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. 

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Thanks to the Whole Kids Foundation for the generous grant and to Big Creek Lumber for your donation to the Amesti Eagles' Garden. With the generous support of Life Lab and other community supporters, our students are receiving the gift of hands-on Next Generation Science Standards and learning about healthy eating in a beautiful outdoor classroom!

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Do you ever wonder what is living just below the surface of the San Lorenzo River? Join the Coastal Watershed Council and Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History for tomorrow's Exploring the San Lorenzo River tour and find out!

We will be meeting at 8:30 on the Santa Cruz Riverwalk next to Mike Fox park and will be seining for fish and collecting benthic macroinvertebrates aka bugs! We will learn about the organisms that live in the San Lorenzo River and their food webs. This tour is open to all ages. You can sign up online or by emailing CWC River Scientist Alev Bilginsoy at abilginsoy@coastal-watershed.org. Learn more at coastal-watershed.org/what-we-do/exploring-san-lorenzo-river-series/.
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At a @soilbornfarms school garden conference, in a workshop on trees reminded me of this incredible Radiolab Podcast podcast. Listen to this one. ... See MoreSee Less

Forests feel like a place of great stillness but dig deeper and there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city. 

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LIFE LAB on MAUI! so AnB stopped sugar production on Maui this year, there is tons of land available to lease and they are now taking offers. If farmers or farm educators won't get to it, it will turn into development, there are not enough offers from farmers and we need more, so please pass this on to those that are interested. To speak to An B need to look them up and make an offer. They are taking offers now! ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

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.

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

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.

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

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.