The Ecology Center


I’ve known about The Ecology Center for a number of years now, but never stopped by to visit. It’s right next door to one of my favorite veggie/fruit stands–South Coast Farms (all organic!). It was founded in 2008, when the city of San Juan Capistrano decided to convert the city’s oldest historic farmhouse into a community educational facility.




Today, the center is a hub of activities that promote responsible, sustainable living–even in the middle of a suburban community. Of course, they have chickens, and a display on how to raise your own.


And massive vegetable gardens, including raised beds, worm bins and extensive composting operations.



The property is also planted with all types of fruit trees, flowers and native plants.



There are all sorts of projects going on, including this aquaponics system that uses plants to filter water.


If you are a home gardener, it is to fun to see all the different types of vegetables they are growing here year round, and the friendly volunteers are happy to share their green-thumb secrets.

I can wander around a place like this for hours, checking out the different plants (like this fennel) and on-going projects. The center has classes and special workshops going on all the time, everything from crafts, backyard skills and tours to eco summer camps for kids, yoga classes and communal farm-t0-table feasts. They also host a summer film series.



They had tomatoes, okra, cabbage and basil all thriving in this raised bed.


Jack’s beans were starting to climb.



This multi-faceted shelter had some displays inside, and also served as a toasty greenhouse for seedlings.



And if you are the type of person who enjoys the gift shop as much as the museum, you will love their shop, called Tools for Change. It is loaded with great DIY backyard farming books–on raising bees to making compost–and other specialty farming and sustainable living implements.



My friend Jill found a nifty sippy lid that snaps onto a Ball canning jar (for her sister’s grandson), and I bought some fertilizer for my tomatoes, some vegetable seeds (swiss chard and a salad blend) and some natural sunscreen.



This is a large side yard where The Ecology Center hosts its communal farm-to-table feasts, called Community Table. They have two 100-foot-long tables and everyone revels in fresh produce and the latest creations of local chefs. They are held monthly on Sundays, and other special occasions.



The more you learn about his place, the better is seems. But I could have been oblivious to all its inspiring programs and still had a great time wandering around admiring the bounty of the land.

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