Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, January 12, 2013

MVNews this week:  Page 12



 Mountain Views News Saturday, January 12, 2013 

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes and gardens and the people who create them Story by Chris Bertrand 

Local high school 
students at John Muir 
High School in Central 
Pasadena have the 
opportunity for a real 
hands on and real world 
experience right onsite 
at their high school.

According to the 
Pasadena Unified 
School District website, “Since summer 2011, a 
team of volunteer teachers and students has been 
converting 2 acres of the John Muir HS campus 
into an urban farm. Any student of Muir can 
participate in hands-on learning at the Ranch and 
receive community service/internship hours. The 
mission of Muir Ranch CSA is to teach the students 
important business and life skills, help financially 
support the Muir Ranch teaching program, and 
provide Northeast Los Angeles communities with 
access to fresh, affordable, locally-grown produce. 
The vision is for the Ranch to be integrated into 
every discipline taught at Muir High School, 
including science, math, English, art, and 
environmental studies.”

“We started with six rows in 2011,” said Erika 
Redke, the Muir Ranch manager, “and by next 
spring we will be growing food and flowers on 75 
% of our two acre field. An important element for 
the program at John Muir has been to launch the 
CSA as a way to fund internships in the summers, 
as a farm business where selling the produce 
helps pay the students, as well as giving them 
community service credits.

In a neighborhood where 78% of the students live 
at or below the poverty level, the opportunity to 
really make an impact on students in health, career 
choices, as well as applying real to school subjects 
like math and science was great. “The mission 
of Muir Ranch is to teach students important 
business and life skills and provide them with 
meaningful employment and improve access to 
fresh, affordable and locally grown produce for the 
community,” commented PUSD Superintendent 
Jon R. Gundry.

A CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture 
program like the one started at John Muir High 
School, benefits each community in several ways. 
“Over the last 20 years, Community Supported 
Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for 
consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly 
from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a 
certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically 
the share consists of a box of vegetables, but 
other farm products may be included. Interested 
consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” 
or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box 
(bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week 
throughout the farming season,” per the CSA 

In addition to gourmet items like Cherokee purple 
heirloom tomatoes, each weekly box will include 
a lot of staples like carrots onions, potatoes and 
greens, according to Redke, as well as one or 
two less familiar items like leeks, to expand the 
exposure and palate of subscription members. 
Recipes including the week’s vegetables are also 
available online.

Various other local farmers in the Muir Ranch 
CSA program are contracted to round out the 
Muir Ranch bounty for a wide and varied weekly 
produce package for subscription members. A full 
share subscription is intended to feed 4-6 people 
for a cost of $25 per week, payable monthly by 
check or cash, though plans are in the works to 
accept credit card purchases in the future. A “half 
share” is intended to feed 1-3 people. 

Several locations are available for easy pickup on 
Monday or Thursday afternoons, including PUSD 
District headquarters, Pasadena City Hall, John 
Muir High School. An East Pasadena location is 
planned soon, probably in the spring. 

Students growing food in the program learn much 
more than how to use a shovel. “The classes also 
work to separate the produce, learning when a 
tomato is too soft and when it is perfect,” according 
to Redke. “They get familiar with what good 
produce looks like. We are also able to help other 
area school gardens, by giving away materials like 
seeds and soil.”

Another avenue of revenue and reward is selling 
the flowers raised at Muir Ranch for events. “We 
have provided flowers like David Austen roses, 
dahlias and ranunculus, as well as the secondary 
arrangement flowers for events like Bar Mitzvahs 
and fundraisers,” said Redke proudly.

Five CSA program students were also employed 
last summer to work on the irrigation at Muir 
Ranch, at Pasadena High School and other 
locations, according to Redke, funded by 
Pasadena Water and Power (PWP) the PUSD 
facilities department, with the help and direction 
of Facilities Supervisor, Shirly Barrett, also a Muir 
Ranch supporter. 

