552EcoFarm Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary, January 2010. Photo by Sarah Rabkin.

This oral history series is by far the largest and most complex endeavor undertaken by our office, and would never have come to fruition without the support of an extraordinarily effective team of colleagues. As director of the Regional History office and project manager, I most especially want to thank my visionary and gracious supervisor, Christine Bunting, Head of Special Collections and Archives at the UCSC Library, who not only understood the importance of documenting the history of sustainable agriculture, but trusted us to bring this large and complex project to completion. I would also like to thank University Librarian Ginny Steel for valuing oral history as part of library collections. Connie Croker, Cindy Firenzi, Suzanne Flanders, and Jackie Russo steered this project through the choppy and sometimes bewildering seas of the University’s financial bureaucracy; their equanimity and skill were crucial to our success. Janet Young, cataloger for Special Collections and Archives, and Belinda Egan of Digital Initiatives also worked hard behind the scenes, cheerfully cataloging  and helping make this material available in both digital and print formats. Debbie Murphy provided steady guidance in mounting this project on the library's website.

All of the narrators generously took time away from their farms and organizations to share their life stories and review the transcripts of their interviews; we cannot thank them enough. Farmers and activists are some of the busiest folks in the world! We also want to acknowledge the many other farmers, activists, researchers, and educators whom we were unable to interview, but whose labors nourish and galvanize this movement. We hope this project is only the first of many oral histories of this kind.

Project interviewers Sarah Rabkin and Ellen Farmer brought imagination, intelligence, skilled interviewing, and knowledge of the sustainable agriculture movement to this endeavor. As colleagues, they were each a complete pleasure to work with. Their involvement extended beyond the individual interviews to project conceptualization, planning, and general outreach. This collection represents the synergy of our three minds. Additionally, we were fortunate to be able to hire Sarah Rabkin as an editor in the final phase of this project. Rabkin’s keen editorial eye did a great deal to ensure the quality of the transcripts and contextualizing materials.

We were privileged to be able to bring in Rebecca Thistlethwaite to conduct interviews in Spanish with ALBA graduates Florentino Collazo, María Luz Reyes, and María Inés Catalán. In addition to bilingual skills and professional relationships with the narrators, Thistlethwaite brought many years of experience with farming, activism, and research to the oral histories she conducted.

Mim Eisenberg of Wordcraft and Wendy Ledger of Vo-Type transcribed nearly all of these interviews. They each worked to meticulous professional standards and were motivated by a deep interest in the subject matter. The Tape Transcription Center transcribed and translated the interviews with Florentino Collazo and María Luz Reyes and María Inés Catalán. Gifted and dedicated student editors Lizzy Gray, Michelle Morton, and Sara Newbold also transcribed and/or proofed some of the interviews.

Tana Butler’s beautiful photos added a strong visual component to the project, and she was a delight to collaborate with.[i] Tana’s dedication to the visual documentation of the organic farming movement in this region is remarkable. Sarah Rabkin and Ellen Farmer also contributed superb photography skills, and many other photographers (credited individually under each photograph) generously contributed images of the people we interviewed.

Several colleagues and friends helped conceptualize the project, develop research questions, or provide contact information. We are especially grateful to Martha Brown, Steve Gliessman, Robbie Jaffe, Lori Klein, Ann Lindsey, Mark Lipson, Sandy Lydon, Laura McClanathan, Bob Scowcroft, Jerry Thomas, and Carol Shennan. De Clarke, Jenny Kurzweil, and Susan Reddington each  read and edited more than one draft of the introduction.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the singular role that the dynamic, educational, and inspirational Ecological Farming Conferences (Eco-Farm) played in shaping these interviews. We hope that this archive of oral histories will be a resource for the diverse community that participates in EcoFarm each year, and to all of us on the planet who are co-inventing a sustainable future.

—Irene Reti, Project Director

[i] See Tana Butler’s blog at