Graduates of the ecological horticulture program at UC Santa Cruz go on to accomplish many things. Some become farmers, writers, and educators. Some provide food security to precarious communities with their locally grown produce; and some promote environmental justice and sustainability.

Some do all those things, like “writer farmer” Jason Mark, editor of Sierra Club Magazine and founder of San Francisco’s largest urban garden, Alemany Farms – a vital source of food security for low-income families in the city.

In a profile piece on the UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) website, Mark reflects on the journey that led him to study small-scale farming and organic gardening through the CASFS Apprenticeship program at UCSC.

“Food serves a way to connect people,” Mark shares in the piece. After the September 11 attacks, Mark sought out new ways to find connections.

“I wanted to do social change work that felt more grounded – literally.”

Jason Mark

The alum of Georgetown University (Foreign Service, International Relations and Affairs, 1997) started gardening at the Page Street Community Garden in San Francisco and in 2005 took his new passion further to live full-time at the UCSC Farm and enroll in the world renowned Apprenticeship program.

While Mark was at UCSC, he learned that the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG)’s farm had been abandoned. He felt an urgent need to revive the space, a unique 3.5-acre lot situated next to housing projects and a freeway.

Again through farming, Mark established new connections.

“We were untangling this big knot between ecological, sustainable and healthy foods with access and equity for eaters and social justice for farmers,” says Mark about his studies at CASFS.

He could put this philosophy into action.

Through Mark’s stewardship, the grassroots farming community of Alemany Farms was revived. In 2016, the farm distributed 20,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables through their free farm stand, hosted more than 100 field trips, and welcomed volunteers on 150 days of the year.

While Mark today is less involved in the everyday management of the farm, he continues to connect people through his words. As editor of the Sierra Club Magazine, he continues to advocate for sustainability and justice.

Recent thought pieces include:

What Happens if the U.S. Pulls Out of the Paris Climate Agreement?

Crop Scientists Race to Create a Climate-Change-Resilient Agriculture

Earth Day Used to Be Rad. What Happened?

Read more about Mark and his experiences in agriculture on the CASFS website.