Winter 2009 PICA Seminar Information

Writing Assignment 3/5

No writing assignment assigned this week. Pleae look at the Announcements from 2/26 for end of the quarter information.

Writing Assignment 2/26

Write about a time when you felt excluded from, or marginalized within, a community that you hoped to be part of. OR write about a time when you felt embraced by or welcomed into such a community. Tell the story with enough detail to make it come alive, for you and for a reader. Then explore what this experience teaches you about yourself, and about communities.

Announcements and Reminders 2/26

In preparation for the end of the quarter, please revisit the syllabus section on REQUIRED SEMINAR WORK (page 2 of the syllabus). Note that you will have a 750-to-1000-word typed reflection paper due NO LATER THAN NOON on MONDAY, MARCH 16th, along with all the papers you have received back from me with comments—plus, if you haven’t already turned it in, the write-up about the dish you prepared for a community dinner.

In your final paper, please highlight what you consider to be the most significant things you learned and experienced this quarter. (As with all your PICA papers, be sure to emphasize vivid, concrete details and specific illustrating examples.) Also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your participation in the course. If you are taking the seminar for a letter grade, please include a note about what grade you think you deserve, and why.

You can turn in your final work in at the last seminar meeting, on Thursday, March 12, or deliver it to Sarah Rabkin’s OFFICE, 413 Nat. Sci. 2 (slide it under the door if I’m not there) before the deadline. Please do NOT deliver final work to Sarah’s mailbox; it may go unnoticed. Your final paper should be stapled or clipped to the top of your stack of earlier papers, and/or contained within a pocket folder or envelope with your name on it.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSIONS ON THIS DEADLINE, printer problems and other last-minute mess-ups notwithstanding. So give yourself plenty of time to pull a quality final portfolio together. YOU WILL FAIL THE SEMINAR IF I DO NOT HAVE YOUR COMPLETED FINAL WORK IN HAND BY THE DEADLINE.

Writing Assignment 2/19

We are going to take a break from writing assignments this week. On February 26th, you may turn in any past assignments you have previously failed to submit.

Writing Assignment 2/12

What are Van Jones’ primary social critiques and objectives? Summarize them succinctly, in about a paragraph. Then: How do you see Jones’ vision intersecting (currently or potentially) with your interests in community, food, and sustainable agriculture?

Announcements and Reminders 2/12

Reminder: keep returned papers to hand in again at end of quarter

UCSC core shuttle service available to & from MLK convocation
(pass around flyer)

Convocation to be broadcast live on KZSC (88.1)

Writing Assignment 2/5

Tell the story of an experience you’ve had in human community in which a useful parallel can be drawn to one or more of the gardening/farming concepts of monoculture, polyculture, companion planting.

Announcements and Reminders 2/5

-Sign-in sheets comes down 15 minutes into the class
-You need to sign in to be considered present & on time
-If you arrive later, you can’t sign in
-Talk to Sarah at dinner, let her know you were present, if late

-Late assignments no longer accepted. If you can’t be present, email yours for that week to Sarah as a .doc attachment, on time,  or get it to her ENVS mailbox before class

-Reminder: Next week, 2/12, is the 25th Annual MLK, Junior convocation at the Civic Auditorium in downtown Santa Cruz at 7:30 p.m.  Van Jones, author of Green-Collar Economy, speaks. We encourage everyone in the seminar to attend. You’ll almost certainly need to be there early to get a seat. We will have dinner at 5:00 to allow everyone, including cleanup crew, to attend the convocation.
Next week’s cooks: please plan to have dinner ready by 5:00
-Next week’s writing assignment will be connected with Van Jones and his work. If you can’t attend the talk you’ll need to do some research on your own.

The Grafting Lesson

You show us how to graft,

Starting with green words:

Xylem, phloem, cambium,

Notched and taped to bark,

A poetry whose surface melds

With ancient rules of marriage.

Boys and girls watch you, rapt

In their own fantasies of love,

Take notes in case, this weekend,

They need stories to seal a breach,

Root stock and scion of friendships,

Tap root and branch embrace, a kiss

As natural as molecules

Suck, sip and siphon

Water into leaves.

My graft is Perdita, the lost one,

Who scorns hybrid profanity,

Calls them “Nature’s bastards”

With the sere certainty of scripture,

Hears an old man (Shakespeare?)

