by Brianna Beyrooty, Admissions and Outreach Director - June 29, 2016

Welcome to our first interview in our new series! We hope to catch up with past interns and see what they are up to! Interns are magic-makers, dream builders, nutrient dense meal-makers, highly qualified homework helpers, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, and an irreplaceable part of the Woolman Community.  The community intern program is a 10 month experience of living, working, growing, and learning as part of the Woolman Educational Community.  For the past 20 semesters we have been so grateful for those who have worked here!  If you are interested in learning more please click here! If you are former intern and would like to share your experience you can fill out an intern questionnaire here! If you are a former student itching to let us know what's alive in your life, don't worry you can fill out an alumni questionnaire here!  If you'd like to reconnect in other ways please e-mail! We'd LOVE to hear from you.  Without further ado, Patrick Aguilar, Woolman Semester School Intern 15'-16'.

Name: Patrick Aguilar

Hometown: Grass Valley, CA

School: U.C. Santa Cruz-B.A. History


Why did you intern at the Woolman Semester?

I chose to take this internship because during my time working for Camp Woolman showed me my strongest part of myself. The community environment and emphasis on a holistic relationship with one's self piqued my interest. After my summers at Woolman, I had a deep sense that there was much more for me to experience from this place.

How did the internship help guide you in your interests?

The internship introduced me to cooking in a way that I had never experienced, and the creative nature of that aspect of the internship was something I fell in love with. Additionally, I found the Woolman internship to be an incredible guide in addressing and resolving many personal problems or parts of myself that I wasn't happy with.

Words of wisdom for new interns?


Make sure to enjoy all these new relationships you'll find yourself engaged in. Everyone you know will have something incredibly important to teach you, and opening yourself up to them will allow for some really powerful growth.

How do you find peace, justice, sustainability in your life today?

My time at Woolman has been so incredibly helpful in maintaining peace, justice, and sustainability in my life. Woolman has provided me with useful tools for addressing conflict (internal and external), and understanding the difference between my own needs and stressors and other people's needs and stressors. That differentiation allows me to live more peacefully in many of my interpersonal relationships.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff, Farm Apprentice - May 13, 2015

Interns play an integral part in the garden. They spend 10+ hours in the garden a week doing everything from seed starting to pruning an entire orchard.  Intern garden time is a great way to bond over hard work and see something transform with their efforts every week.

Monday mornings start with a garden check-in, starting with silence interns share thoughts to start the week with. This is a way unique and effective way to ease into the week with a clear mind and heart.  With the intern’s hard work and dedication the garden gets the attention and love it deserves.

Here are some of the intern’s thoughts on working in the garden:

Joe- I like pruning and being in the trees in the orchard. I like not killing, but invigorating the tree to grow. I think I’m good with the ladder and enjoy the aggressive ladder work. 

Em-What I love most about working in the garden is the opportunity to be outside. Nothing makes me more jolly than the California sun! I’m also quite fond of whispering encouraging words to our growing plant babies and chasing away hungry quails.


Gio- Our farm manager Maggie McProud is my favorite thing about the garden! Granted, she isn't a plant, but she does support the interns as we grow as farmers and people. She is closely seconded by harvesting cherry tomatoes, pruning apple trees, and planting garlic.  It was harvest season when we first arrived at Woolman, so understandably we were easily enchanted by the incredible amount of produce that was picked and consumed every day. At one point, at the end of the peak season, we harvested over five hundred pounds of produce in one day (four hundred of which were tomatoes). 

Kat with weeds

Kat- Having never grown food before, working with the garden this year has given me a deep and visceral appreciation for cycles of life and the radical act that is taking that process into your own hands and belly. I love knowing that the sweat off my own back is a gesture of resistance against industrial agricultural practices that harm our planet, bodies and communities. I also love knowing that the greens and tomatoes on my plate haven’t been shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away and that their growth contributed to and not detracted from the health of the soil. I’m grateful to be understanding these cyclical processes of life and death, so essential to our basic existence, not in a textbook but through hands-on experience with a brilliant teacher like Maggie McProud leading the way.

