Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Audries Blake

Audries BlakeI am excited to be a part of Life Lab, its mission and values, especially, knowing the organization's life-changing work reaches so many. And, I love the fact that I will be able to introduce others to the many inspiring ways they can partner with us so we can change many more lives.

Thinking back on my own experiences with the land, I see my family with me at pivotal times: Camping with my family in Yosemite when very small; creating epic stories while playing in the redwoods of Big Basin, Nisene Marks, or making weekly trips to Point Lobos to be the two-legged squirrels munching snacks, or the thrill of tide pools or hermit crabs. Being in nature calls me, and I find Life Lab encouraging that within me as well.

When I moved from Berkeley to Santa Cruz with my family, we initially lived in a home that had a large plot of land framed with numerous fruit trees on it – apple, orange, fig and persimmon – as well as berry bushes. I was fascinated with the orange and apple trees, but found the fig and persimmon trees messy, the fruit unappealing, and not something I wanted to familiarize myself with at all! As a little girl, eating what I knew was alright. The foreign stuff made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to even give it a try.

The vegetable and flower that were there is where I learned about gardening, a fascination that increased over the years. I loved the smell of the freshly turned earth and the texture of the dirt between my fingers. I appreciated the instant gratification that often came with prepping, planting, watering, weeding, and of course, harvesting the goods.

More than anything, growing food and flowers offered me an opportunity to share the rewards with others, until the harvest of squash was overwhelming and people would see me coming and run! I learned to find natural ways to discourage the varmints snatching my food, not interested in using chemicals. Gardening slowed me down, gave me a sense of a job well done, offered serenity.

I recall how food changed for me when my family moved to Santa Cruz: fruits and vegetables rarely came from a can any longer. Going to the garden to pick the corn (or the green beans, swiss chard…) and plop it into the boiling water became a game that soon dulled, and was taken for granted.

My idyllic life in Santa Cruz had limitations however. I wasn’t truly aware of that fact until I moved to Chicago. I had many assumptions on why people did what they did, not fully comprehending that choice is not always an option when it comes to accessing healthy food, among many other things. Up until that time, access to food never crossed my mind, as I assumed that it was common to go to the grocery store, rifle through the fresh foods and choose the ‘right one’.

My time in the Midwest opened my eyes, and heart, to the tremendous needs of so many in our society. Seeing the bleak reality of too many communities filled with convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, and few, if any grocery stores within walking distance motivated me to address healthy food access by volunteering while there and motivates me now to provide nourishing food in Santa Cruz.

The delightful irony of coming to Life Lab can be found in my exploring palate. Persimmons are now an obsession, as is kale. And there’s great delight in my being back in the garden. I find myself lost in the beauty of spider webs instead of getting to the office, or taking the time to get out, slow down and simply be grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I hope I will get a chance to meet you here in the garden. Come on by, slow down, and I believe you, too, will grow to appreciate the simplicity and beauty that welcomes you. 

View all staff.

follow us on Facebook

Teaching a Growing Classroom Workshop at @OakSpringGardenFoundation in collaboration with I feel like I’ve fallen into a small French village. This is the former estate of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in Virginia. Mrs. Mellon was an avid horticulturalist who designed the White House Rose Garden! I am staying in the room where Jackie Kennedy stayed when she visited here!! Sharing a weekend in this space with teachers who love kids and gardens is a truly unforgettable experience. ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Just when I thought we’d seen it all ... this is an agrophotovoltaic school garden underneath massive solar panels at @Manzo.Ecology in Tucson. The elementary school students here gather and analyze data on how the shade from the panels helps the plants grow and how the plants help cool the panels and increase their efficiency. What?!?! It’s amazing and gives me hope. Oh, and also they have a desert tortoise in their courtyard. ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program at their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

What happens when Whole Kids Foundation partners with you to bring 50+ leaders from School Garden Support Organizations from across the country together to get to talk shop, inspire each other, problem-solve around shared challenges, and eat amazing food prepared and served by happy 5th graders? MAGIC. That's what happens. #sgso2018 ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.


#beapartofit, #startingstrong, #changinglives, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
#beapartofit, #changinglives, #optoutside, #gardenbasededucation, #happynewyear
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Watch us on Youtube

View Life Lab Channel

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom