Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012-01-03 "Grant aims for better food for low-income people" by HEATHER HACKING
More fruits, nuts and veggies in local hands is the goal of a new $500,000 grant awarded to Chico State University.
Specifics of the program include more community gardens, cooking classes and better access to healthful food for low-income buyers.
The grant was awarded by the specialty crop program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funding is part of $55 million delivered nationwide, including $18.6 million in California.
Julie Estep, of Adept Professionals, wrote the grant, combining ideas she had gathered from people working in food and nutrition.
One aspect will be expanding current programs that allow use of EBT cards (food stamps) at local farmers markets. When these funds are spent locally, it increases the market share for local growers, and also helps people eat better, Estep explained.
Lower-income people tend to eat more grain-based, processed foods because they're less expensive. But fresh fruits and vegetables are important in tackling obesity, she continued.
Building markets for local foods will allow growers to expand and compete with larger producers. The goal is that local food, of which there is plenty, could provide for local schools, restaurants, hospitals and grocery stores, Estep said.
Lee Altier of the College of Agriculture and director of the Organic Vegetable Project, will host field days at the University Farm. He'll also help people form more community gardens.
Especially for people who are low-income, growing their own food and buying local tends to lead to better eating, Altier said.
Altier said the hope is to find people willing to start, and maintain, more local gardens, including working with GRUB (Growing Resourcefully, Uniting Bellies,
Karen Goodwin, a nutrition education specialist, will head up cooking demonstrations, including use of a cooking cart she'll take to schools and other events.
Those involved with the grant will also form a group that will continue to look at the nutritional needs of the community.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

 2011-12-27 "Hyper-local markets provide big economic boost" by Stacy Finz from "San Francisco Chronicle"
In 1997, only 70 people were employed at businesses on the block of 18th Street between Dolores and Guerrero streets in San Francisco. Today, when California's unemployment rate is nearing 12 percent, there are 400 jobs.
Many in the city credit Bi-Rite Market, a specialty grocery store, with fueling the neighborhood's economy, not just by bringing other businesses to the street but by supporting other Bay Area companies.
"Our (mission statement) is knowing the person behind the product, and having them be local makes that possible," said Kirsten Bourne, marketing director at Bi-Rite. "Surely we sell Italian wines and French cheeses. But as much as possible we go with local."

Model of the future -
Michael Shuman - an economist, author and research director for Cutting Edge Capital, an Oakland company that specializes in innovative financing - calls a business such as Bi-Rite a "community food enterprise" and says it's the model of the future.
So-called CFEs are locally owned, employ locals, and use mostly local goods and services.
"There's good evidence to show that CFEs generate more jobs - two to four times the amount per dollar of sales - and generate more income and wealth for (their) communities than non-locally owned businesses, even ones that source goods from the area," said Shuman, whose report "Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in the World Marketplace" shows how these types of businesses grow local economies while becoming more competitive globally.
The report was issued by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and the Wallace Center at Winrock International and studied 24 local food enterprises across the country, including Swanton Berry Farm in Santa Cruz County.
 While Bi-Rite was not part of the study, it fits the mold. The San Francisco grocer uses local printers, local sign makers and local designers, and 90 percent of its employees live within walking or biking distance of the market.
 The store is well known for supporting and promoting regional purveyors - everything from produce and chocolate to jams and barbecue sauces. Last year it spent $6.9 million doing business with small companies, most of them from Northern California, according to owner Sam Mogannam.

Food startups take off -
 And the cycle continues. Last year Bi-Rite started showcasing Michele Manfredi's SFQ Original San Francisco-style Barbecue Sauce in its store when her company was a tiny startup and she did everything by hand.
SFQ is still fairly small, but now Manfredi can afford to outsource her kitchen work, jarring and label making. She could probably save money by scouring the Internet for cheap labor, cheap jars and even cheaper labels.
But she's decided to go regional - most of her ingredients are sourced in the Bay Area, her jars are from an Oakland company, her labels are from Napa, and her preparation and jarring are done in Healdsburg.
 "I looked even closer to home," she said. "But it was a challenge finding someone to work with a small producer."
Dafna Kory of Inna Jam, a Berkeley company, also sells her fruit spreads at Bi-Rite and 49 other specialty markets, mostly in Northern California. Kory's philosophy is simple - the ingredients for her jams have to come from within 100 miles of her kitchen. She said she spends about $50,000 a year just on produce.
"It's hard to be a farmer," she said. "As a high-volume buyer - I'll buy 30 flats of strawberries at a time - they're able to sell to me without a distributor and that means more profit for them, which enables them to pick longer and keep pickers on their payroll."
Kory also buys her jars locally, rents commercial kitchen space in Berkeley, and employs 10 people from the East Bay during her jamming season. She's not making a big dent in the unemployment rate, but she only launched last year.
"I've already had to quadruple my production this year to keep up with demand," she said, adding that she produced 30,000 jars of jam this year. "Next year I plan on having year-round staff."
Kathleen Merrigan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the government values local food businesses so much that it's willing to help with the cost of doing business.
In fact, Congress has mandated that 5 percent of the money set aside for the USDA's Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program go to farmers who sell their products regionally.
 There's a good reason for it, she said.
 "Studies show that farmers who sell locally and regionally employ 13 full-time workers per $1 million revenue earned," she said. "Farmers who don't sell locally or regionally employ three workers for every $1 million in revenue earned."
 Economists suspect that local sales require more employees to work farmers' markets and fruit stands and to deliver to local stores. Because it fuels the market - a 2009 Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship study showed that farmers' markets in that state pumped more than $71 million into the economy - the USDA is committed to farmers who practice the model.

Guaranteed loan -
That's why when Watson Coast Produce - a wholesale fruit and vegetable company that buys from local farms, distributes to 13 counties in California and has $30 million in annual sales - couldn't get a loan to expand, the USDA stepped in to guarantee a $4.6 million note.
 "We basically left no risk to the bank because we believed in what this company is doing," Merrigan said.
There are dozens of USDA programs through the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative geared toward helping local food businesses, she said.
"This is about jobs, the economy and community vitality," she said. "It's created a renaissance in agriculture and that's very exciting."