by Kat Globerson, Community Intern '14-'15 - April 1, 2015
When I first learned about the Woolman internship, one component that piqued my curiosity was the mentorship program. The idea of being a mentor for a group of teens was intriguing but also nebulous—what exactly does being a mentor look like? Is there some particular way one acts as a mentor? Throughout my time here, I have been delightfully surprised by the many ways that mentorship exists here at Woolman. I have also come to realize that the richness of the mentorship program lies in the mutual growth that comes from mentoring relationships—it turns out that Woolman students are in many ways just as much mentors as are Woolman interns. For me, at the heart of mentorship is a willingness to listen deeply and to give joyfully in order to make life more wonderful, as we say in Non-Violent Communication. Mentorship at Woolman is about being medicine for others when we are able, and allowing others to be medicine for us when we need it, whether in matters of academic obstacles, relationships in and outside of Woolman or grief for the hardships we see in our world. Of course, mentorship here is also about fun and celebration. From working through college essays, kitchen baking and dance parties, trips to the Yuba River, and long one-on-ones over lunch or on the hammocks, mentorship has proven to be a hard to define yet central component of what makes our community so strong here. I am grateful for the variety of ways that I have been able to foster relationships that inspire growth, understanding and straight up gratitude for the chance to share this life with so many lovely humans.  
Mentor & Mentee, Emily Spognardi and Jasmine Rosalbo, Fall 2014

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator - December 2, 2014

The Woolman Community Intern Program forms an essential thread that helps to weave together the fabric of life here at Woolman. On any given day, you will find these magic-makers creating beautiful meals, planting seeds, harvesting roots, connecting with students, hugging, laughing, crying, supporting – doing the invaluable work of the heart – an organ that doesn't just pump blood through the body, but synergizes all of its cells, organs and systems. Indeed the interns here combine really hard work and deep heart-work, in a way that allows unique and emergent life to flow through the veins of this community. 

The classes we teach here deal a lot with how to live in a time of great change, and how to hold oneself and each other lovingly as beings who are constantly changing and growing.  I am excited to teach Cooking & Nutrition Class to the interns this semester, as I see it as an opportunity to look at this truth through a different window.  What are the interconnected systems inside our physical bodies that inspire our one emotional, mental, spiritual dynamic life?  What do we know about these physiological systems, and how do we know it?  How do our bodies relate to the Earth, and what role does food play in this relationship?  Every Thursday morning, interns come to prepare a meal for the community together and spend time considering the story of food as it moves through ecosystems and human hands, and the stories we tell ourselves that shape what the food does when it gets to our body.

Intern Seminar is a time to gather skills to celebrate and support life.  Thus far, we have had classes on: The Art of Live-Culture Fermentation, The Great Toilet Challenge (Plumbing 101), Woodworking I and II, Craniosacral Therapy Introduction – an example of the art of hands-on healing, and The Acorn Model:  A Nature-based Model for Mentoring and Community Building. This semester the interns are also taking a weekly Garden Seminar and a Non-violent Communication class, to widen and deepen their skill set as change-makers in the world.  

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator and Kitchen Manager - November 25, 2014


We shared a beautiful meal together (prepared by the magic-making interns - thank you) before our Woolman community members went off in different directions for the holiday. It was an occasion to let our attention take root in the land here for a moment, to feel the feet that have walked upon it, all the movement and movements, fierceness and stillness, light and shadow … to acknowledge the various lives and forms of life that have found a home here, felt lost here, felt found, and are still searching.  So much gratitude for YOU.



photo credit to Gray Horwitz.  Thank you!

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator and Kitchen Manager - October 8, 2014


. we were born right now

for a reason

we can be whatever

we give ourselves the power to be


and right now we need

day dreamers

gate keepers

bridge builders

soul speakers

web weavers

light bearers

food growers

wound healers

trail blazers

truth sayers

life lovers

peace makers


give what you most deeply desire

to give

every moment you are choosing to live

or you are waiting


why would a flower hesitate to open?

now is the only moment

rain drop let go

become the ocean


possibility is as wide

as the space

we create

to hold it


- from Awaken by Climbing Poetree


When I think of what the community interns do here, I am reminded of this poem.  Pretty soon after arriving at Woolman, I noticed that we use the verb “hold” more often and in more ways than I was used to.  We don't just hold hands before each meal; we seek to hold community, hold one's truth and another's, hold a space for radical education, hold a grounded vision of the land ... And the community interns here hold a lot.  Whether it's cooking for 40+ people, gardening, TAing, mentoring, meeting, learning, playing, or adventuring, the interns hold the space of possibility.  And they follow through, putting in the daily effort of collapsing each chosen possibility into a dynamic physicality, emotionality, and mentality that connects light bearers to food growers to wound healers to trail blazers to truth sayers to life lovers ...

