The Ecology Center



At Thrive & Dine we focus on giving our readers information on where to find healthy and organic restaurants and food in our community. Our mission includes seeking meals and recipes that come from ingredients that are friendly to the environment and a great place to have both of those goals come together is at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

The Ecology Center is a non-profit educational center that provides the community with information on how to be a good steward for the ecosystem of our Southern California environment. Their education platform includes water use reduction, how to grow your own vegetables and how to source and prepare local foods. 

Evan Marks, Founder and Executive Director of The Ecology Center, has an extensive background in agro ecology and permaculture.  He has turned The Ecology Center into a vibrant gathering space and sustainability-learning center.  At the center you will find a 1-acre permaculture site filled with learning gardens, interactive exhibits, and a general store all located in the historic Congdon Farmhouse.  

The center offers a program called The Community Table Accord where guests can enjoy a sustainably harvested and prepared dinner at the farm. The program is lead by 12 founding chefs, each showcasing their own expertise.  The dinners prepared follow the “10 Principles of a Regenerative Food System.” Some of these principles include using seasonal, local and organic produce, eating animals raised with respect and using a diverse variety of foods.

The Ecology Center holds its annual fundraiser dinner, “Green Feast”, each fall to celebrate the local harvest. This authentic, farm-to-table experience, with communal tables set outside next to the 130-year old farmhouse, is truly a magical, if not spiritual, experience. The Green Feast brings together renowned area chefs, organic farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and vintners who all work together to make a mouthwatering, sustainable, four-course dinner.  All food served is sourced within 250 miles and everything is organic. Money raised at this event helps The Ecology Center’s mission to build a regenerative food system by providing education, programs and school gardens.

The Ecology Center also offers a series of hands-on, Farm to Fork, cooking classes. The classes teach harvesting seasonal produce and, of course, cooking a nutritious meal.  Go to their website for the class schedule.  

Located next door to The Ecology Center is South Coast Farms.  They are a certified, organic farm and farm-stand where you can buy seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables.  You can join their community supported agriculture program (CSA) and be able to enjoy their harvests in your own home. 

The Ecology Center is a great place to learn how to live an environmentally conscious life and have fun in the process.   I am happy to have my membership dollars going to support such a positive and important cause.  Your membership can go beyond education and produces and just might lead to new friends, whether by attending a class, a workshop or eating dinner at the communal table.  Hope to see you there! Check out The Ecology Center and South Coast Farms, your body and the planet will thank you.