Pesticide-Free Soil Project

What is the Pesticide-Free Soil Project?

The Pesticide-Free Soil Project was born out of EFC’s Environmental Justice Learning and Action Project (EJLAP) which focuses on ways young people can learn about environmental justice, not only through focused workshops and research but by participating directly in community events to address social justice issues.

What’s New with the PFSP?

This August, the PFSP interns and staff participated in a field week learning about environmental justice. They spent each morning at a local park exploring topics that included land access, racialization, economic relationships, pesticides, and case studies of environmental injustice. Each afternoon, they traveled to field sites throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to see working examples of alternative relationships to land and community being modeled by local businesses, community groups, and nonprofits. PFSP Summer Update 2021

Background on PFSP

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., greeting Encampers.
Compost tea party.
In 2019, the Ventura County Pesticide-Free Soil Project (PFSP) evolved from a collaboration with EFC alums, local schools and community-based organizations shining a light on the issue of pesticide-use at school sites and its impact on people in the surrounding neighborhoods.

In 2019, the Ventura County Pesticide-Free Soil Project (PFSP) evolved from a collaboration with EFC alums, local schools and community-based organizations shining a light on the issue of pesticide-use at school sites and its impact on people in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Based on the PFSP’s successes, we are focusing on building leadership among youth in Ventura County, including some from farmworker families, to address pesticide use and other issues, using the six-month action plan program to support their efforts.

A core of local EFC alums plus 2020 Encampers are engaged in more training and organizing experience in conjunction with our organizational partners: Pesticide Action Network (PAN), Californians for Pesticide Reform, the Abundant Table, El Rio School District, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), the Public Health Institute, and the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).

PFSP’s “Compost Tea Parties” started the process of creating the first – and second – pesticide-free schools on the Oxnard Plain, which immediately helped improve soil and air quality for the surrounding community. That area has one of the highest pollution levels in the state, due to pesticide use. Several off-shoots, including an online nature-based climate solutions curriculum project and the “Heal the Earth” initiative, launched by third graders, are also the result of the PFSP initiative.

Due to COVID-19, the EFC pivoted to make the summer intensive virtual and activities in Ventura County safe for the young people and the other community members.

Under the leadership of Florencia Ramirez, PFSP Director, the PFSP continued during the spring and summer of 2020. PFSP responded particularly to COVID-19 by working with projects and initiatives addressing food insecurity, pesticides, farmworker health and policy work on the use of pesticides in Ventura County and throughout the state of California.

We have a stipended year-round internship program, under the direction of Juna Rosales Muller. We work with recent EFC alums from Ventura County to provide them with hands-on experience in organizing, engaging other youth, and deepening and expanding their leadership skills. These young people are often working two to three jobs, in addition to attending high school or college, and COVID-19 means layoffs for even those low-paying positions. Being able to offer stipends ensures that the young people have the support to work on the issues that affect their lives.

  • This year the interns trained in regenerative agriculture and organic farming at The Abundant Table. Specifics include carrying out farm-based activities, such as working with plants, produce, tools, soil, seeds and irrigation; participating in training sessions onsite, such as lectures, demonstrations and workshops; and interacting with Abundant Table members and partner organizations, such as the Rodale Institute (socially distant, outdoors, masks on.)
  • They also worked on the ARC project of the Public Health Institute, collaborating with ARC staff on a survey of South Oxnard parks in predominantly farmworker neighborhoods to understand the quality and conditions. The PFSP interns live in these communities. This mobilizing effort is in concert with a larger ARC focus on heat illness prevention for farmworkers in light of a changing climate, which includes looking at shade access in parks within primarily farmworker neighborhoods. PFSP interns recently presented some of their findings and recommendations to the city of Oxnard parks commission where they proposed a city-wide policy change to improve parks in low-income farmworker areas.
  • They developed a social media environmental justice social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook with a growing following. They used what they were learning as a springboard to discuss concepts such as climate change, carbon sequestration, soil health, human health, farmworker health, pesticide use and water scarcity, as well as illuminating a path forward.
  • They were featured in a 15-minute video giving an overview of the PFSP project as part of the 2021 Santa Barbara Virtual Earth Day.
  • This August, the PFSP interns and staff participated in a field week learning about environmental justice. They spent each morning at a local park exploring topics that included land access, racialization, economic relationships, pesticides, and case studies of environmental injustice. Each afternoon, they traveled to field sites throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to see working examples of alternative relationships to land and community being modeled by local businesses, community groups, and nonprofits. PFSP Summer Update 2021
  • The PFSP continues to organize with district teachers and their students to ask the School Board to formalize the pesticide-free landscape policy as the official district-wide policy.
  • When COVID-safe, we will resume the Compost Tea Parties — aiming for at least two this year.

 

The Compost Tea Parties led to a broad-based coalition of the El Rio School District, teachers, parents, students and local community organizations that are now engaged in addressing the issues of pesticides, carbon sequestration and health conditions of farm workers.

Events

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., greeting Encampers.
SJIA Zoom Series.

The Other Strawberry Festival: Stories of People, Land and Resistance, was a virtual gathering about food system justice, on Sunday, May 23, 2021, hosted by the Pesticide-Free Soil Project and the MICOP Tequio Youth Group, and The Abundant Table. Read more about the event.

Art and Poetry Contest

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., greeting Encampers.
Click below to view Art and Poetry Contest Winners.
As part of the Other Strawberry Festival, we invited poets and artists 22 years of age and younger to submit works of poetry and visual art.

Young poets and artists were asked to respond to either or both of these questions in their creative works:

  • What are your or your family’s stories of food system injustice and resistance?
  • What do you see when you imagine a future with a more just food system? 

Winners received prizes from Patagonia, a financial sponsor of the Pesticide-Free Soil Project.

Click here to see the winning entries!

EFC’s Pesticide-Free Soil Project intern Moncerrat (with Sarahi) tells us about what they are observing in one pumpkin, part of a larger experiment in regenerative agriculture at the Abundant Table, an organic farm in Camarillo.

Lilia speaks about the connection between soil health, individual health, and community health. Lilia participated in the 2020 EFC virtual summer program and now is an intern with PFSP.

SNAPSHOTS

Eleanor Roosevelt with 1946 Encampers

Click to watch interview on Instagram.

Yesenia, one of our Pesticide-Free Soil Project interns, explains why she cares about pesticide-free soil in this Instagram post. She’s coming to you from the Rodale Institute no-till pumpkin patch at the Abundant Table in Camarillo, CA.

Follow PFSP on Instagram

Check out our Instagram account for news and events.

During the first month, I learned about different food systems and regenerative agriculture …

… as well as the negative health and environmental impacts of conventional farming as opposed to organic farming. I’ve learned a lot about the negative impact that COVID-19 has made on farmworker communities and the health inequities that these communities have to endure.

Sarahi

2019 EFC alum and 2019-20 PFSP intern, Oxnard, CA

We are strengthening democracy by creating community.