Sustainable Living Center Programs

Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA), an academic program of the Environmental Studies Department, is an experiential living/learning program at UCSC. Students use agroecology principles in the maintenance of a half-acre organic garden, work together to develop community projects, and share in the many aspects of sustainable living—by harvesting, cooking, and eating healthy food grown organically right next to their rooms. Through a unique collaboration that integrates classroom instruction and community-based experience, PICA has become a model experiential learning program that allows students to practice sustainability at a hands-on level. All UCSC students are invited to come and participate in PICA activities such as sustainability workshops and garden workdays. For further information, please visit the PICA website.

On-campus living at PICA. The PICA residential program offers students an alternative to traditional on-campus living. At the Village in the Lower Quarry, students from across academic disciplines come together to create a sustainable living environment on campus. PICA residents grow organic food at the nearby Foundational Roots Garden, come together to share in weekly community meals, and manage a Village-wide composting program. This living/learning experience allows students a way to link healthy communities with healthy food systems.

Friends of CAN (FoCAN) is a UCSC student organization affiliated with the Community Agroecology Network (CAN), a nonprofit organization that works with partner communities in rural Mexico and Central America to develop self-sufficiency and sustainable farming practices. CAN promotes integrated approaches to sustainable community development as a means to sustain rural livelihoods and environments through three programs: Action Education, Trade Innovations, and Action Research Initiatives. CAN’s Field Study offers opportunities, intercultural exchanges, research, and the annual Agroecology Shortcourse, which inspire action for environmental sustainability and social justice.

Field Studies. The CAN Field Study program provides college students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and learn in rural Mexico and Central America. It offers students a realistic first step in doing international work that focuses on environmental sustainability and social justice. In developing close relationships with a rural community and working with them on a project, students come to understand the complexity and satisfaction of engaging meaningfully in international community development. CAN also offers local internship and volunteer opportunities to students interested in engaging with community projects connected to CAN’s international partners in Mexico and Central America.

Together PICA and FoCAN facilitate hands-on learning activities that engage students with all aspects of a sustainable food system—from growing organic food that supports local communities to conscious consumerism on a global level.