Say, “There’s an art that doth mend nature,”

Eldered, still, she will not take pied flowers.

We touch the grafts we’ve made,

Fingers offering xylem, phloem, cambium

To heal what art requires.

The marriage that endures

Is never seamless.

Don Rothman
January 2009


Writing Assignment 1/29

Michael Pollan has written that, "although much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world--and what is to become of it."

Write about one vivid, concrete example, from your own observation or experience, that illustrates this assertion, or that supports an alternative way of looking at the issue.

Alternatively, you can do research to learn more about something you worked on in the garden on 1/29. (Talk to knowledgeable people, poke around online--don't rely on just one source--, and/or do some reading. Write up what you learn, and be sure to include a list of your sources.

Announcements and Reminders 1/29

Please label every assignment you turn in with the DATE DUE as well as your full name.
Reminder to print double-sided or re-use paper if possible.
No late assignments except in case of emergency.
If emailing, attach as a .doc.  I can’t open .docx.

REMEMBER TO KEEP ALL RETURNED PAPERS to turn in again at end of quarter.

Clarification about cook blurbs—not just recipe, but info about the dish, your relationship to it—a paragraph.  Fine to include recipe with this, but definitely turn in recipe to Molly as well ay

Looking two weeks ahead—a heads-up:
We will have a special schedule so that everyone in seminar can attend the 25th annual MLK, Jr. Convocation downtown at the Civic Auditorium at 7:30. Your writing assignment due the following week will be about Van Jones and his talk.

Writing Assignment 1/22

Is there a role for art in our vision of a sustainable society?

Writing Assignment: 1/15

“The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility. Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or go to some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a “homecoming” major. But what if the universities were to ask seriously what it would mean to have as our national goal…becoming native to our places in a coherent community that is in turn embedded in the ecological realities of its surrounding landscape.”

 —Wes Jackson, President, The Land Institute, Salina,


--If you were to design your own "homecoming major," in the spirit of Wes Jackson's assertion, what courses and activities would you include, and why?

--Do you agree with Wes Jackson that universities should pay more attention to helping students "becoming native to our places"? Why or why not? (Or, what do you see as strengths and weaknesses of this argument?) Be sure to bring in specific examples from your own experience and/or reading to support your discussion.


Program In Community & Agroecology (PICA)
ENVS 91F and 191F • Winter 2009 • Village A-Quad, Building A-3
Thursdays, 4:00-7:00 p.m. — Includes a community dinner

Sarah Rabkin, Lecturer & Research Associate in Environmental Studies
Office Hours: Thursdays, 12:30-2:30, 413 Nat. Sci. 2
Email:   Office phone: 459-2306

PICA Staff:
Vivan (bee) Vadakan, PICA Program Manager,
Molly Staats, PICA Assistant,
Bee and Molly both work in Building A-1 and can be reached at 459-5818; they will be attending seminar regularly.

Bee, Molly, and experienced PICA student gardeners will be your main teachers in the hands-on gardening component of the seminar.

ABOUT PICA: The Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA, pronounced “PEEKA”), based in the Village in the Lower Quarry, provides opportunities for students from all UCSC colleges and majors to explore interests in sustainable food production and distribution, sustainable communities, and intersections between the two.

No prior experience is necessary—just curiosity and enthusiasm. There are many opportunities to become involved within the PICA community. Examples include:
1. living in the Village and working in the Foundation Roots Garden to grow and harvest organic foods for the community
2. cooking and sharing in community meals
3. participating in organized Saturday morning work parties in the Village’s Foundational Roots Garden and at the Sustainable Living Center
4. working in PICA’s dedicated plot in the nearby CASFS (Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems) Farm
5. engaging in a campus or community internship through the Environmental Studies Department or another campus unit

Bee and Molly can provide more information about how to get involved.

The PICA Seminar: The two-unit PICA Seminar, listed as ENVS 91F and ENVS 191F, is offered every quarter, meeting from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on Thursdays in room A-3 in the A Quad near the base of the Village and including a community meal (see below). The seminar provides a setting for academic study and discussion, sometimes including get-your-hands-dirty garden learning experiences—so wear clothes & shoes you can work in.

Seminar Credit and Enrollment: The PICA seminar carries two units of academic credit. If you have previous extensive involvement with PICA, have taken the seminar before, and/or plan to take on a leadership role in the PICA community this quarter, you will probably want to enroll for upper-division credit by signing up for ENVS 191F.  If you are new to PICA and/or the seminar, enroll for lower-division credit by signing up for ENVS 91F. Permission numbers will be available at the first couple of seminar meetings or via email from the instructor.