Some of the students were even kept on through 
the school year to use their new irrigation skills at 
PUSD sites, as well as being able to maintain the 
Muir Ranch irrigation system. 

Volunteers like Doss Jones, a who began the 
gardening program years back, and Mud Baron, 
a Muir alumni, both Master Gardeners, are key to 
the program’s success.

All the volunteer adult staff are avid and 
experienced gardeners, and most are “Master 
Gardeners”, a designation available through the 
UC Cooperative Extension program. The sixteen 
week Master Gardener program will be held onsite 
at Muir Ranch beginning in February, a boon for 
interested local gardeners, since it will be closer 
for Pasadena area residents. 

Challenges always occur, and the Muir Ranch 
CSA isn’t immune. “The greatest challenge is to 
run a business out of a school,” chuckled Redke. 
“To run a farm is hard. To run a farm as a business 
is even harder. To add running it out of a school is 
even a greater challenge.”

Liability parameters and myriad regulations 
need to be followed to comply with the academic 
environment. “We can’t just pop a student in the 
car and run an errand,” said, Redke, due to liability 
constraints, for example. Another is that when 
the class period is over, the students must leave 
for their next period, whether the needed work 
is complete or not. The challenges, however, are 
miniscule compared with the rewards, according 
to Redke. 

“My greatest reward,” reflected Redke, “is to see 
the change in our students as they get engaged. 
Many of them are not used to getting their hands 
dirty. They’re not used to seeing how plants 
grow. It’s amazing to see them get excited about 
vegetables… get excited about grabbing a shovel. I 
see that it is genuine.” 

While John Muir students are learning so much 
about growing food, healthy eating and the 
science and process of it all, as well as the business 
aspect of it, the students really grown into and 
enjoy being outside, and the satisfaction of seeing 
the results of their labors, according to Redke. 
“It’s also really important and rewarding for to see 
that are really having fun,” so that it is more likely 
the experiences and choices here will last them a 
lifetime if they enjoy what they are doing.

Redke made particular note of the CSA’s 
appreciation of support from the Pasadena 
Education Foundation, “especially with the 
financial, banking and marketing needs of the 
program. As our fiscal agent, their help has been 

For more information, or to sign up for your 
weekly share of fresh gown vegetables, visit www. 

If you have an interesting topic for “One of a 
Kind” please send the information to C.Bertrand@ today!




Saturday, January 12

10am–1 pm

Palm Room

Jill Morganelli, Instructor

$25 Arboretum members / $30 non-members (includes Garden admission)

Join Jill Morganelli, the curator of the Arboretum’s Victorian Rose Garden, for a workshop about 
rose pruning and rose care. January is a big month for roses; proper pruning and soil building will 
determine the health and beauty of roses throughout the year. Jill will demonstrate all the techniques 
for pruning a variety of different types of roses, lead a discussion on disease control and soil building, 
and teach you how to nurture perfect roses!

At 10am, come to the Palm Room for a very informative (i.e. essential!) talk, and then walk to the 
Rose Garden for a demonstration and question/answer session…Bring water and a hat.

Most of us don’t have the resources - or the guts - to own stocks in really large quantities. 
That’s what makes your home such great “risk capital.” It’s not the stock market, and you 
shouldn’t look at buying a home as a way to get rich, but if the economy picks up, real estate 
values will eventually follow. Building equity in your home is like linking your investment 
portfolio to the growth of the economy - without the sleepless nights.

Plus, it’s like forced savings for you and your family. Maybe you could rent a condo for 
$1,800 per month instead of buy one for $2,200, but would you really “save” that $400 a 
month for the future? The part of your mortgage payment that goes toward principle is like 
paying yourself back in equity - instead of burning that money on rent. 

And the interest you’re paying on your loan, along with your property taxes, is tax deductible 
and probably enough to allow you to itemize tons of other deductions from an income 
as well. For many people, just these tax breaks alone make owning cost less than renting.

Usually, you can buy a much better home than you can rent, and with high inventories 
and low interest rates, now is the time to contact your agent and start saving for the future, 

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