Thank you for your love and skillful magic.

Photo above of the Community Interns:  Joe, Sadie, Keithlee, Sonja, Kat, Giovanna, Lizzy, and Emily.

Photo below from Intern Seminar:  Interns putting their plumbing skills to the test in the Great Toilet Challenge with our maintenance man/dreamweaver Red.


by Danya Morris, Community Intern - May 5, 2014

I don’t always wake up before 6 AM—but when I do, it’s probably Monday, when I make breakfast. Monday is special because we all try to show up and eat together. There are announcements, games, and appreciations, read out of the appreciation jar handcrafted by none other than Aria, a fellow community intern. All in all I’d say I have a great reason to be up before the sun (especially since I only have to do it once a week). This is what happened two Mondays ago—an ordinary Monday, the second to last of the semester.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5:30am: Wake up. Stumble out of bed and brush my teeth on the porch of my A-frame, marveling at all the yellow flowers that have appeared as if by magic in the last two days—they’re all over everything. I try not to get toothpaste on any flowers (with only marginal success), put on two sweatshirts and head up the hill to the dining hall.

5:41am: Interrupted by the quail (rushing intently about, as always). Look for a moment at the moon, still seated high in the lightening sky.

5:45am:  Reluctantly turn on the lights in the kitchen, squint a little, and start making breakfast. Whole wheat ginger pancakes today, with fried eggs and homemade ricotta cheese. Food processor not working again (or I’m not asking it politely enough, this early in the morning who can really tell?), so I chop candied ginger for what feels like forever and a day. It’s peaceful in the kitchen in the morning, though—it’s one of my favorite things, a space that’s usually so chaotic getting to rest a little—so I don’t really mind. I don’t like cooking with machines, anyway.

7:23am: Some students wander into the DH and start making coffee. We talk about their Peace Studies homework, a paper about different people from Assata Shakur’s autobiography. They sit in the kitchen and listen to Devil Makes Three with me while I scramble to finish frying the gluten-free vegan version of the pancakes while also not burning the ricotta, which isn’t setting as quickly as I might have hoped…

7:50am: 10-minute bell for Monday morning breakfast and homeroom. A student is leading it this week, so she rings the bell and sets up a sheet to collect announcements, fretting about the activity she’s planned to lead (it goes amazingly well, so she needn’t have worried). I set the last round of eggs on the griddle and shuttle some willing students in and out of the kitchen with pancakes and condiments. The ricotta looks surprisingly good, especially with some cinnamon sprinkled on top.

8:04am: We circle and hold a moment of silence before breakfast. Morning meeting takes off, and I hide in the pantry and drink coffee for a few minutes before sitting down to make the weekly food order.

9:10am: Walk to the office and call the local co-op to order our produce and cheese for the week. The order is uneventful, save a small mix up regarding the color of our potatoes. I hang up and head back to the kitchen to do inventory in the pantry and walk-in, then back to the office to order from our distributor. Camilla and Heather, two fellow community interns, are making burritos for lunch and I have a very hard time not sneaking some of the cheese they have painstakingly shredded as I pass through the kitchen. By now it’s close to lunch time, so I work on spreadsheets and do food research until the burrito bar is ready.

I’ll spend the afternoon first in the garden—it’s crunch time, and we’re bed shaping and planting today—then at student updates meeting, and then hanging out with one of my mentees on the couch in the dining hall.

All in all, a beautiful and typical (if I dare to call anything at Woolman typical…) Monday.

GINGER PANCAKES (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (brown sugar or honey are awesome, I usually reduce the sugar by almost half)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted) or oil
  • 2 large eggs (vegan option: 2 tablespoons ground flax + 2 tablespoons water)
  • 1 healthy splash vanilla extract
  • two pinches (about a teaspoon) ground ginger
  • some cinnamon, allspice, and cloves (ground)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together (sifting optional). Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, and the candied ginger. Mix well, and fry in a little more butter than you think is really necessary. Enjoy!

by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 6, 2014


Ahead, the suburban ribbon of I-80 stretched uninterrupted towards the Sierra foothills-- behind, low clouds and a pale sunset hung over Sonoma and San Paulo Bay. Driving home to Woolman marked the end of three days camping at Point Reyes National Seashore in the company of redwoods, sprawling pines, green hills, and a gray sea. Despite challenges ranging from persistent drizzle to marauding raccoons, our crew of students and interns embraced the adventure. Here are a few of the pictures I grabbed on my phone along the way.