Shoppers stock up on produce at the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco's Mission District. Economists say "community food enterprises" like Bi-Rite benefit their local economies significantly more than a typical non-locally owned business. Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle

In addition to supporting local food producers, the Bi-Rite Market uses local printers, local sign makers and local designers, and hires workers who live nearby. Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle

Inna jam, available at Bi-Rite, is made solely from fruit picked within 100 miles of the company's Berkeley headquarters. Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle

Local organic dried flower bouquets are for sale at the Bi-Rite Market in the Mission District. Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle

Liz Ryan, of San Francisco, shops the cold section at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, December 14, 2011. The market uses mostly local goods and local services, so their business has added jobs to the neighborhood. Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011-12-26 "Foragers Mia Andler, Kevin Feinstein, now authors" by Jonah Raskin from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Even the most gentle-looking plant can reach out to bite an unsuspecting forager. In their new book, Mia Andler and Kevin Feinstein offer stern warnings about poisonous plants that can cause death or severe illness.
"The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area" (Foraging Society Press, 320 pages, $24.95) is filled with descriptions of oleander, camas and poison hemlock that can "paralyze the whole body." For those not deterred by such advisories, the lavishly illustrated guidebook about identifying, cooking and eating plants in the wild is essential to the pursuit.
 Andler and Feinstein are bound by a fierce attachment to the outdoors and have all the necessary credentials to write about it. Andler, 31, comes from Helsinki, where she foraged with her parents when she was a child. She returns home about once a year to forage in the forests not far from the center of her native city.
 "It's normal for Finnish families to forage together," she says. "The countryside is blissful in summer."

To the forest -
When she first moved to the United States, she was stunned to discover that people didn't go into the forests to find food.
Feinstein, 34, grew up in Tennessee playing video games and feasting on TV dinners. He says he "didn't eat fresh fruit from a real live tree" until he was in his 20s. When he moved to Florida to go to college, he embarked on a self-taught crash course in botany. "Almost everything I know is self-taught," he says. "That's how I learn."
He and Andler met in 2008 at an event at TrackersBay - an organization that provides outdoors education, walks and camps in the Bay Area - and discovered they shared a passion for plants and a desire to teach others about the cycles of nature. A year ago, they began to collaborate on their book.
"It's rare to find someone as excited about this stuff as I am," Andler says. "Kevin and I live at opposite ends of the Bay Area - he's in Walnut Creek and I'm in Fairfax. We used to have really long conversations on the phone in which we shared what we knew about plants."
Feinstein says his curiosity about foraged foods was sparked by "My Side of the Mountain," Jean Craighead George's 1959 novel about a New York City kid who learns to live off the land when he runs away from home and hunkers down on his great-grandfather's farm in the Catskill Mountains.
"I was crazy about that book," he says. "But my main teacher has been and still is the woods. I'm ecstatically happy to be out there in the hills, foraging for supper or just eating what I find in the open air."
Like Feinstein, Andler loves to graze - walk, pick and snack on leaves and berries. She says she occasionally harvests "a huge pile of prickly pears" and then figures out "what to do with them."
Both have translated their love of plants and open spaces into paying jobs. Andler takes adults on weekend wild food walks. During the week, she teaches kids in Bay Area schools about birds, herbs, seeds and flowers.
"Kids get really excited about the wild," she says. "It's tangible and immediate and, without prompting from me, they think they were always meant to be in the woods."

ForageSF -
Feinstein, a prominent member of ForageSF, the Bay Area's leading foraging organization, also teaches foraging classes. He started in 2007. Back then, only a handful of people showed up for his classes. By 2009, his classes were full and teaching out in the wild became his full-time business. His blog and videos are well known to Bay Area foragers (
After dispensing warnings about the poisons of the natural world, "The Bay Area Forager" provides descriptions of plants that are nutritious and tasty: the abundant acorn that was once an essential source of protein for Northern California Indians, the powder from cattail heads that can be used to make crepes and pancakes, and clover that provides vitamins similar to C and E. The book lingers over wild onions, wild plums and wild radishes that Feinstein pickles and ends with a section on Yerba Buena, the native plant that means "good herb" in Spanish and was the original name of San Francisco. The mint-like herb can be used medicinally or in teas or cooking.
The color photos make identification of the plants simple. There are also concise descriptions of the physical aspects of each plant; when, where and how to harvest; and how to use. The authors remind readers that foraging is illegal in parks and on private property, and while they don't condone trespassing, they do suggest ingenuity. Rule 1 of the "respectful harvesting ethic": Harvest only if the plant is clearly growing in abundance.
The 50-plus recipes are aimed at gourmet chefs as well as common cooks who want to branch out from store-bought ingredients and experiment with the likes of hawthorn, toyon and western black walnut that Feinstein uses to make vin de noix.
Once a vegetarian turned vegan, Feinstein now eats meat. "My goal is to go on a hunt for wild boar," he says. "I really love how it tastes."

Top picks -
Foraging is illegal in public parks. Mia Andler and Kevin Feinstein urge novices to begin the search for edible plants in their backyards, parking lots or community gardens. It helps to know someone with a farm, orchard or vineyard who will grant free foraging rights.
-- The best acorns are found inland, east of the Caldecott Tunnel or in the dry hills of Marin from September through November.
-- Miner's lettuce and chickweed usually grow together and are abundant during the rainy season in wilderness tracts and along the sides of country roads.
-- Mushrooms grow best in coastal forests after fall and winter rains. They will grow back each season if only the tops are harvested.
-- Nettles like wet areas along the coast, near streams, and can be foraged in winter and spring. Wear gloves to avoid stings from picking the plant.
-- Yerba Buena, which means "good herb" in Spanish, grows abundantly in most Bay Area hills, often under the shade of oak and bay trees, and it's available most of the year.

Kevin Feinstein, who barely ate produce at all growing up in Tennessee, demonstrates his expertise in finding and cultivating thistles during an outing with Mia Andler in the East Bay hills.
Photo: Lance Iversen / The Chronicle

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011-12-25 "California's young farmers break traditional mold" by Stacy Finz from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The average age of a farmer in California is creeping toward 60, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture is trying to attract newcomers to work the land.
The need is especially acute, given that experts are forecasting that the world will have to double its food supply to keep up with a booming population - growing from 7 billion people to 9 billion by 2050. California is a significant player in feeding the globe, providing 12 percent of the nation's agriculture exports.
Farming also is a $37.5 billion business in California, employing 800,000 people. With the average age of the primary farm operator now 58 - nearly 20 percent are 70 or older - it's crucial that the state's farms and ranches get fresh blood, said Karen Ross, California's agriculture secretary.
"We are leaders," she said. "Being one of only five Mediterranean climates in the world, we produce the food - fruits, vegetables and nuts - that have the greatest health benefits."
But how do you convince people that back-breaking work, risky conditions and low profit yields are a good career move?