Each student enrolled in ENVS 191F will be expected to present a talk or workshop in seminar about a gardening-related topic. (More information about this at the first class meeting.)

Optional Supplementary Internships: We encourage you to consider enrolling in a related two-unit internship that will provide hands-on experience with an organization or project relevant to your interests. Examples of possible internship sites include local organic farms, school gardens, and community based organization working in sustainability. Information about specific internship opportunities and how to sign up will be available at the first two seminar meetings. If you’d like to get started earlier, please talk with Molly or bee.

Each student enrolled in a supplementary internship will make a brief presentation to the class toward the end of the quarter, sharing information and experiences gleaned through the internship.

Required Seminar Work: To receive credit for the course, you must attend at least eight seminar meetings, participate constructively in activities and discussions, and turn in typed weekly papers of acceptable quality on time. You also need to submit a 750-to-1000-word typed reflection paper at the end of the quarter, highlighting the most significant things you learned and evaluating your participation in the course.  Final work is due to me—in person, in my office, or in my mailbox in the ENVS mailroom (fourth floor, ISB)—NO LATER THAN NOON ON MONDAY, MARCH 16TH. I will not accept late work except in cases of documented emergency.  YOU REALLY CAN FAIL THE SEMINAR BY FAILING TO TURN FINAL WORK IN ON TIME, SO DO NOT SLIP THIS INFLEXIBLE DEADLINE.

Please bring a notebook and writing implement—or a charged laptop, if you prefer—to every seminar meeting.

Seminar Grading: We urge you to take the seminar P/NP rather than for a letter grade. Experience suggests that letter grades do little to enhance, and instead sometimes detract from, the quality and enjoyment of learning in a community-based setting like this one. If you do opt for a letter grade, be aware that to earn an A, you must attend every class meeting, come on time and stay for the three-hour duration, participate constructively in discussions, and turn in all assignments on deadline.

Winter 2009 Seminar Overview: When weather permits, the seminar this quarter will include hands-on learning about how to plan and implement a garden that can produce food for a community, employing sustainable, ecologically sound horticultural and agricultural practices.  Using the PICA Foundational Roots garden in The Village as a living laboratory, garden-based instruction will give students training in the design and management of a sustainable garden ecosystem.  Throughout the experience, emphasis will be placed on the Garden as a "whole-system," or agroecosystem, and the knowledge that all of the parts are interconnected.  Experienced PICA student gardeners and PICA staff will guide the group in hands-on gardening work and provide background information on the principles guiding our work.
The aspects of the garden that we will work with during the Winter quarter are somewhat dictated by what can or needs to be done in the garden from week to week. We will focus on composting, planting, weed and pest management, fruit tree pruning, propagation, and garden growth and development appropriate to this time of year.   We want to test John Jeavons’ challenge that “we can grow more vegetables imaginable in less land that you ever thought possible.” (See

In conjunction with our hands-on garden learning, brief reading and writing assignments and perhaps an occasional film will provide the basis for discussion of relevant concepts, concerns, questions, issues, and visions. Any assigned readings will be made available in class. Students will be responsible for completing and turning in short weekly reflection papers assigned at each meeting.

Thursday Evening Community Dinners: Every Thursday evening at 6pm, students are encouraged to build community through food! Each week a group of four to five students takes responsibility for cooking and serving a meal for the seminar class while another group is responsible for cleaning up afterward. You will sign up for dates to cook and clean the first week of class. Cook groups should plan their meal together. Food is prepared and presented to the class after the work-and-discussion portion of the seminar. We encourage you to bring a dish you prepared at home, but there is also a community kitchen space in A2 if you do not have access to a kitchen. The community meal is an opportunity for the cooks to share their stories about the food they have made. It is a place for us to be mindful of not only where the food comes from, but who prepared it and how we share in it.

As part of your meal, you must create a written description of what you made (recipe!), where it came from, and why it is important to you. This is your opportunity to share your food story. Please turn in a written copy (with your name on it!) to Sarah at the beginning of seminar on the day that you are signed up to cook. We also require that you submit an electronic copy of your recipe on that same day to Molly ( We will be compiling these into a recipe book to share at the end of the quarter.