And here are some more photos taken by our student Elena:

Student Dontae took this one: 

by Laura Markstein, Community Intern - April 5, 2013


Check out this great article that Laura Markstein submitted to the news regarding Peacebuilding!

Nevada City, CA (March, 18)- As our federal government currently debates the passage of the H.R. 808 bill to build a Department of Peacebuilding, the Woolman Semester School, a non-profit educational organization located in Nevada City, CA, has been committed to peacebuilding since its inception in 1963.

Each semester high school juniors, seniors, and gap year students come from all over the country to live, work, and learn together in community.Founded on Quaker principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality, these values are woven through every aspect of life at Woolman.

The congressional bill, written by California Representative Barbara Lee, was introduced to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform February 25th and is awaiting approval before moving to the Senate. The new Peacebuilding Department will be “dedicated to peacebuilding, peacemaking, and the study and promotion of conditions conducive to both domestic and international peace and a culture of peace” (H.R. 808 bill, Section 101).

“We would be thrilled to see a Department of Peacebuilding at the national level, because that is what we try to model here at Woolman,” says Peace Studies teacher Grace Oedel. Woolman teaches that conflict is a normal and healthy part of life. How we react to conflict is what can make the difference between an opportunity for growth and a violent interaction. The Woolman community is built on the belief that once basic human needs are met, people can use tools of communication to come to mutual understanding and live together peacefully.

Non-violent communication (NVC), a communication practice developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., is one of the main tools used by both students and staff. Based on the recognition that deep listening and understanding can lead to compassion and connection, NVC is applied to intra and interpersonal issues in the community and to many of the topics that are examined in the core classes of Peace Studies, Global Issues and Environmental Science.

“At the Woolman Semester School student’s studies are linked locally to global issues. They are a generation of enthusiastic change agents who are equipped with the tools to instill peace and social justice wherever they journey through life. We are hopeful that Congress will also accept the responsibility for instilling peace throughout our country and the world through nonviolent activities and by creating a Department of Peacebuilding,” explains Marjorie Fox, Head of School. 

by Sophie Brinker, intern and former student - March 29, 2013

As I am woken by the soft beep of my 6 AM alarm, I look out the window to see the beginning of the sun stretching its arms over the grey pines, and I see that I am not the only one waking up. I pull on my jacket and boots with a yawn and walk over the two bridges and soccer field to the kitchen, the sky is beginning to wake up with bursts of pink and purple and yellow. It is slightly misty today; I startle a family of deer as I reach the dining hall and smile as they bound so beautifully into the blackberry patch. 

Today is my breakfast making day, an integral part of the Woolman intern experience. 

A fellow intern meets me in the kitchen- we put on ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ as well as hot water for tea and coffee to wake us up as well as the silence of the kitchen. There is bagel dough left from lunch the day before that has somehow risen overnight in the walk-in fridge, and with the oven pre-heated we begin shaping and boiling the dough. After a few choruses of 'Guantanamera' and half a cup of tea, the bagels are in the oven and getting warm and comfy. 

Soon enough we smell the rosemary and garlic we had sprinkled on the tops of the bagels and peek inside- they are so beautiful and rising fast! I feel so happy to create something that before I only imagined buying from a store- if I am ever cut off from the world and magically have endless flour it is comforting to know I will not be bagel-less. We ring the meal bell and see the students walking over from their cabins, ready for a day of classes and today, shared work. The sun has risen fully and the bagels are calling me from their baking sheet. I am ready for another beautiful day at Woolman.

by Emily Wheeler - August 7, 2012

Click to read the Summer 2012 Woolman Witness:

by Cece Watkins, Intern - December 20, 2011
by Cece Watkins, Community Intern Fall 2011-2012 - September 16, 2011

With the students away on the Food Intensive, four intrepid interns have stayed behind with one thing on our minds: food. Preservation, that is. This week we’ve kept ourselves busy with preserving our bounteous harvest while the students have been away, resulting in cans upon cans of tomatillo salsa, tomato sauce, and blackberry jam.