Bucking the norm -
Oddly enough, Ross said, there's a whole crop of greenhorns willing to take the reins. But they're decidedly different from the face of the traditional farmer or rancher. And their methods - everything from urban rooftop gardening to the latest in conservation and sustainability practices - buck the old norm.
"We're seeing an interest from young people who don't come from farming families," Ross said, adding that last year a record-breaking 70,000 students enrolled in their high school Future Farmers of America program.
Craig McNamara, an organic walnut and olive grower and president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, knows the difficulties of farming and is concerned.
"Our nation needs 100,000 new farmers in a short amount of time," he said.
The 61-year-old doesn't know if his own three children will take over his farm, Sierra Orchards in Winters (Yolo County), when he retires. So he and his wife founded the Center for Land-Based Learning. The nonprofit is an incubator in which young people study the rudiments of agriculture and the importance of watershed conservation. McNamara hopes the program inspires others to start their own farms or take over existing ones.

California's advantages -
Poppy Davis, the USDA's national program leader for small farms and beginning farmers and ranchers, said California might hold more advantages for the new farmer than any other state. It's not just the temperate climate. Unlike other states, where future generations are expected to take over the land and outsiders aren't always welcome, the agriculture community here has more tolerance for change and few preconceived notions, she said. Almost anything goes.
"The next generation doesn't have to be lineal descendants," she said. "While it might be good public policy to say this land needs to stay in farming or ranching, who are we to say, 'This land needs to stay in the same family.' "
While California is looking for fresh young faces to till the ground and drive the cattle, Davis said youth is in the eye of the beholder.
"There are lots of people starting whole different lives in their 50s," she said. "And for a lot of the new farmers in California, this is a second career. Some of these people can be very successful. While they may not know much about farming, they are seasoned in life and make really good business people."
There are other changes, too. It used to be that farming and ranching required large swaths of land and expensive equipment. Not anymore.
"A young man came to me four years ago and said he wanted to farm," McNamara said. "He was a graduate from UC Santa Cruz. To this day, he's farming without owning land or a tractor." McNamara leases the young farmer some of his Winters land. As for the tractor, McNamara pitches in with his.

Inspired by Costa Rica -
Marisa Alcorta, 34, of Davis has wanted to farm for the past 10 years. She did her undergraduate studies at Cornell and spent three months in Costa Rica examining the farming methods of a small mountain village.
"I came back completely inspired," she said.
Getting the capital to start a farm was overwhelming, but when she met three women with a similar goal, they joined forces. The owner of Bridgeway Farms in Winters leased them 16 open acres and 4 acres of peach, nectarine and apricot trees at a very low price, Alcorta said. The women plan to pitch in about $5,000 each to start a community-supported agriculture business. They will sell 20 to 30 public shares in Cloverleaf Farm at Bridgeway in the form of weekly or monthly produce boxes.
"It's the first farming opportunity that I've come across that feels doable," she said.
There are even smaller operations taking root across the state, including public vegetable gardens in city vacant lots, rooftop gardens and urban farms, said Ross, the agriculture secretary.
"Eighteen to 20 percent of California is food insecure," she said. "So farmers of the future won't necessarily be just in the (rural areas). We need big and large to sustain the world's need for food."

Cooper Funk (left), Molly Nakahara and Paul Glowaski are among California's crop of young farmers. Photo: Anne Chadwick Williams / Special To The Chronicle

Dinner Bell Farmer farmer Molly Nakahara rolls up a row cover that was protecting kale, bok choy, and flowers from cold weather and deer as they got started in Grass Valley on Wednesday, December 21. Photo: Anne Chadwick Williams / Special To The Chronicle

Young farmers l-r Cooper Funk, Molly Nakahara, Paul Glowaski met in 2006 at a UC Santa Cruz farm apprenticeship program and started Dinner Bell Farm in Grass Valley two seasons ago. Photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. Photo: Anne Chadwick Williams / Special To The Chronicle

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 Iso Rabins has always done a delicate tango around environmental and food regulations. Rabins pioneered the Bay Area’s burgeoning wild-foods movement when he founded ForageSF in 2009, but city health inspectors, noting the potential hazards of eating products gathered in the wild — the best-known of which come in the form of poisonous mushrooms — were never thrilled with his organization or its various commercial offshoots.
 Earlier this year, one of Rabins’ signature ventures — the Underground Market, a wildly successful event at which various sub-professional food producers peddled their wares — was shut down by the Department of Public Health, which had previously given the market its tacit blessing. Rabins has since been working to bring the Underground Market into compliance with city law.
 But this fall, during that process, he suddenly faced persecution on another front. In October, city officials sent a letter informing him that another series of foraging get-togethers, his so-called Wild Kitchen dinners, could subject him to thousands of dollars in fines. The dinners typically served dozens of patrons, each paying $40 or more for a prix fixe menu of hunted and foraged local foods such as squid, mushrooms, and nettle soup. (Disclosure: SF Weekly profiled Rabins for a cover story in 2009. I attended two Wild Kitchen dinners in the course of reporting for that article, and have since attended one more. They were tasty, and I never got sick.)
 In a letter dated Oct. 26, Richard Lee, director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs for DPH, told Rabins that the dinner series “constitutes an existing and ongoing violation of state and local law.” Each two-day Wild Kitchen event, Lee said, could bring a fine of $1,063. Lee noted that at least six such events had been recorded by health inspectors this year alone.
 Rabins took his case before DPH Environmental Health Director Rajiv Bhatia at a hearing last week, arguing that he had not been properly notified of potential legal violations before being hit with the fines. “I was never informed I had to get a permit until Oct. 26, after which I did get permits,” Rabins said.
 Turns out he had a point. “When is the first time he was notified, verbally or in writing?” Bhatia asked health inspector Alicia Saam, who testified against Rabins at the hearing. “That’s a good question,” Saam replied. Bhatia, not impressed, let Rabins off the hook. “I’m going to go ahead and waive the fee, because he wasn’t told he had to get a permit,” he said.
 Rabins’ Wild Kitchen dinners are now officially on the right side of the law, with all food prepared in commercial kitchens under strict safety guidelines. (He maintains that the dinners were always “very safe” before the Health Department showed up.) But the new veneer of regulatory compliance has changed the dinners’ spontaneous atmosphere, Rabins says.
 “Unfortunately, it really takes away from the life of the dinners, but I guess that’s what [health officials] need,” he says.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011-12-02 "Introducing Megapolitanism"
A recent article from John King at the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned the concept of using the Megalopolitan scale for planning purposes [].  The article references the new book by Arthur C. Nelson and Robert E. Lang entitled ‘Megapolitan America: A New Vision for Understanding America’s Metropolitan Geography‘ (APA, 2011) [].
As an example, King mentions the Sierra Pacific Megapolitan Area, seen below as a large geographical area that extends from the San Francisco Bay area all the way into Western Nevada, around Reno.   The region includes 27 counties and includes over 12.4 million people, and its expected to grow substantially in the next 30 years.

