WATSONVILLE — Deep in the verdant recesses of Watsonville’s farm country lies Live Earth Farm, a business that takes organic fruits and vegetables to farmers markets and customers, but more importantly, into the classroom.
And most of the time, that classroom is right on their farm.
In 2017, Farm Discovery at Live Earth hosted some 2,800 young people — from toddlers to college students — who came to get hands-on lessons in how their food gets to their plates.
The organization offers day visits for school groups, summer camps for all ages and several events throughout the year.
A registered nonprofit, Farm Discovery’s manifold goals include showing students how to make wise food choices, how to find and grow nutritious food, and how those choices affect themselves and the earth.
Some students, for example, might participate in the “Belly Flower Club,” for which they lie on their bellies and take a detailed look at a flower. Younger students sometimes take a walk through a grove of lemon trees, taking note of the sights, sounds and smells they encounter.
“We believe that food, farming, nature and the economy are really intertwined and connected, and there are health issues with all of them,” said Farm Discovery Executive Director Jessica Ridgeway. “And we can improve it all right here.”
Farm Discovery’s educational endeavors are funded entirely through donations. Last year, the organization logged more than $11,000 in donations, a $4,000 increase from the previous year.
Ridgeway attributed the success to a renewed focus of donation requests.
That money goes directly into educational programs and allows the farm to host more young people, she said.
A $1,000 donation, Ridgeway said, allows the organization to invite four classes for a trip that includes busses.
Donations also go to scholarships that allow low-income young people to attend, and fund community educational events such as the spring Sheep to Shawl fiber festival.
“It’s liberating,” she said. “It feels that instead of taking baby steps we can do something bigger.”