Our mornings this week have begun with harvesting in the garden, before the heavy heat of midday hits. We then weigh the produce and load up the newly repaired garden cart (thanks Lewis!) and walk barefooted across the grass to the Dining Hall. There the processing and preserving blitzkrieg begins. We bombard the kitchen haphazardly, and yet somehow after a few hours we’re lovingly placing another armful of sealed Mason jars onto the shelves in the pantry. Other adventures this week have included catfish wrangling (Doug and Red have been draining Mel’s Pond), eggplant carving, melon taste-testing, garden class with local six year olds, and several blissful trips to the Yuba River. We’ve experimented with eating produce straight off the plant after being inspired by two-year-old Althea’s no-handed, ruthless cabbage eating in the garden. Verdict: strawberries really are better on the vine. We’ve also at last come to a decision on the name for the newly formed contra band, made of banjo player/cow-op intern Alice, mandolin player/community intern Aaron, guitarist Graeme and bassist Colman, both of whom are current students. The band has been affectionately dubbed “Brosenberg” after the much-discussed founder of Nonviolent Communication.

Between the backpacking trip and the food intensive, it feels like this semester has been more adventure than routine. Regardless, we’ve developed a strong sense of community here on campus, and it feels strange to have the students gone. Yes, we’ll miss the peace and quiet—and immensely available West Side bathrooms—but it’ll be nice to have them back. We’re also excited for classes to resume again: as refreshing as it has been spending long hours in the garden and dreaming of eating salsa in the winter, it’ll be great to continue delving deeper into the larger-world issues of social justice, peace and sustainability.

by Grace Oedel, community intern - November 11, 2010

I appreciate these two poems most when I read them together. 

The Life of a Day

by Tom Hennen 

Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has its own personality quirks which can easily be seen if you look closely. But there are so few days as compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it would be surprising if a day were not a hundred times more interesting than most people. But usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills a lost traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

by William Stafford

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. 

by Grace Oedel, community intern - November 6, 2010


by John Updike

I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise.

The dry earth like a great scab breaks, revealing
moist-dark loam--
the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the green weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never performed this simple, stupid, and useful wonder.

by Grace Oedel, community intern - October 22, 2010

This upcoming Saturday from 10-3 will be the Harvest Festival, a day of celebration, work in the garden, tasty seasonal lunch, and finally music and dancing!

At the festival we will all work together to ready the land for a new garden. If you haven't had a chance to get your hands dirty recently, I highly recommend it, as Malaika pointed out in her recent blog post, working in the dirt increases the mood. A poem by Marge Piercy sums up the deep joy that comes from the type of work we'll be doing on Saturday: 

To Be Of Use by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real. 

We will also be feasting on delicious seasonal foods, fiddling on our instruments, stomping our boots all around the dance floor, indulging in dessert decadence and generally making merry. I don't think any poetic explanation is needed for why you should come partake in those... Hope to see you on Saturday! 

by Grace Oedel, community intern - September 22, 2010

This past week students, teachers, and a couple of lucky interns traveled around California exploring food systems in depth. Students have been studying all the threads that make up the complex web of food: the process of farming and its environmental ramifications, the treatment of people who grow food, the viability of different models of farms, the way schools educate children about food and nutrition, and the possibilities for a sustainable and secure food future.

The trip started off with a bang in Nevada City where Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth ( gave a talk about her new book, meat consumption, health, and how to build up soil while grazing animals instead of depleting topsoil with monoculture industrial agriculture.

The next morning commenced on our very own campus with a tour by Malaika, our fantastic garden manager (and mother to a three week old baby) and one of the founders of The People's Grocery. (Check them out at Next we headed up the hill to talk to Jerome, our resident dairy farmer and provider of raw milk who told us about grazing cattle sustainably.

Over the week we saw so much: small organic chicken farms (, amazing elementary garden programs, high school garden programs that employ students during the school day and afterwards, giving them meaningful, enriching work and a rich outdoor classroom. We visited Hayward Community Garden, a space that uses P.G.&E. land under power lines to grow over five acres of food. Many of the people who have plots in the garden come from all over the world and grow their plants with techniques most of us had never seen before: huge cacti abundantly blooming next to scallions from Afghanistan that look like common grass and relied on flood-irrigation.