As mentioned in the article, the significance of the concept of megapolitan areas is to look more broadly at a larger scale, King, quoting Nelson, mentions that “regions can be more proactive in everything from transportation planning to economic strategies…  to have people look at things a little differently, the whole rather than the parts.” 
While explicitly not a model for mega-regional government, there are some possibilities of what this might mean for regions by looking at larger areas.  As mentioned by King, “It’s too early to say whether the concept of megapolitan areas will catch on as a framework for government policy, much less in terms of how regular people define where they live.”
The significant of megapolitan areas, thus is undetermined.  The overall ambiguity of the defining characteristics of a ‘city’ has led to a lot of questions related to city centers, sprawl, and other hybrid urban agglomerations like edge cities, exurbs, and the shift from urban area to metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).  This leads to a lot of diversity in definition (outlined in the SF Gate article) -  including the largest megapolitan area (NY-Phil 33.9 million people) to the smallest, fastest growing (Las Vegas 2.4 million).  While Vegas booms, the Steel Corridor of wester PA is creeping along slowly.  In terms of diversity, not surprisingly, the Southern California region has the largest percentage of minorities (62.7%) and the Twin-Cities are the least diverse with 15.5% of minorities.
The terms megaregion, megalopolis, megapolitan area, while similar in nature, are somewhat different historically, spatially, and statistically, so it is worth a look at some of the designations.  A map of megaregions shows the eleven areas in the United States as determined by the Regional Plan Association.

This differs somewhat from a more recent version of Megapolitan areas from a recent essay by Lang and Nelson on Places from Design Observer [])  They identify 10 megapolitan clusters that exist in 23 megapolitan areas that are similar but slightly different from those above.

The different terms, definitions, and geographical extents makes the concepts a bit difficult to parse, but in general terms, the areas are defined by a population of more than 10 million people that exist within a ‘clustered network of cities’ typically delineated through transportation corridors.
The new interpretation of Megapolitan area builds on earlier concepts to describe a more general ‘transmetropolitan geography’ which is typically thought of more commonly in larger, global areas such as China, Japan, Brazil – which include megaregions of 120 million (Hong Kong, Shenzen-Guangzhou), 60 million (Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe) and 43 million (Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo).  While the concepts are similar, the scale of these new global areas are immense in comparison to the US.
Interestingly enough, the term has been used since the 1820s, and the conceptual usage of the concept of Megalopolis as a grouping of urban areas within a region dates back almost 100 years.  This includes references by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West (1918) and Lewis Mumford in The Culture of Cities (1938).  The most popularized recent usage was from 1950s and 60s, in the book on the Northeast United States by Jean Gottmann entitled ‘Megalopolis’ (1961).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011-11-21 "A Quiet Push to Grow Crops Under Cover of Trees" by Jim Robbins from "New York Times"
HELENA, Mont. — On a forested hill in the mountains north of Montana’s capital, beneath a canopy of pine and spruce, Marc and Gloria Flora have planted more than 300 smaller trees, from apple and pear to black walnut and chestnut.
Beneath the trees are layers of crops: shrubs like buffalo berries and raspberries, edible flowers like day lilies, vines like grapes and hops, and medicinal plants, including yarrow and arnica.
 Turkeys and chickens wander the two-acre plot, gobbling hackberries and bird cherries that have fallen from trees planted in their pen, and leaving manure to nourish the plants.
 For the Floras, the garden is more than a source of food for personal use and sale. Ms. Flora, an environmental consultant and former supervisor for the United States Forest Service, is hoping it serves as a demonstration project to spur the growth of agroforestry — the science of incorporating trees into traditional agriculture.
 The extensive tree canopy and the use of native plants, she says, make the garden more resilient in the face of a changing climate, needing less water, no chemical fertilizers and few, if any, pesticides. “It’s far more sustainable” than conventional agriculture, she said.
 The idea is to harness the ecological services that trees provide. “Agroforestry is not converting farms to forest,” said Andy Mason, director of the Forest Service’s National Agroforestry Center. “It’s the right tree in the right place for the right reason.”
 The Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service’s parent agency, began an initiative this year to encourage agroforestry.
 Depending on the species, trees make all sorts of contributions to agriculture, experts say. Trees in a shelter belt reduce wind and water erosion. Some trees serve as fertilizers — they take in nitrogen from the atmosphere, or pump it from deep underground and, when they drop their leaves, make it available upon decomposition.
 Trees planted along streams can take up and scrub out polluted farm runoff. They increase species diversity by providing habitat, and some of those species are friendly to farmers — bees and butterflies that help pollinate crops, for example. (One study showed that 66 species of birds benefit from windbreaks on farms.) Trees can keep a field cooler and more moist.
 Some research also shows that cattle farmers can improve their income by introducing trees, both by selling timber and by cooling cows in the shade.
 And trees in general help the environment by absorbing greenhouse gases and by cleaning up polluted water — countering some of the effects of large-scale agriculture.
 “The biggest problem with food production is environmental degradation,” said Gene Garrett, an emeritus professor of forestry and former director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri.
 Properly placed belts of trees and other vegetation along streams can filter out 95 percent of the soil sediment that washes off farm fields, studies show, and up to 80 percent of phosphate and nitrogen that runs off.
 While the idea of farming with trees is being reborn in the United States, it is not new. It got its start here in the Dust Bowl era, when trees were planted in shelter belts to stop severe wind erosion, Mr. Mason said. And around the world, agroforestry goes back centuries. “Many generations have been on the land,” said Jill M. Belsky, a professor of rural and environmental sociology at the University of Montana who has studied forest farms. “They have deep ecological knowledge and many cycles of these seasons.
 “For example, they taste the soil and say, ‘We need a few more chickens in here’ ” for fertilizer.
 Elsewhere, “working” trees are being used to replenish eroded or desert landscapes. A program in Niger has greened millions of acres in the last 20 years.
 There are several approaches to agroforestry. Grazing livestock under a canopy of trees is called silvo-pasture, for instance. In alley cropping, an ancient technique that is becoming more common in the United States, rows of commercially valuable hardwood trees like oak are alternated with rows of corn, wheat or grasses for biofuel.
 Agroforestry operations are also helping raise specialty crops. Nicola MacPherson raises timber in the Ozarks, and grows shiitake and oyster mushrooms on the waste branches; she is also establishing a truffle orchard. Then there are forest gardens like the one the Floras are creating.
 Agroforestry is not just as simple as sticking trees in the ground — it can be a sophisticated form of management. “The key to a lot of systems is how they manage shade and light,” Dr. Belsky said. In one common system — teak trees over vegetable crops — as the over-story closes, limiting light, “the types of crops below change.”
 Here in Montana, the Floras say they hope that their garden will evolve as conditions change. The climate of the northern Rockies, though, is a world away from tropical forest farms, and the Floras are pioneers.
 They have had their share of learning experiences. Bees left their hives and never came back; the Floras had to pollinate their fruit trees by hand, with paintbrushes. One October, trees were killed by a snowstorm and bitter cold. And there are rodents.
 “Gophers do a lot of damage,” Ms. Flora said. “They eat tree roots, carrots and potatoes.” Her Yorkshire terrier, Rocky, has been the best remedy so far.
 The soil is nutrient-poor, but a forest garden turns marginal soil into much more fertile ground. As the needles and leaves fall and animal waste collects, nutrients increase over time.
 One major hurdle to widespread adoption of agroforestry, though, might be conventional thinking about trees.
 “Families spent generations removing trees to practice agriculture, and we’re up against that,” said Dr. Garrett, the emeritus professor here. “We have to stress that if you don’t put them in the way, you can use working trees to benefit agriculture.”

Photograph by Anne Sherwood for The New York Times: Gloria Flora's forest garden includes berries and medicinal plants.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011-11-13 "City's little boxes, but these look pretty good" by John King from "San Francisco Chronicle"[]
It's a sign of our continued economic torpor that San Francisco's most engaging new buildings are nine shipping containers slung across two parcels where the asphalt poured for parking lots remains.
And it's a sign of the disconnect in our society between ideas and implementation that the innovative development dubbed Proxy took nearly two years to reach its present form.
But while it's here, enjoy an architectural work-in-progress that uses sturdy hollow metal to convey a core truth of big cities: often, what we savor aren't individual landmarks or buildings so much as the overall sense of place.
The still-evolving compound lines a block of Octavia Boulevard framed by the shops and cafes of Hayes Street on the north and the small but lively Patricia's Green on the west. An alleyway runs through it. There's a car-sharing lot in the back.
The lots are to be filled with housing as part of the transformation of the former Central Freeway path into a landscaped boulevard. But by the time the Board of Supervisors approved a neighborhood development plan in 2008, the recession loomed.
Now's there's an alternate reality, one that merges high style with roll-the-dice spunk.
The first customized containers debuted this spring, back to back, one housing artisanal coffee and the other a maker of ice cream by the scoop. A museum shop followed in July with outdoor exhibition space. Last month saw the opening of the largest component so far, a beer garden where five containers are deployed around picnic tables and a transplanted Redbud tree.
The guiding hand in all this is Oakland architect Douglas Burnham, whose firm Envelope A+D infused the container forms - most of them roughly 20 feet long and 9 feet high - with a new purpose. The goal was "flexible urbanism," composed of simple elements easily revised or removed.
"This is an experiment in a way, to see how cities can adapt to how people today live," said Burnham, who doesn't anticipate Proxy being on Octavia past 2015. "The pace of society has really ramped up, and whether that's good or bad this is an attempt to create a physical framework that can accommodate that."
If the emphasis is on utility, neither design nor setting were neglected.
Glass ends were added to the spaces filled by Ritual Roasters and Smitten Ice Cream, allowing views to and from Patricia's Green across the way. Outside Ritual is a clearing of decomposed granite with movable tables and chairs. Smitten opens onto a concrete patio framed by low benches that also serve to corral the toddlers brought here by parents.
As for the beer garden, it makes the most of its minimal elements: the mature Redbud is a visual anchor, a counterpart to the surrounding chain-link fence. A container used to store the picnic tables walls off one end of the site.
The shame is that all this took so long.
Burnham devised his concept in 2009 and it was embraced promptly by officials at the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, who sought ways to activate the boulevard while construction lagged. But every item on the bureaucratic checklist that followed came with some obstacle to surmount.
"Interim uses don't fit the structure of the building code," Burnham explained. "Everything became a negotiation, and every negotiation takes time."
The same holds true for utility hookups: a full year passed between the application filed for the beer garden, and the lights coming on last month - barely ahead of autumn rains.

Proxy is still evolving -
The museum outpost along Octavia closes Nov. 20 and will be replaced in the spring by retail kiosks. A containerized art gallery is slated for one now-open spot, a double-height shoptainer on another. Next fall, Burnham hopes to replace the car-share lot with a tented event space.
Already, though, the promise is being fulfilled.
This isn't about architecture so much as urban place making: you're less aware of the structures than of the surroundings. The containers aren't treated as sculptural elements, as is the case recently in other international cities. They're content to add layers to the landscape, enlarging the Hayes Valley experience without making a fuss.
Skeptics can say the end result is precious, but so is the ever-more-rarefied Hayes Street scene. An interim use like this takes cues from the setting, then follows through in unpredictable ways. Every neighborhood has sites of similar potential. All we need is to find ways for them to happen.
More details on Proxy are at

Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle
The Proxy project, a set of shops in repurposed shipping containers in San Francisco's still-on-the-way-up Hayes Valley, is the work of Oakland architect Douglas Burnham who made the containers serve as a flexible format for small businesses.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011-10-24 "UC Davis West Village touts zero net energy living; UC Davis enclave plans to generate all its power" by John King from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Davis --
Sustainable design is often measured by the use of recycled materials and power-saving gadgets. But architecture itself can embody the quest for conservation, as is the case in this university city 80 miles east of San Francisco, where a new 130-acre development aspires to be the nation's largest zero net energy community.
The first 23 buildings have just opened, so it's too early to say whether the enclave will consume no more energy than is generated by the on-site solar panels. But the goal takes form in the sunshades that rake shadows across large windows and in the park's artful circular courtyard, which doubles as a basin where rainwater can be absorbed into the earth - touches that give a flavor not found in other Northern California projects of this size.
Though the "village" is the work of private developers, it occupies land owned by UC Davis. The site west of the campus across Highway 113 is conceived as a neighborhood unto itself, with three- and four-story student apartment buildings radiating out from the village green. The green is flanked by ground-floor space reserved for shops and university offices, along with a free-standing outpost of Sacramento City College that will open in January. Land north of the green is being readied for what will be 343 houses reserved for UC Davis academics and employees.
The target population is part of what sets UC Davis West Village apart from such recent mixed-use projects as those erected near BART stations. Another difference is that zero net quest - a desire that adds layers of site-specific architectural detail.

Stylish shutters -
You see this at the village green, designed by SWA Group amid buildings by Studio E Architects of San Diego.
The residential structure on the east edge is cloaked in loose-fitting corrugated metal that's open at the base and roofline, allowing surface heat to rise up and out rather than be absorbed by the units inside. Other surfaces are stucco, yet they have a more substantial presence than the infill norm. There's a reason: The building's plywood-clad form is wrapped in an extra half inch of insulation before the outer skin is applied.
Then there is the assertive use of sunscreens.
Building rooftops extend 6 feet beyond outer walls. Slatted screens that form upside-down L's deflect afternoon sun. Other facades come with shutters that rest flat on rollers against the building; a resident can open a window, reach out and pull the shutter into any position he or she desires.
"We've wanted to do shutters like this forever, and we finally got the chance," said Eric Naslund of Studio E. He described the airy corrugated wall as "a pretty dumb ventilated facade, and pretty inexpensive to do."
As for the central open space, one corner slopes down to a landscaped nook reached by a circular path with low walls ideal for seating. It's one of several "bioswales" planned for the district - low spots that will capture rainwater that otherwise would go into storm drains.

Design for climate -
Another subtle touch: SWA's master plan arranges buildings in loose clusters so as to allow afternoon breezes from the delta to filter through the site.
These moves are keyed to the Davis climate, where summer days often are accompanied by triple-digit temperatures. And while the cumulative effect is to conserve resources, the units fit within the market-rate budget of developers Carmel Partners and Urban Villages.
As exotic as zero net energy might sound, the concept is taking hold as a tool to lessen development's impact on the environment.
One example is in Emeryville, where an 8-acre industrial site slated for housing is the subject of a zero net energy design competition sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Looking into the future, California's Public Utilities Commission has called for all new buildings in the state to meet this standard by 2030.

Selective zero -
To be sure, the zero net notion can be viewed with a skeptical eye.
At UC Davis West Village, the record keeping won't tabulate the embedded energy of the giant wall-mounted televisions in the lounge or the exercise machines that fill the gym on the floor above. Or the full bathroom that comes with each bedroom in the undergraduate suites.
But as long as a large subset of Americans want and expect the latest in creature comforts, designers must take advantage of every tool that reduces the amount of energy we consume in the process. If an added bonus is distinctive buildings and landscapes with a fine-tuned sense of place, all the better.
Online resources

UC Davis West Village: Zero net energy community. [].
Architecture at Zero: Design competition. [].

West Davis Village in Davis, Ca., on Friday October 21, 2011. West Davis Village is reported to be the largest community in the country to be a "zero net energy" community, that is one that generates as much energy as it consumes.
Credit: Michael Macor

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011-10-22 "Changers' Maroshi changes up solar power" by Klaus Werle from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The young entrepreneurs behind green startup Changers are from Berlin, but they're launching their product in California, where they can take advantage of the sun - and social-network thought leaders.
On Thursday, they were in San Francisco to unveil their new device: a small, solar-charged system designed to power smart phones and other USB-enabled devices. The module, called Maroshi, can be attached to any window or sunny surface.
The energy is stored in a solar battery, which can power up a smart phone or tablet via USB, recharging the device as quickly as a wall socket will. There also are eight adapters in the kit, which sells for $149. In all, the company says, the product can connect to more than a thousand devices.
But Changers, backed by German solar-tech company Centrotherm and founded last year by Markus Schulz, Daniela Schiffer, Dirk Gamboa Tuesta and Hans Raffauf, is not about technology. It seeks to set up a green social system.
"We want to enable every single person to produce their own energy, and in doing so, think more consciously about it," Raffauf said.
The battery, called Kalhuohfummi, tracks how much power it generates and uploads the data to an energy marketplace at Changers. com, where users can compare and share their savings via Facebook or Twitter.
"People like to compete, and here they can compete in something sustainable," said Kushtrim Xhakli, who oversees digital media for Changers.
The goal: to make shrinking your carbon footprint as valuable to social networkers as increasing your number of Twitter followers.
"If you really want to have an impact on global warming, you've got to start with the end customer and change their behavior," Raffauf said.
In essence, Changers is looking for a few popular users to help their idea go viral. That's one reason the company is introducing its product in the Bay Area, a hub for renewable energy enthusiasts.
"The Bay Area assembles the opinion leaders in social-network technology," Raffauf said. "It's here we can find the most early adopters."
In fact, at the Web 2.0 summit this week, the company nabbed its first customer: Mary Meeker, a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
By the way, there's a meaning behind the components' names. Maroshi is the name of a Maldive island. Hundreds of years ago, during the Maldives' fight for independence from Portugal, Maroshi was a key port for Kalhuohfummi, a vital supply ship during the battles. Today, the Maldives are under a new threat: global warming and a rising sea level.
Some would say that the techie Maroshi and Kalhuohfummi carry on the tradition.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

