As part of Stanford’s annual Alternative Spring Break Program, a group of undergraduate students organized a winter-quarter course and a complementary weeklong tour of farms in the Monterey Bay area. “Beyond Organic: Down ‘n Dirty with California’s Food System in the Monterey Bay” introduced 13 student participants to the social and cultural issues related to California’s complex food system through readings, lectures, and experiential learning.

After a quarter of following the life cycle of food from farm to fork, students applied their knowledge over spring break as they harvested crops, weeded pastures, and prepared meals with members of nearby agricultural communities. During their regional tour, students developed their understanding of agriculture’s social benefits by participating in the vocational education programs offered by many of the farms they visited.

“Beyond Organic” was one of 17 service-learning courses offered through the Alternative Spring Break Program in 2015.