"The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare some serious structural deficiencies in our society, including inequity, the fragility of supply chains, and the magnitude of environmental degradation. I think one of the many messages is the importance of resilient local food systems," warns John Bock, the founding director of CSUF's Center for Sustainability, and catalyst for the installing of a campus garden.
John Bock has long advocated for a garden on the main campus. At a meeting of the Healthier Campus Initiative, interest in the project began. The CSU Chancellor's Office offered Basic Need Initiative mini-grants to establish campus community gardens. Jimmy Alvarado, the CSUF campus nutritionist, and Bock applied for and received a small amount of money to get started. St Jude Medical Center provided additional funding for tools and benches. Capital Programs and Facilities Management and a large group of campus stakeholders were crucial to obtaining approval to establish the garden.
The garden, in the area between the Humanities Building and Gordon Hall, will have accessible raised beds. Each bed will be shepherded by a student organization, service-learning class, department, or some other campus entity for a semester to a year. The Arboretum and U-ACRE will provide compost, seeds, seedlings, and technical support. Programs for students and others in the areas of nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and cooking are planned. "Our groundbreaking was set for Earth Day, but we hope to have it in October, which is national Campus Sustainability Month," says Bock.
A Virtual Earth Day is being organized by Stephanie del Rosario from the Facilities Office of Sustainability along with folks from Parking and Transportation Services and other departments. Bock will present on the history of Earth Week at CSUF.
John Bock became involved in the U-ACRE Project in 2016. Sara Johnson, U-ACRE's director, planned to expand U-ACRE and involve other Hispanic Serving Institutions, including Santa Ana College, Fullerton College, and UC Santa Barbara. Bock became co-PI on a grant to the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) HSI program and co-director of the U-ACRE Project. Since that time, well over fifty students have spent time in U-ACRE conducting community-based research at K-12 schools, non-profits serving the food and housing insecure, and area farms, including the Fullerton Arboretum Learning Farm on campus. Hundreds of service-learning students have been involved.
A second grant from the USDA NIFA HSI program for the Southern California Agroecology and Sustainable Urban Food Systems Research and Education Conference will bring together people working on these issues from across southern California CSUs, UCs, and community colleges. The conference was originally going to be in Spring 2021 but will be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Bock received his Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. He has been researching how people interact with the environment for over thirty years. Between 1990 and 2002, Bock worked in northern Botswana, where he investigated how people allocated household labor in traditional subsistence economies of foraging, fishing, farming, and herding. He spent time looking at the way children learn about subsistence and the environment and examined gender differences in resource allocation across people of all ages as well. "I came to understand how interconnected learning, cultural practices, and the environment were, especially in the way people utilize resources from the environment."
At the same time, Bock became very interested and involved in community resource management. This system was developing where communities manage wildlife and other environmental resources with the joint goals of community development and conservation. All of these issues were heavily impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that was rising in Botswana and across sub-Saharan Africa at that time.
At Cal State Fullerton, Bock brought all of these issues to the study of sustainability in our community as well as across times and places. Since 2011, he has been part of an international interdisciplinary team that has been conducting research, funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, on the nexus between the human impact on the environment, including climate change, and zoonotic transmission of disease in northern Botswana.
“When you get knocked down, you are not alone in picking yourself back up. We are social beings, and we depend on community. Part of that is making the most positive contributions to the community that you can, so others depend on you and you can depend on others.”