Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Partial Roundup use in Sonoma County in 2012
Wine grapes: 62,000 pounds
Landscape maintenance: 6,500 pounds
Oats: 350 pounds
Olives: 110 pounds
Apples: 27 pounds
Source: California Department of Pesticide Regulation
A report from an arm of the World Health Organization has set off a wave of alarm over the safety of Roundup, a weed killer widely used on lawns, fields and vineyards in Sonoma County.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer released the report last week, labeling glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and linking it to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in farmworkers. That’s created a stir on social media over the use of the chemical, the active ingredient in arguably the most popular herbicide on the planet.
Some residents want the herbicide banned. Petitions are circulating online, calling to ban the use of Roundup not only in vineyards and fields but on lawns and gardens.
Windsor Town Councilwoman Deb Fudge on Thursday posted on Facebook a link to an online petition to ban Roundup nationwide. As a breast cancer survivor and former hazardous materials manager, she said the report hit close to home. She also has several friends and relatives dealing with brain tumors and cancer.
“Humanity is taking too many chances with these chemicals,” she said in a phone interview on Friday.“
There are so many unknowns in chemicals deemed safe,” Fudge said, adding the issue has gained traction online because it’s a commonly used product. More than 87,000 pounds of the chemical were used in Sonoma County in 2012, the latest figures available from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Read more via Roundup study prompts online debate about herbicide’s safety | The Press Democrat.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The rolling green pastures west of Petaluma where Hank Corda stood last week in blue jeans and a camouflage ball cap are not an obvious location to mount a worldwide offensive against climate change.
No factories billow smoke on the 850-acre ranch that’s been in Corda’s family for a century, nor do many vehicles traverse the narrow road. One might surmise the only gross polluters here are the black-and-white dairy cows that graze the property.
In fact, rangelands are a major source of carbon loss through the farming techniques used for harvesting and soil management. A major key to solving the problem, researchers contend, is in the soil on a hillside below Corda’s ranch home.
There, workers dumped compost made of manure and green landscape waste to trap carbon dioxide in the ground and also absorb it from the air. The ranch, which is at the head of San Antonio Creek, is one of three test sites for a novel “carbon-farming” program that researchers say could dramatically lower greenhouse-gas emissions and blunt the effects of climate change, but only if it can be replicated on a mass scale.
The Marin Carbon Project has drawn attention from scientists around the world and, closer to home, from agricultural producers in neighboring counties. It has also caught the attention of Sacramento lawmakers, including Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who was expected to introduce legislation Monday to expand the program in California.
Advocates say if compost was applied to just 5 percent of California’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s farm and forestry industries.
Read more via Cleaning up with compost | The Press Democrat.
Kristin Ohlson, CRAFTSMANSHIP MAGAZINE
Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.
Mark Sturges handed me a pair of green plastic gloves to handle his compost, but had no qualms about plunging his own bare hands deep into one of his aluminum bins. He emerged with a dripping fistful of organic matter that would discomfit a squeamish person – say, the woman who owned the Air BnB home in Bandon, Oregon, where I stayed that night and who shrieked and shivered when I described the scene.
“Does your compost look like this?” the 67-year old Sturges asked me. No, I’ve never seen any compost that looked quite like his.
His compost reminded me of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the 16th Century Flemish artist who loved scenes teeming with humans and other creatures—eating, working, slaying, fornicating, sleeping, gossiping, squiggling their id all over the canvas. In Sturges’s cupped hands, there was the backdrop of what most of us think of when we think about compost—a crumbling, black mass resembling dark-roast coffee grounds—plus shreds of the materials that had gone into making it: eggshells, the paper-bag-like skin of a nearly dissolved pumpkin, carrot tops, and a pouf of potato salad from the town’s organic deli. More to the point, Sturges’s entire workforce was well represented in the handful. The dark mush was visibly alive with rove beetles, spiders, daddy longlegs, tiny white worms called enchytraedae that looked like lively fingernail parings, and the gray blemish of a fungus called beauvaria bassiani, which feeds on the beetles.
“These are the best workers in the world,” Sturges said with satisfaction. “They don’t have drug problems, they don’t beat their wives—although they might eat them, of course—and they work 24 hours a day. You just have to make sure you keep them alive.”
Read more at: The Bug Whisperer – Craftsmanship Magazine
Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Related story: Sonoma County Winegrowers develop 100-year plan to protect agriculture
The top wine buyer for Whole Foods Market on Thursday lauded the effort by Sonoma County growers to make the county’s grape crop 100 percent sustainable before the end of the decade, but cautioned it will be a difficult task to get a national standard that will embraced by wine consumers.
Doug Bell, Whole Foods Market’s global beverage buyer, told the Sonoma County Winegrowers at its annual meeting that he backs its efforts to create the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine growing region by 2019. To qualify, growers must be certified in numerous areas such as water and air quality, pest management, carbon emissions and even employment practices.
However, Bell noted that the county’s growers must drive the effort — and the conversation — so it will be reflected in the national marketplace, from the supermarket shelf to the local bistro’s wine list.
“If you guys depend on Whole Foods to solely tell your message, we’re going to fail. We can’t do it by ourself,” Bell said. “We will never move the needle until these environmentally and socially conscious practices are touted in the labeling and the messaging.”
Read more via Whole Foods wine buyer urges Sonoma growers to | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The end of the oyster farm upholds a promise put forward decades ago in law to fully protect Drakes Estero, but it also severs ties to a cherished history of shellfish farming in the waterway.
By New Year’s Day, there should be no more oysters in Drakes Estero, a placid estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore that has been, for the better part of eight years, the setting for a tempest of epic proportions.
Ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, food lovers and famous chefs, members of Congress and a bevy of lawyers have been embroiled in the conflict over a family-owned farm that planted millions of tiny oysters in the estero’s cold, clear waters and harvested $1.5 million worth of table-ready bivalves a year, continuing an aquaculture operation dating back to the 1930s.
Questions over the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s impact, good or bad, on the 2,500-acre Pacific Ocean estuary, and how the company was treated by the federal government, fairly or unfairly, raised passions that likely will persist for years in west Marin County and beyond.
Read more via Facing closure deadline, Drakes Bay oyster farm harvests | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A surge of interest in natural foods, local sourcing and environmental sustainability is bringing new life to the Civil War-era Grange movement, driving participation and restoring its relevance among modern folks yearning for connection to one another and to the food they consume.
The Sebastopol Grange — part of the nationwide farmers alliance that spans 147 years of agricultural development, economic expansion and vast social change — is among the groups that are thriving, its membership surpassing 200 people just a few years after its existence was threatened.
“It’s a process of revitalizing community,” President Jerry Allen said. “It’s going on all over, and it’s sure going on here.”
Granges in Sonoma Valley, Bennett Valley, Petaluma, Windsor, Bodega Bay and Hessel also are gathering strength, building community and blending a long-held commitment to the land with more contemporary views about how best to sustain it in a changing world.
Read more via New life at Sonoma County’s historic Granges | The Press Democrat.
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When Sarah Silva started her Sebastopol-based company Green Star Farm five years ago, she used her business savvy to find innovative ways of selling her meats to get her venture off the ground. But countywide restrictions imposed strict rules on farms like Silva’s from selling manufactured products made on site and selling raw goods year-round.
Permitting requirements could have cost thousands of dollars.
“One of the hardest things for local farmers is there are so many permits we have to get,” Silva said. “Even five years later, managing Green Star Farm, we are still climbing an uphill battle with permits, licensing and regulations.”
But new agricultural zoning proposals mean those requirements could streamlined somewhat for businesses outside of city limits. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday is expected to ease restrictions on manufacturing and selling goods produced on agricultural land, giving momentum to local farmers who want to grow their operations.
Following goals outlined in Sonoma County’s general plan, an ordinance before supervisors would revamp rules, allowing farms to sell fruits, vegetables and other products at farm stands year-round, instead of just seasonally. Another change would permit area growers and producers to make and sell their products — such as jams, cheeses and olive oils — on site, directly to consumers.
via County looks to ease regulations for food producers | The Press Democrat.
Jeremy Hay, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Aspiration was in the air Friday at the former Rancho Feeding Corporation, a marked change from the scandal that has enveloped the Petaluma slaughterhouse for months.
The new owner of the Petaluma plant — which went under in February amid a massive recall of its beef and veal products — promised a new era.
“The change comes from the top; we have new leadership,” said David Evans, owner of Marin Sun Farms. He and a group of investors he would not identify purchased the plant Feb. 28 for a sum he wouldn’t disclose. They plan to reopen the plant April 7 under the name Marin Sun Farms Petaluma, Evans said.
via New era begins at Petaluma slaughterhouse (w/video) | The Press Democrat.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Proposed legislation by state Sen. Noreen Evans requiring all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled in California cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in Sacramento.
The Senate Committee on Health approved the bill on a 5-2 vote after Evans, D-Santa Rosa, agreed to several amendments, including that the legislation exclude alcohol products and not take effect until Jan. 1. 2016.
Supporters of GMO labeling argue that it is necessary to protect public health and the consumer’s right to make informed choices. Critics, however, say such labels would confuse shoppers and lead to higher production costs.
“I want to be very clear: This bill doesn’t ban anything,” Evans testified Wednesday. “It simply requires labeling. It’s agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad.”
via Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.
EARLY BIRD TICKETS are $40 UNTIL FEBRUARY 14; $60 after February 14.
The 38th Annual Environmental Awards Dinner will be held Sunday, March 16, 2014, at the Sebastopol Community Center, from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
The Dinner is sponsored by the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter and Sonoma County Conservation Council and benefits the Environmental Center of Sonoma County.
This year’s topic is, Building a Stronger Coalition between Agriculture and Environment. Farm and grazing lands represent 58% of Sonoma County’s land area. How these lands are stewarded is of critical interest to the public, the land owner/manager, and to the plants and animals that are found there. As Sonoma County looks ahead it is faced with needs that often appear to conflict: to preserve the economic viability of agriculture and protect the integrity of the many ways everyone benefits from healthy ecosystems. In this short and provocative talk, Joseph McIntyre, President of Ag Innovations Network, will share his thoughts on how to build a strong coalition between agricultural and environmental interests that can address the public’s need both for healthy food and a healthy environment.
Also featured is live music by Duo Giuliani – Terry Mills, guitar, and Richard Heinberg, violin. Their repertoire spans five centuries and includes tangos, hot jazz, and renaissance dance music.
A silent auction, many non-profit displays, a delicious dinner by A la Heart Catering, and of course, the Environmental Awards, will fill out this festive evening.
Tickets are $40 UNTIL FEBRUARY 14; $60 after February 14.
Purchase online at envirocentersoco.org or send a check payable to SCCC to PO Box 4346, Santa Rosa, 95402. Please see web site for student ticket and group rates as well as work trade information. Sponsorships welcome to support discounted tickets and Environmental Center operations.
For more information, contact Wendy at 707-544-4582; firstname.lastname@example.org
via Sonoma County Environmental Awards Dinner, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE.