June 6, 2022
Educating students about healthy foods at the Ecology Center.
In the heart of San Juan Capistrano, a 28-acre farm is committed to feeding the community. It
overflows with nature’s bounty, from berries and veggies to flowers and herbs that are certified organic, seasonal and of the highest quality.
But the real magic lies beyond the farm stand. The Ecology Center is a space for collaboration and creative problem-solving — a classroom for the next generation. Impactful initiatives like paid apprenticeships are shaping the agricultural leaders of tomorrow, while summer camps teach environmental stewardship at an early age. The many food labs, workshops, cooking classes and events help educate, inspire and connect ecology to food.
In 2021, the Chuck and Ernestina Kreutzkamp Foundation played an important role in advancing
The Ecology Center’s programming. The team was able to offer mentoring and fresh produce monthly to Grandma LuLu’s Table for its regular events that deliver nutritious, plant-based meals to the food insecure in San Diego. Not only were the vegetables beautiful and delicious, they offered a chance for participants to try new food and recipes.
In addition, The Ecology Center was able to design and distribute 725 Field Kits — including 300 in Imperial Beach — packed with all the essentials for a farm field trip in a convenient box. Each kit was filled with just-harvested seasonal produce, pantry items and an interactive booklet that includes activities and a recipe that highlights the nutrition and flavor of those ingredients. During a time of isolation with remote learning, they brought nourishment, joy and connection to children and their families across Imperial Beach and Orange County.
Sometimes the most long-lasting impact can start small — as small as a group of eight individuals who aspire to change our local food system.
With Chuck and Ernestina Kreutzkamp Foundation’s funding, The Ecology Center was able to execute its first apprenticeship program with eight full-time apprentices in the inaugural cohort. They participated in every aspect of The Ecology Center, from planting and harvesting to education and culinary operations. Two of the apprentices even stayed on as full-time staff. Drew now works in the market garden and Carina, born and raised in the South Bay, supports the seed and propagation operation.
What’s more, all the apprentices gave strength and resilience to the whole organization as they
took the important work they learned beyond the center’s gates. These individuals are among the very few trained in regenerative, organic farming in our bioregion. Whether they stay at The Ecology Center or bring their talents elsewhere, they will create a ripple effect that brings health to our food systems and communities in Southern California and beyond.
The support of the Foundation has helped expand and deepen programming to meet a wider audience in the South Bay and empowers The Ecology Center to equip next generation farmers with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to an abundant future.