2011-10-06 "Oakland allows urban farmers to sell produce" by Matthai Kuruvila from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
Oakland -- You can now legally sell peas grown from your backyard in Oakland.
The City Council voted Tuesday to eliminate the ban on selling homegrown produce, a relic of an era when cities wanted to distinguish themselves from rural areas.
But the old code, which was updated, has come into conflict with a growing but relatively new movement, urban farming. Urban farmers generally seek deeper connections to their food by growing it themselves, and the money helps. Kitty Sharkey harvested 80 pounds of heirloom tomatoes Tuesday from the 3-by-24-foot raised bed at her home in the Havenscourt neighborhood of East Oakland. She thinks she could make up to $400 at a farmers' market, which would help her finances.
Until now, she gave away or bartered what she couldn't eat, cook or can.
"A little bit more money makes it more enticing," said Sharkey, 47, who devotes time to being an urban homesteader and growing almost all of her own food. "I might work a little harder on that winter garden."
Others saw a larger significance in the change.
"It's the first step in legitimizing urban agriculture in Oakland," said Esperanza Pallana, 37, who has a 1,200-square-foot backyard plot in the Grand Lake neighborhood and has been pushing for the change. "It's also preserving our right to grow our own food for ourselves and our community."
The code change altered the definition of "home-based businesses," which previously required that it had to be indoors. The new code allows outdoor vegetables as long as farm equipment isn't needed to produce them. Previously, all it took was one phone call from a neighbor to bring down the city's wrath on someone selling backyard carrots.

Not a primary occupation -
Eric Angstadt, the city's deputy planning and zoning director, said that anywhere from one-half to three-fourths of urban farmers in Oakland will be protected by this change.
"These are people for whom urban farming is not a primary, money-making occupation," he said. "These are maybe people who are just trying to recover their own costs of growing, or maybe people who are trying to see if it can be a possible commercial occupation."
There's little if any controversy over this code change - the first and perhaps least disputed element of the city's desire to revamp its urban farming rules. But that's partly because of what this does not address.
Farmers whose operations are so big they need a tractor won't be covered by this code change. Nor are cooperatives that sell produce boxes or people who grow on vacant lots - because those lots aren't considered yards.

Farm animals not addressed -
But the biggest reason Tuesday's change attracted little hubbub was because it didn't address the issue of farm animals.
The city's vegans and farm animal lovers have been battling over this issue. The vegan farmers say animals should not be used in farming because they are almost always slaughtered. Those who want to have animals on their farms say they help the vegetables, by tilling soil, eating bugs or providing manure.
Livestock prompted complaints to the city against Novella Carpenter, who wrote about the creation of her West Oakland farm in the book, "Farm City." Rabbit rights activists complained about her rabbits and other farm animals after learning that she was slaughtering rabbits and offering rabbit pot pies from her farm to people willing to donate cash.
The city forced Carpenter to apply for a $2,800 conditional use permit to grow vegetables and raise a small number of animals. None of Tuesday's changes would have helped her because her farm is on an empty lot adjacent to her apartment - but the lot is not considered a yard at her home.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

San Francisco’s District 11 Supervisor John Avalos told Occupy SF, “Yes, we can” create a municipal bank at an Occupy rally on Sept. 29.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011-09-28 "Acorns: Not just for squirrels anymore; Ethnobotanist says acorns poised for comeback as a sustainable food aided by state's plentiful and adaptable oaks" by Jessica Carew Kraft from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
It's acorn season. They're falling by the barrel-load into our yards and parks, littering the ground with squirrel food. But Jolie Lonner Egert doesn't see this as a nuisance. She calls acorns the "original California cuisine." And the Fairfax-based ethnobotanist is betting that they'll be the next locavore sensation. "I think in 10 years, you'll be able to walk into any farm-to-table restaurant and order acorn pancakes," she said.
Egert runs Go Wild, an ecological education company that offers classes on foraging and preparing edible wild plants across the Bay Area. For the past four years, she's spent her Septembers gathering the harvest from oak trees and teaching others how to do the same.
Sporting a felted acorn cap and gesturing with a squirrel puppet, Egert led a lively presentation earlier this month at Hidden Villa, an organic farm in Los Altos, in which she explained to a group of families how oak trees used to provide an easy, plentiful crop for native Californians. A mature oak tree can produce 300 to 500 pounds of acorns per season, yielding a massive surplus even after a vast network of insects, birds and mammals have been fed.
The trees are also extremely adaptable. California has at least 20 species of oak, growing in every part of the state and covering over a third of the land mass. "Oaks are shape-shifters - they can grow in the desert, or in wet, cold climates," Egert said.
She believes that if we can re-plant and sustainably manage our oaks the way native Californians did, then today's residents will have a secure and abundant food source during the coming decades of unpredictable climate change. It's simply a matter of getting Americans to try them.
"In Mexico, Korea and all across the Mediterranean, people eat acorns," she said. Audience member Jing Zhou said that he grew up eating acorn jelly in central China, and currently buys it at a local Korean market in Los Altos. "You make it like tofu," he said. "You cut it and serve it with ginger and soy sauce."
Egert prefers her acorns in baked goods. Acorn flour can be used in any recipe that calls for corn meal or nut meal. She also likes to saute chopped acorns in sugar and butter, roast the nibs with honey, or boil them into an oatmeal-consistency porridge.

So how do they taste? -
Egert served the crowd a range of acorn goodies. A tray full of cakes disappeared quickly, and the adults were offered a taste of Spanish-made acorn liqueur.
After sampling a handful of chopped and dried acorns, Rebecca Sherwood of Los Altos had some difficulty nailing down the flavor. "They're not like walnuts, which have more oil and fat and a creamy taste. They're just very mild and chewy."
Nutritionally, acorns are a good choice. They're gluten-free, low-fat, and loaded with vitamins and minerals. But they do take a lot of preparation. And a specific set of tools.
First, they must be dried until their insides rattle. A good dehydrator can accomplish this in two days. Then the nuts have to be cracked open, scanned for burrowing bugs or mold, and the inner kernel ground into coarse flour.

