SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA August 27, 2004 -- Blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate and a healthy dose of environmental activism, Santa Cruz is a mecca for organic gardening—and leading the way is the University of Santa Cruz's Farm and Garden Project. What began as a student garden in 1967 has evolved into a unique research center and visitor attraction. The Farm and Garden Project draws ecological horticulture apprentices from all over the world, as well as home gardeners, children and curious tourists.

Sprawled atop the UCSC campus, the beautiful, 25-acre farm and 2-acre Alan Chadwick Garden is made up of a patchwork of row crops, orchards, greenhouses and gardens overlooks the waters of the Monterey Bay. In the spring, apple trees bloom, peas begin to sprout, and the greenhouses are brimming with young plants. The Farm and Garden Project is an integral part of UCSC's Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). CASFS is a program dedicated to developing sustainable food and agriculture practices through research, education and public outreach.

"It's an incredibly beautiful place," says John Fisher, outreach coordinator for CASFS. "You don't need a degree to appreciate the view and the diversity of plants and flowers. At any given time there are up to 150 different things being grown here."

Whether you come to enjoy the views or to find inspiration for your garden, the Farm and Garden Project offers year-round self-guided tours and free docent-led tours from April through October. The tours lead visitors through planting techniques, solar and hoop greenhouses, the Children's Garden and acres of organic produce, flowers, fruits and herbs. Visitors can learn firsthand about beneficial insects, water conservation, biodiversity, composting and all you would ever want to know about worm boxes. Regular community workshops focus on bee keeping, pest and gopher control, using solar power in the garden and how to grow medicinal herbs, among other topics which encourage biodiversity.

In addition to the tours and workshops, the Farm and Garden Project hosts special events throughout the year, including Herb Walks, cooking demonstrations, plant sales and an annual Harvest Festival in October.

In June, UCSC's popular Market Cart opens each Tuesday and Friday afternoon to offer fresh, picked-that-morning, organic fruit, vegetables, and flowers from the farm. The cart features colorful bouquets of sweet peas, sunflowers, larkspur, alstroemeria, snapdragons, bachelor's buttons, feverfew, and more. The array of fresh organic fruits and vegetables grows as the season progresses, but early offerings include gourmet salad mix, tender lettuces, kiwis, beets, spinach, chard, kale, and green garlic. The cart is open through October, depending on the length of the growing season. All proceeds benefit the CASFC apprenticeship program in ecological horticulture.

For more information on the Farm and Garden's tours and public events, contact CASFC at UCSC by calling 831-459-3240; or visit the CASFC web site at: http://zzyx.ucsc.edu/casfs.

A private, non-profit corporation, CVC exists to enhance tourism and the economy by positioning Santa Cruz County as a visitor, conference and film destination. For more information about local tourism, contact the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council at 831-425-1234 or 800-833-3494. Or visit CVC's web site at http://www.santacruzca.org

This article courtesy of http://www.bestguidetogardening.com.
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