The Ecology Center is a 28-acre Regenerative Organic Certified farm and community hub in San Juan Capistrano. After working extensively in permaculture and agroecology in California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana, and Nigeria, The Ecology Center's founder Evan Marks returned home to Orange County with a mission to support the community where he grew up.
A veteran of sustainable agriculture, Marks created a utopia of education and nourishment for the community through ecological experiences like berry picking, classes (ranging from Eco Tots for kids to pottery and basket weaving workshops for adults), a robust farm stand, and CSA (community-supported agriculture) program.
He turned the property - a largely abandoned dirt lot containing an old palm tree, citrus tree, and an 1878 farmhouse - into a thriving epicenter of growth and nourishment. A few of their diverse programs include:
The Ecology Center kicked off its culinary residencies with HEARTH, a series of intimate open sky dinners, complete with interactive elements, farm tours, music, and exploration into the intersection of bio-regional cooking and agriculture. The first installment was led by award-winning Chef Tim Byres, who lived on the farm for three months and will include additional chefs in the future.
Partnering with local Title I schools and organizations including the Boys & Girls Club, The Ecology Center connects with children from lower-income backgrounds to learn about farming and food while donating produce and ingredients to their families. The nonprofit has donated 28,000 pounds of food in 2021, including 100 CSA boxes per week, while giving back 20% of what it grows to feed local food-insecure residents. They are scaling their network to include satellite farms throughout Southern California and will be launching a home school extension program his fall with educational workshops ranging from surfboard making to theater.
Applications will open this fall for The Ecology Center’s second annual apprenticeship program, a full-time paid opportunity that invites a crop of eight young adults to rotate through the various roles of the farm and learn about regenerative agriculture in a dynamic way. The inaugural class saw applicants from various industries - cosmetology to tech start-ups to nonprofit donations - looking to learn more about agriculture and change their field of study. For more information, visit theecologycenter.org