The Regional History Project has been documenting the history of the Central Coast of California and the institutional history of UC Santa Cruz since 1963, through oral history, a method of conducting historical research through recorded interviews between a narrator with personal experience of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with the goal of adding to the historical record.
Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History Series on Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming on California's Central Coast (59)
Born in 1932 to Croatian American farmers in the Santa Clara Valley town of Cupertino, Betty Van Dyke saw her fertile home ground transformed, in a few decades, from seemingly endless orchards to unrelenting urban sprawl. As the energetic matriarch of a popular family-run fruit-growing business, she has since participated in the region’s organic agricultural renaissance, overseeing one of the first California operations to grow and dry fruit organically (becoming certified in 1986), and playing an active role in the early days of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). And as a member of one of the region’s noted surfing families, she built this thriving business while sustaining her love affair with Pacific ocean waves.
Van Dyke Ranch sits at the base of the Gavilan Mountains in Gilroy, Santa Clara County, on a southern exposure perfectly suited for growing sweet, flavorful Blenheim apricots and Bing cherries. The ranch produces fresh fruit in season and dried apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and persimmons throughout the year. (A rarer delicacy available to a few farmers’-market patrons are home-grown capers, the pickled flower buds of plants propagated from a thirty-year-old bush planted by Betty’s mother.) Betty Van Dyke and her three sons took over from her father in the mid-1970s. While son Peter and various grandchildren now carry most of the day-to-day responsibility for the ranch, Betty still holds down two weekly farmers’-market booths, and commutes frequently to Gilroy from her Santa Cruz home to help with ranch work during busy seasons.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed Betty Van Dyke at Rabkin’s Soquel home on April 16, 2008. A lively storyteller with an easy smile, Van Dyke shared memories of picking apricots on her grandfather’s farm as a small child, working and playing alongside migrant dust-bowl refugees from Oklahoma and Arkansas, discovering surfing as a college student in the 1950s, and running an evolving Van Dyke Ranch.
- 2 supplemental audio files
In its March/April 2009 issue, Mother Jones magazine called Tim Galarneau “the Alice Waters of a burgeoning movement of campus foodies.” Galarneau is a co-founder of the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign promoting sustainable food sourcing in college dining halls. In his day job with UCSC’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), he coordinates the Center’s Farm to College project. Since his undergraduate days at UCSC, Galarneau has helped spearhead numerous initiatives to transform the way the nation’s schools, hospitals and other institutions navigate the high-volume acquisition and preparation of food.
Galarneau and others brought about one such transformation—now a model for other institutions—on their own home ground. Students at UC Santa Cruz look out from their hillside campus over rich agricultural lands, including the 25-acre CASFS farm in their own backyard; yet until 2005, they had little access to locally grown organic food. Now, thanks to several years of collaborative effort by students, staff, and farmers, all of the UCSC dining halls daily serve certified organic produce; they also provide coffee purchased directly from farming communities that have personal relationships with UCSC students and staff, thanks to the UCSC-based Community Agroecology Network (CAN). The campus contracts for organic produce with a consortium of local farmers; carefully developed purchasing guidelines not only prioritize the direct acquisition of local, organic food, but also emphasize equitable labor relationships, environmentally friendly farming practices, humane animal husbandry, and a university food service that is as much about education as about feeding a hungry campus population.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed Tim Galarneau on March 19, 2008, in his office at UCSC’s Oakes College. He described in detail the path that led him into farm-to-institution research and advocacy; he discussed the effort to transform food sourcing at UCSC and elsewhere, the new tools and techniques for social organizing that he and others have successfully employed in service of a food revolution, and his larger vision for the future of food.
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Amy Katzenstein-Escobar was the first pilot teacher for the Life Lab Science Program. She was born in 1956 in New Jersey, and grew up in Southern California. She came to UC Santa Cruz in the mid-1970s and entered the community studies major. She received a Ford Foundation education project grant to teach migrant children from Watsonville, became a teacher, and then began teaching at Salsipuedes School, where she participated in a pilot project for Life Lab in 1980. She discusses her Life Lab work in this oral history, conducted by Ellen Farmer on July 27, 2007, in an office on the UC Santa Cruz campus.
- 2 supplemental audio files
Helen Hosmer was a writer, activist, and historian of California agribusiness. Her knowledge of California's agriculture dated back to the 1930s when, as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, she worked at the Poultry Division, College of Agriculture. Later she worked for the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which established camps for migrant workers in California. During this period Hosmer came to know FSA photographer Dorothea Lange, agricultural economist Paul S. Taylor, and many important figures in the labor movement in San Francisco. Because of her conviction that labor organizing was essential among agricultural workers, Hosmer resigned her government position at Farm Security in 1935 in order to have the freedom to work on behalf of her political beliefs. She co-founded the Simon J. Lubin Society, an organization that promoted unity between family farmers and migrant labor and exposed the anti-progressive political activities of California agribusiness. From 1935 to 1941 she published and edited the Lubin Society's "Rural Observer". The Society also issued special publications, such as Who Are the Associated Farmers? (reproduced in this volume) and John Steinbeck's Their Blood is Strong.
Hosmer's memoirs also discuss California intellectual, cultural, and political life in the 1920s, and 1930s, red-baiting, the San Francisco General Strike and the Criminal Syndicalism trial, and the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee. After World War II, Hosmer temporarily put aside her political activism and spent over 25 years living in Mill Valley as a housewife, mother, pianist, and gardener. In the early 1960s she resumed her research and writing. She again turned her attention to California agriculture, writing articles for American West magazine, and serving as director for the research committee for the California Farm Reporter.
- 1 supplemental audio file
Living History Circle (group interview): Out in the Redwoods, Documenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1965-2003
This group living history circle was conducted on April 20, 2002, as part of the Banana Slug Spring Fair annual event for UCSC alumni and prospective students. The session was organized by Irene Reti, together with Jacquelyn Marie, and UCSC staff person and alum Valerie Jean Chase. The discussion was approximately ninety minutes and included the following participants: Walter Brask, Melissa Barthelemy, Valerie Chase, Cristy Chung, Linda Rosewood Hooper, Rik Isensee, David Kirk, Stephen Klein, John Laird, Jacquelyn Marie, Robert Philipson, Irene Reti, and John Paul Zimmer. This was also the thirtieth reunion of the Class of 1972, which is why there is a disproportionate number of participants from that period of UCSC history. The interview was taped and transcribed. Where possible, speakers are identified.'Editor
A series of interviews with twelve members of the first four-year graduating class at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among the twelve were two students who had been interviewed in 1967 and four who had transferred into the class at the junior level. As in the 1967 series, the students were asked to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the University, administration, faculty, classes, and general campus life. This they did very candidly. By happenstance, the interviews were scheduled over a two-week period that included the campus's first serious student strike and first building takeover. Thus the interviews tend to give the anatomy of the student strike as it developed. The philosophy of the students interviewed ranged from conservative to radical and their participation in the strike ranged from inactivity to leadership roles in the strike organization.
- 1 supplemental audio file