As director of the world-renowned Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at UC Santa Cruz, Patricia Allen wears an extraordinary number of administrative hats. As one of the nation’s most prominent scholars on social aspects of food production, distribution, and access, she illuminates the changing food system as it affects and is shaped by conditions of labor, gender, and social inequality.
CASFS has dramatically broadened its mission since its origins in the campus garden that came to life in 1967 under the stewardship of pioneering horticulturist Alan Chadwick. The UC system’s first program to focus on sustainable food production and distribution, the 21st-century Center is (as its January 2008 self-study states) “dedicated to increasing ecological sustainability and social justice in the world’s food and agriculture system.” The Center’s accomplishments have been formally recognized on several recent occasions. In January 2007, the Ecological Farming Association presented its Steward of Sustainable Agriculture (“Sustie”) Award to the staff of the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture; in October of that year, US Representative Sam Farr read a testimonial about CASFS into the Congressional Record.
As CASFS Director since July 2007 (after six months as Acting Director), Allen oversees some 35 employees; a 25-acre farm and 3-acre garden with a seasonal produce stand and community supported agriculture program; a full-time residential Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture that annually trains a diverse group of 35-40 organic farmers, gardeners, and educators; a wide range of research and service initiatives; prolific publications and events programs; educational offerings for undergraduate and graduate students as well as the general public, and ongoing fundraising efforts.
Allen’s many administrative responsibilities compete for her time with her research on food and social justice—a driving passion, as is clear in this oral history. Her publications include Together at the Table: Sustainability and Sustenance in the American Food System, published in 2004 by Pennsylvania State University Press, along with numerous articles and book chapters.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed Patricia Allen on two occasions, in Allen’s office at Oakes College on the UCSC campus. The interview conducted on December 4, 2008, emphasized Allen’s education and professional background and her work with CASFS. On May 21st, 2009, the primary focus was on her research and writing.