We munched on grapes and juicy strawberries as we toured the warehouse of Veritable Vegetable, ( one of the first distributors of organic produce. They also have a history of providing women with opportunities in the workplace and offered an interesting look into the distribution side of both local and international agriculture. 

One night we visited the Berkeley farmer's market, where students bought fresh ingredients and competed in an Iron-Chef challenge that resulted in a most tasty of dinners. Another night we feasted at the Davis farmer's market (, where we were entertained by a huge marching band performance. We ended that night with a dance party in front of the rock band that plays there weekly. (Those people seriously know how to have a farmer's market....)

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center ( was an amazingly beautiful stop where we munched a quick lunch as we toured their large and colorful perennial gardens, vegetable garden space, the yurts in which interns live, and the cottage they just built as an experiment with natural building materials like cob and hay bales.

Looking through another lens into the world of food, we traveled to UC Davis and received an extremely interesting presentation on biotechnology and genetic modification of seeds, and how their seed lab sees GMO crops as the one truly viable way of feeding the ever-growing world population (read about them at While on campus we walked through the beef barn and learned about large-scale beef and dairy production, and also spoke to scientists and farmers who were studying the difference between using antibiotics on cattle and natural treatments such as garlic oil. We also visited their on-campus organic farm ( and had a lively discussion with the garden manager about what the word "organic" means as opposed to what we would like it to mean.

While at Davis we also walked through the Meat Lab ( where slaughter takes place and meat is sold. We saw machinery, walked through the whole process, and were able to ask many questions of our teacher.

We ended the trip with a tour of Full Belly Farm (, a family-run three hundred acre organic farm that has a CSA program, supplies Whole Foods and other grocery stores, and even has summer camps. We loved tasting almonds and figs right off their trees!

The week was a jam-packed, phenomenal trip, and now that students are back at school they are reflecting in class about what they learned. Hopefully over this week some of their responses will be up for you all to read!

by Grace Oedel, Community Intern - September 19, 2010

Petrified opossum found under the cedar house...

The mama and baby wild turkeys crossing the bridge.

Loose cow attacking the wisteria!

by Grace Oedel, Community Intern - September 8, 2010

It’s that amazing period of time at the end of hot summer in the Sierras when the blackberries drip off the branches, tomatoes pull down the vines, and strawberries send runners all over their beds.

In the thick of the harvest season, we’ve been thinking here about what it means to be truly sustainable and wanting to challenge ourselves to as an institution to take our sustainability to the next level. We grow much of our own food, but it turns out that feeding forty people three times a day necessitates quite a bit of food-- especially when half those people are seventeen year olds.

So instead of letting our need for enough pb&js stray from our goal of sustaining ourselves, we’ve decided to undertake the project of preserving as much of the bounty here as possible, in the form of jams, frozen veggies, jars of pesto, apple butter....

As I write this I sit by a large pot of blackberries burbling into jam and syrup on the stove, waiting for the jam to get hot and thick enough for me to pour into glass jars to can. Stirring the pot, I keep wondering: how much of our own food can we harvest and preserve if we work on it daily? Could we sustain ourselves for the whole winter? The whole year? Most importantly, what flavor of jam will be the tastiest in February: strawberry rhubarb lime or vanilla blackberry?

In an age when companies recall peanut butter due to salmonella scares, I feel lucky to be learning more about how to take advantage of what is growing around me, and empowered to actually know how. Lots of other folks know a lot more than I do, so if you’re interested in canning or preserving some jam yourself, here are some awesome sites to check out:

The recipe I’ve been using makes about eight quarts of jam. Feel free to scale this down for more normal proportions. (Many folks make fantastic jams with just a 1:1 berry to sugar ratio and nothing else, if you’re a purist.)

  • 36 cups of blackberries
  • 10 cups of sugar
  • juice from 2 lemons

Directions: Mash up the blackberries in a huge pot. Cook over medium heat, thickening and reducing the berry mash. Add in lemon juice. Bring to a low boil, then add the sugar. Stir constantly and continue to thicken. Finally bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down for at least a minute. Then you’re ready to pour into cans for preserving, or just put it in the fridge to eat soon.

We’ve made about twenty quarts thus far, with buckets full of berries still waiting in the fridge…. We’ll see how many batches we make before all of our hands are permanently purple!

by Grace Oedel, community intern - September 6, 2010

On Friday nights, why not get dressed up-- however you want to interpret that-- and learn how to make some challah?