Local nonprofit prepares workshops teaching Central Coast youth about sustainable farming
Local nonprofit organization, City Farm SLO, is educating Central Coast youth about sustainable agricultural practices.
The organization has been around since 2014. After working with the city and county government, they were able to appropriate land on the southern side of San Luis Obispo.
Today their farmland is filled with vegetables like onions, kale and carrots.
Lauren Picone is City Farm SLO’s Education Director. She said this summer they’re kicking off another year of their Youth Empowerment Program.
“They'll learn all about kinds of sustainable farming techniques that we practice on the farm and we're gonna learn how to plant with them whether it be from the seed or transplanting. They're able to work on plant care,” Picone said.
Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in California. The state provides over a third of the nation's vegetables and three-quarters of its fruits and nuts. In 2021, California’s agricultural exports totaled about 22 billion dollars.
It is also a key industry locally, as the Central Coast is a major producer of crops like strawberries and wine grapes. With this in mind, Picone said it’s important to educate local children on where their food comes from.
“Having students harvest a beet or carrot and realize that oh the carrot grows under the soil and this is where my food comes from, and kind of just seeing how different light bulbs will go off as we're doing different things out in the field,” Picone said.
Kayla Rutland is the organization’s Executive Director. She said part of their instruction is based in regenerative agriculture, which is meant to help restore the ecosystem it’s a part of. It also focuses on resiliency in the face of climate change.
Rutland said soil health is an important factor of their workshop, especially considering the effects of recent winter storms.
“If you're building organic matter in soil and taking care of your soils to really build a very healthy soil then that becomes a lot more resilient to storm events,” Rutland said.
Rutland said building a solid soil structure allows farmers to be less susceptible to storm runoff.
“So that's part of the instruction as students are learning about why regenerative agriculture or the practices within it are so important,” Rutland said.
Rutland said they will also be providing workshops covering topics like financial literacy, Ag career exploration, health & nutrition, and diversity equity and inclusion in Agriculture.
The deadline to apply for the Youth Empowerment Program is April 1st, and more information can be found here.