When siblings Paula and Mark Allen received their undergraduate degrees in social science, neither of them ever expected work with cows and chickens.
Paula had two passions when she entered UC Santa Cruz, marine biology and history. She eventually went on to pursue her undergraduate degree in history. She took every class the program had to offer and formed meaningful relationships with her professors. During her senior year, she was enrolled in three seminars, which she viewed as opportunities to converse and connect with professors.
“The relationship that I developed with the professors and how passionate and engaging they were on their own topic was the best part of the program,” she said.
Mark’s undying interest in social problems led him to pursue a degree in anthropology. He viewed it as something that would be academic, but could also have a tangible effect on the quality of life that people experience. He found one of the strengths of the anthropology program was the professors, and that they were all very knowledgeable and passionate about their field.
“UC Santa Cruz does a pretty good job of allowing their anthropology department to approach things in new angles,” he said.
However, upon graduating, both Paula and Mark found it difficult to find professional careers in their fields. Paula took a year off after graduating with her undergraduate degree in 2003, and then went on to receive a master’s degree in museum studies. She found a part-time job at a local history museum, but due to budget constraints, was recently asked to reduce her work schedule from 20 to four hours a week. Mark recently finished his last classes in the spring and has been considering what to do next.
“Ultimately it comes down to the idea that we look at our employment options with our degrees,” Mark said.
“Or lack of,” Paula chimed in with a laugh.
So what have the brother and sister duo decided to do? They plan to start a farm.
“We want to raise chickens, grass-fed cows, dairy goat or meat goat, dairy cows, honeybees,” Paula said.
The idea is simple: Live a more sustainable lifestyle by making more of an effort to do the work yourself. Inspired in part by their uncle’s farm in Colorado, the Allens want to create an established garden and maintain livestock in a setting where they are responsible for processing and creating as much as they can.
“[We want to] break away from the broken model and pursue the kind of life that we were taught to find after we graduate,” Mark said.
“I would like to go back to a model to be as self-sufficient as possible,” Paula added.
Ultimately, the Allens would like to pay it forward by providing food at affordable prices for the community, as well as inform and educate those in the urban community about rural living.
“I would like to have a personal connection, not only as an educator, but bridging that gap between urban and rural experience,” Paula said.