Plump and zesty tomatoes that burst in your mouth, apricots that leave a sweet lingering taste and basil so fragrant you’ll think you’ve never tasted the real thing can all be found at Muir Ranch, John Muir High School’s urban farm.
Students and volunteers cultivate fruits, veggies and flowers on 1.5-acres behind the school, and offer their fresh produce and friendly faces to the public on a subscription basis. Subscription info can be found below.
The ranch opened last summer and was maintained by four classes of students during the fall and spring semesters at the high school. This summer, about a dozen students are working as paid interns, and the program is expanding its membership services, also known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Part of Muir Ranch’s mission is to create jobs for students and teach skills like business management and sales, but the program also aims to provide affordable produce to the community and promote healthy eating.
“At the end of the day, my kids are learning to grow food and getting a paycheck,” said Mud Baron, Muir Ranch’s Project Director.
Baron was overseeing the grand opening of Muir Ranch's second pick-up site in front of Pasadena Unified School District’s headquarters on Thursday evening. Baron and his team were offering up samples of fresh produce, signing up new members and presenting boxes to subscribers. The first pick-up site is located at Muir Ranch.
Erika Redke, the ranch’s CSA Manager, says that the program helps to build relationships between the student farmers and their customers. “The pick-up sites add a social element,” she said.
Subscribers receive seven to ten different fruits and vegetables in their boxes that were grown at Muir Ranch and at a nearby farm. This “blended” CSA brings greater produce variety and allows the program to support more than one local farm.
Meet the Student Farmers
Michael Johnson, a summer ranch intern who will be a senior at Muir in the fall, is soft-spoken and passionate about his work on the farm. He currently works there seven days a week.
“Most people work five days a week, but a few work six to seven,” he said. Johnson listed more than a few skills he’s picked up since starting the job in June, including being efficient, managing money, managing people and working hard.
Johnson also mentioned that Muir Ranch's produce boxes offer an affordable alternative to the grocery store.
Brandon Betts, an incoming junior at Muir High School, began working at the ranch for school credit in February.
“It was either this or run several laps in P.E.,” said Betts. Betts is now also a paid summer intern and says he enjoys “getting dirty and being outside” while working on the farm. He’s also learned about planting and even had his first encounter with a pluot thanks to working on the farm.
Muir Ranch at the Altadena Farmer’s Market
In addition to the share program, Muir students have also been selling a few vegetables and fresh-cut flowers at local farmer’s markets, including the as well as Pasadena’s and Hollywood’s. Redke said that flower arranging has become surprisingly popular with the students in the program, and for a few it has emerged as a hidden talent.
“The students are really into flower arrangements. They like playing with colors and finding different color schemes,” she said.
How to Sign Up for the Muir Ranch CSA Program
“You can’t write off your grocery bill at Whole Foods,” said Baron, but you can write off half of your CSA memberships. A subscription to the Muir Ranch CSA is 50-percent tax deductible, because of the program’s non-profit status.
If you’re interested in signing up for the CSA program, send an email to:
…and ask for a CSA Membership Agreement form. The subscriptions are available in “full” or “half” shares, include seven to ten different types of fruits and vegetables and are done on a monthly basis. All of the proceeds benefit Muir Ranch’s summer internship program.
Half Share, $60 per month
- Feeds 2-3 people
- $15 per week
Full Share, $100 per month
- Feeds 4-6 people
- $25 per week
Flower Share, $10, $15 or $25 per week based on bouquet size