The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano Proves that Bees Hang Out in the OC

18394070652_d9b0a240ed_o We devoured these beauties… farm fresh cucumbers, sliced ribbon-thin and tossed as a crispy salad, savored while dining under peach and apple trees, serenaded by giddy bees. This was a Chef’s Lunch in the garden at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

You’re tooling around South Orange County, not ready to get back to the grind. You’d love to stop, exhale, dream, eat wholesome food from that field right over there. You THINK you’re rolling up to just a farm stand, but… what’s that sweet turn-of-the-century farmhouse with colorful graphics and cool gardens hither and yon where BEES frolick? (Bees? I remember those. You don’t see any in Playa Vista. Really, you don’t).

The lovely gem is The Ecology Center. A place that teaches not only where food comes from, but what we can and should do for our planet. You’ve got farm, food, interactive displays, field trips, workshops, events and more.

18210480070_57d5281af1_oThe Ecology Center was founded by Evan Marks (photo below, standing), who works with his lovely MOM, Vicki, here discussing details of Green Feast with chefs and media.


And that was the purpose of the Chef’s Lunch, to hear about this year’s Green Feast, the Ecology Center’s annual fundraiser, September 12, 2015.  200 seats, dining outdoors at loooong white linen’d tables, real dishware, beautiful people. Recipes by 18 regional chefs will feature a long list of products from regional purveyors.

The feast starts with the Eco App Off (appetizers, not apps) 4 to 6 PM, dinner is 6 to 9 PM where attendees dine on what’s local (sourced within 250 miles), seasonal (if it doesn’t grow in September, you won’t see it) and chefs-outdoing-chefs sumptuousness. A live auction happens 8 to 9 PM.  Not sure why I am telling you this because tickets to Green Feast typically sell out within two weeks.  Get ready to pounce early July when tickets go on sale.


On the day of Chef’s Lunch, lovingly catered by Ecology Center Chef Kerri Cacciata (above), I was mentally taken back to an Earlier Me…  starting in college, I became SO attuned to organics, farm practices, ecology. Vegetarian, living by my bible, Diet For A Small Planet. At this Center, the toilet tank was adorned with a graphic image of a brick. I knew exactly what it was saying! In the 70s, my sister Gretchen, and I decided to “help” the planet by putting a good sized boulder in our toilet tank to displace and save water. The heavy, smooth rock got a little wet, slipped out of my hands and broke out the entire bottom of the porcelain tank. A fairly impressive gusher happened. We DID know how to shut off the valve, but our surfer landlord said in no uncertain terms, “Don’t help!”

20150602_120639Back to the center… who doesn’t want to learn such things as Cast Iron and Campfire Cooking? They have a class! Or how about dinner and a movie outdoors in the organic garden?  The Ecology Center is all about education and experiences designed to bend our sensibilities toward doing The Right Thing when it comes to being eco-smart. 

Could I make changes and impact the world today? Most certainly, starting with eating organics. Our Farmer’s Market couldn’t be more convenient – a half block walk from our front door. Gretchen has the real deal – her home orchard has avocados, pomegranates, citrus, berries, beans, nocturnal critters and bees.

For us city folk, places like The Ecology Center are part grocery and part destination. Come! Here, lessons are dished up in simple graphics, user friendly terms and uncomplicated steps. The toilet brick graphic is a perfect example. A non-profit educational center, their mission is to engage the public via workshops, events, field trips, interactive exhibits and training courses that teach practical environmental solutions for the home, workplace and in the community. You can join as a member. You can buy a ticket and experience the Green Feast. But don’t hesitate on that one.


Put a dessert in front of food media and DON’T SCOOP until we take photos!



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Worth The Whisk June 9, 2015 at 11:15 am

Oh Greg, how very lucky you are!

2 Sippitysup June 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

I have a feral beehive in my backyard! I know my neighbors aren’t thrilled with it (but I bet their fruit trees are!). Anyway, I know how much trouble the bees are having so I can’t bring myself to get rid of my bees. GREG

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