents is essential.


Fees and Payment for 2015

The actual tuition for the 2015 Apprenticeship will be $6,000. Tuition was set at $10,650 for 2015, but thanks to generous grants and gifts, no one accepted for the 2015 program will pay more than $6,000. Please note that full and partial scholarships and tuition assistance are available, and the program accepts AmeriCorps and GI Bill funding. 

See the next section for details and links to scholarship/tuition assistance application forms.

Upon arrival, apprentices purchase a set of their own tools and books for $375, which they keep after completing the program. Other expenses include food costs of $100/month; UCSC parking permit costs of about $55/month (if you bring a car); personal health insurance; and personal spending money.

The Apprenticeship Program is operated by the Center for Agroecology  and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), with credit given through UCSC Extension. CASFS and UCSC Extension are not able to offer any work-study or loan programs, and UCSC Extension does not offer financial aid.

Scholarships/Tuition Assistance

Through grant and gift funding, we are able to offer a range of scholarships to help cover the part or all of the cost of tuition for some Apprenticeship participants. The scholarships can range from $1000 to the full tuition amount of $6000, for U.S. residents who meet one or more of the scholarship criteria. To be considered for a scholarship, including the USDA Beginning Farmer grant funded scholarships, please complete the Tuition Scholarship Application. The Tuition Scholarship Application is due along with the Apprenticeship application, postmarked by September 30, 2014 (for the 2015 program). An additional scholarship option, the Simply Organic scholarship, is described in the next paragraph.

The Simply Organic Scholarship Endowment
In 2009 the Simply Organic Scholarship Endowment was established through the combined contributions of $130,000 from Simply Organic and Frontier Natural Products Co-op. This endowment will support one tuition scholarship per year for an apprentice with financial need who is interested in a career in organic farming and sustainable agriculture work. Please see the Simply Organic Scholarship form for more information and to apply for this support.

Read more about Simply Organic.


University Policies

Although the Apprenticeship is housed at UCSC, apprentices are considered University Extension students rather than UCSC students. Because Extension students do not pay regular student fees to UCSC, apprentices have limited access to campus facilities and services. Services such as use of the recreation center and on-campus parking are available at additional costs. As University Extension students, apprentices are expected to follow University policies. During the program apprentices are required to have their own personal health insurance. Anyone bringing a vehicle must purchase a parking permit.


Visiting the UCSC Farm & Garden

We encourage prospective apprentices to visit the program, attend an Apprenticeship Orientation Tour for potential applicants, and volunteer for a harvest morning (Tuesdays and Fridays; see more information, below).

The Apprenticeship Orientation Tour is offered on alternate Thursdays at 2 pm, starting in mid July through late September. In 2014, orientation tours will take place July 3, July 17, July 31, August 14, August 28, September 11, and September 25.

These hour-long orientation sessions begin at the Farm's Gatehouse (front entrance) and include a walking tour of the site. No reservations are needed. Note that in 2014, our break week is August 4–8, so there will be no tours or volunteer help with harvesting that week. Click here for directions to the UCSC Farm and the Alan Chadwick Garden.

Weekday visitors with cars need to purchase a parking permit ($6.00) at the base of campus. Please allow an extra 30-45 minutes from when you reach the campus to get your parking permit, park, and walk up the dirt road to the Gatehouse.

To volunteer and work alongside us, you can join us on a Tuesday or Friday morning from 8:00 am to 10:30 am, July through September. Tuesday and Friday mornings give you the best opportunities to meet the most people, and are an established part of our schedule.

For information on overnight lodging or camping in the Santa Cruz area, please contact the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce at 866.827-2466, or see their web site.


Criteria for Selection

Applicants must be at least 21 years old.

Each year we have 35-40 apprentice positions and typically we receive three times that many applications. To ensure your chance of full consideration, please be sure to read the section below carefully and follow the guidelines listed in the "How to Apply" section, below.

The goal of our program is to train future organic farmers, gardeners, teachers, and community leaders. Therefore, in our selection process we strive to choose the individuals who seem most prepared to maximize their training and to then use it for their work, to start their own operations, and/or to teach others.

In choosing individuals who will live and work together for 6 months, we are in effect creating a community. Out of the pool of applicants, we attempt to achieve a balance of interests, geographical and cultural origins, ages, and gender. Consequently, there is no one "preferred" type of applicant. We carefully consider each application in relationship to the entire pool of applicants. While the people selected share a strong interest in organic farming and gardening, they come from diverse backgrounds.

That said, the selection committee looks highly upon applicants who demonstrate thoughtful consideration of what this program offers and the degree to which it fits their long-term learning/professional objectives. Again, we encourage applicants to attend the Apprenticeship Orientation Tour and volunteer alongside us. We feel this gives applicants a better understanding of the hands-on, rigorous nature of the program along with the reality of the living scenario here.

The instructor's obvious love of the work inspires me to grow food at whatever level I might find myself. Thanks for your candor, laughter, lightness, and depth.
- Alumni Apprentice


How to Apply

Before writing your application, carefully read all the material presented above. Consider how well the course might fit your stated interests and goals. It's important that applicants have a realistic idea of what the program involves as well as their ability to fully participate from beginning to end.>

Download and complete the application form and housing addendum and attach them to the front of your application questions. Type or print legibly. Send four copies of your application plus the original. We cannot accept faxed applications.

Answer all the questions clearly and thoroughly, but limit your answers to the five questions to four pages or less. Attachments such as resumes, photos, and newspaper articles can be included in addition to the application pages. Include four copies of each attachment plus the original(s).

Enclose the $60 application fee (check or money order) with your application, payable to "UC Regents".

Foreign language international participants must demonstrate adequate English-speaking and comprehension skills. This is determined by passing the TOEFL exam with a score of 450 or better. TOEFL score reports are due with the application.

If you're submitting a Tuition Scholarship Application or Simply Organic Scholarship Application, please send four copies plus the original and the required documentation along with your Apprenticeship Application by the postmark deadline.

Send application form, completed questions, and any other materials to the address below for the 2015 Apprenticeship program. Deadlines are postmarked dates (note that the application date for the 2014 program has already passed):

• Application Deadline for U.S. residents: September 30, 2014. You will be notified by email no later than October 15 that we have received your application.
• Notification of Acceptance: You will be notified by email on December 15, 2014, 5 pm (Pacific Time)

• Application Deadline for international applicants, including Canadian citizens: August 15, 2014 
• Notification of Acceptance for international applicants: November, 2014

Late applications will not be considered   

Send application to:

Apprenticeship Applications
Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 USA

(831) 459-3240