Each year, Bon Appétit Management Company makes a holiday donation in our clients’ names to a non-profit dedicated to sustainable food systems.
In 2017, the donation was presented to the University of California – Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, or CASFS for short, which at the time was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Unbeknownst to us then, CheFarmer Matthew Raiford, who we’re spotlighting during this year’s Black History Month, had graduated from the program, using the knowledge he gained to steward his great-great-great grandfather’s farm in coastal Georgia.
CASFS is an influential institution with broad reach in teaching about sustainable agriculture, and since its inception has advanced agroecology and equitable food systems through experiential education, participatory research, and much more. CASFS also runs an apprenticeship for ecological horticulture, which entails six months of experiential study, preparing participants to operate a farm of their own one day.
The Bon Appetit team knew first-hand about the impact of the CASFS program as several past organizations that had been holiday gift recipients were led by CASFS grads and a few of our Farm to Fork vendors are alums. In addition, CASFS apprenticeship graduate Vera Chang served as a Bon Appétit Fellow for three years, doing research on new sustainability policies and programs, and helping to facilitate sustainability efforts at Bon Appétit accounts up and down the west coast.
Despite the breadth of graduates’ work success, CASFS identified a worrying barrier to entry into the program for BIPOC and other marginalized folks. Because the six month apprenticeship was unpaid, the program was often inaccessible to anyone who couldn’t live off savings for that period of time.
To help remedy this barrier to access, Bon Appétit, along with other business sponsors, helped fund a social justice and equity scholarship program for BIPOC applicants. This support had a transformative impact, helping new graduates learn skills that they could bring with them back to their home state. Here is a sampling of the all-star line-up of farmers, landscape architects, community hunger-fighters, and activists of color who have completed the program.
This Black History Month, as we celebrate and amplify the voices of Black people in the United States, we also want to call attention to critically important programs like the CASFS apprenticeship, which do so much to offer onramps to farming, cultural foodways, and land justice for BIPOC folks.