Lady bugs are a sign of good luck... and they’re all over Cal State Fullerton’s Arboretum.
Mitsue Escobar is a research assistant on the arboretum’s “farm.” She’s part of a group called U-ACRE, which is Fullerton’s community-based, hands-on research experience.
Escobar, like many of her peers, came to the university without any exposure to agricultural sciences. But after taking an anthropology class and working on the farm, she fell in love with the science of food.
“I was just so interested in something I was never exposed to before, and I was like, ‘Well I’m going to give this a shot and see where it goes,’ and honestly I fell in love with it,” said Escobar.
She’s tilling the land here... preparing to plant romaine. But this group isn’t relying on ladybugs to bring luck to their crops. In fact, science is at the root of their flourishing farm.
There’s sustainability and intent in every seed. The farm doesn’t need pesticides because the crops are rotated in such a manner that each plant has a responsibility.
“We have dill right over here, and this repels aphids. It’s like these tiny little bugs, and that’s why we planted the lettuce next to the dill,” said Escobar.
The arboretum itself is really a wonder in terms of Southern California. It’s a stone’s throw from the 57 freeway, yet you can’t help but feel a sense of peace here. You might not even know these 26 acres are here, and this farm in many ways, is shaping the future organically.
“What we’re doing here connects them to cutting-edge research at the USDA. And different aspects of the USDA. This project is NIFA-funded - National Institute of Food and Agriculture. But we also dovetail with information coming from sustainable agriculture research and education," explained Fullerton Anthropology Professor Sara Johnson.
"So when they look out at who’s going to be the next generation of ag-scientists, they see students coming along who have a skill-set and a passion they’re looking for.”
Exposing the next generation to cutting-edge food science with the hopes that they’ll help sustain this space and the earth.
“It’s just really cool to know these plants, they all have a purpose and they could all work together and make something really great out of it,” said Escobar.
Planting the seeds of success.
This article was originally published April 3, 2019, by Spectrum News.