Bitter-tasting tannins -
Egert and her husband, David Egert, who teaches biology at the College of Marin, are constantly experimenting with new methods for each of these steps in order to perfect the process.
"People tell me that acorns take too much work. But then I ask them, 'What would you have to do to grow wheat right here?' " she said, pointing toward a majestic Oregon white oak.
She ran through the requirements: "You'd cut down the trees, destroying the rich and complex ecosystem here. You'd till the soil and have to water, weed, and kill the pests - often with nasty chemicals. Then you'd have to gather, thresh and grind the flour. Every year, you'd do the same thing over and over again."
By contrast, native oaks require only occasional pruning and weeding, and they keep local flora and fauna thriving.
"It's better for the land and way easier just to pick acorns off the ground."

Acorn workshops -
For future acorn events, go to [].

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011-08-17 "Study Finds Local Businesses Key to Income Growth" by Stacy Mitchell
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the New Rules Project, where she directs initiatives on community banking and independent retail. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and produces a popular monthly bulletin called the Hometown Advantage.
 The results of a new study suggest that the key to reversing the long-term trend of stagnating incomes in the U.S. lies in nurturing small, locally owned businesses and limiting further expansion and market consolidation by large corporations.
 Economists Stephan Goetz and David Fleming, both affiliated with Pennsylvania State University and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, conducted the study, "Does Local Firm Ownership Matter?"  It was published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly [].
 Goetz and Fleming analyzed 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and found that those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.
 "Even after we control for other economic growth determinants … the non-resident-owned medium and large firms consistently and statistically depress economic growth rates … The other major result is that resident-owned small firms have a statistically significant and relatively large positive effect" on income growth, the authors report. Small firms are defined as those with fewer than 100 employees and large firms as those with over 500 employees.
"Subject to the caveat that the 2000-2007 period was unique in American economic history, results presented are remarkably robust in terms of the positive link between small firms that are locally owned and per capita income growth. Medium and larger firms appear to have the opposite effect, especially when they are not locally owned. These include big boxes as well as other chain and nonchain operations that are owned by individuals who are not also residents of the community. Although these types of firms may offer opportunities for jobs, as well as job growth over time, they do so at the cost of reduced local economic growth, as measured by income. Small-sized firms owned by residents are optimal if the policy objective is to maximize income growth rates," the authors conclude.
 Previous studies by Goetz have found that the number of Walmart stores in a county correlated with both higher poverty rates [] and reduced social capital [].

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011-08-14 "4-H clubs flourish with crop of urban locavores" by Lisa Wallace from "San Fracisco Chronicle"
Elsa Rafter, 9, has no illusions about the messy process of raising livestock. For Elsa, clad in a sundress and jelly sandals, climbing into her family's backyard chicken coop to collect fresh eggs for breakfast is nothing but a brush of hay off her golden pigtails. The Rafter household keeps one Buff Orpington and two Ameraucana chickens in San Francisco's Hayes Valley.
"You can tell the difference between Sunshine and Chicky-Chicky because Sunshine has a dirty bottom," Elsa explains matter-of-factly, holding Sunshine in her arms for everyone to get a good look. This doesn't put Elsa off; she and her brother Roan, 6, share responsibilities for taking care of the chickens, feeding them and collecting their eggs. The two joined San Francisco's only 4-H program, started this year, to share their knowledge of chicken raising with other children in the city.
Animal husbandry is probably not what first comes to mind when thinking about the extracurricular interests of urban youth, but the Bay Area's 52 4-H clubs are flourishing, with city kids raising rabbits, lambs, goats, chickens and turkeys - some destined for dinner tables. It's another sign that urban agriculture has taken hold in the Bay Area's food culture and is trickling down to a new generation.
In a city with a strong locavore and DIY ethos, 4-H seems like a natural fit, according to Megan Price, who, along with fellow parent Lauren Ward, co-founded the San Francisco Urban chapter just this year.
"With the whole urban farming movement blossoming, there are a lot of people with backyard chickens, beekeeping, etcetera," says Price. "It just seems like a really good time to start exploring these things with our kids."
Established in 1902, 4-H - which stands for head, heart, hands, health - is a national youth development program predicated on a "learn by doing" model. Members run the clubs and design and set goals for their own projects, which can range from building robots to home economics to raising rabbits.
Over the past few years, 4-H membership has been on a steady rise, especially in urban areas. According to 4-H National, about a third of participants are now from cities of at least 50,000 or their surrounding suburbs.
Raising animals is part of 4-H's agri-science curriculum, where members are responsible for daily tasks such as feeding and grooming, as well as learning about anatomy and breeding. Summertime is the wrap-up of months of hard work, with kids showing their animals at county fairs and selling them at auctions.

Grand champion -
At the San Mateo County Fair in June, urban 4-Hers showed animals alongside those of their peers from more rural areas. Peri Wong, 17, of Menlo Park, a 4-H state ambassador, had this year's grand champion market lamb, sold at the fair's youth livestock auction along with the grand champion turkey, raised by Thomas Rivette, 19, of Pacifica.
While Rivette kept his Broad Breasted White turkey in his backyard, finding the pasture required for sheep presented a logistical challenge for Peri as it does for many other city kids interested in keeping larger animals.
Mary Meyer, 4-H coordinator for San Francisco and San Mateo, worked out a solution with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and UC Davis, affiliated with 4-H through the national Cooperative Extension System, to set up five locations in the area for 4-Hers to lease land - in Pacifica, Daly City, San Bruno, San Carlos and near the Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County. The rent is kept low, usually around $6 per month. Because there is no caretaker on the land, it's up to the 4-Hers to feed and groom their animals daily.

San Bruno commute -
This year, Peri commuted from Menlo Park to San Bruno every day because the closer San Carlos farm was overcrowded. Raising a lamb for market involved a host of tasks for Peri, including feeding, watering, halter training, grooming and keeping detailed records on its growth. The Hampshire lamb, bred at the Casarotti Ranch in Santa Rosa, is a breed prized for its large frame and hearty cuts of meat. Peri was responsible for exercising her lamb to keep it at market weight and monitoring its food intake.
It's standard practice for animals raised for meat, something Peri understands now. "When I had my first goat, I was really sad, but then I realized if it was going for meat anyway, it should still have a better life."
Jenette Masarie, 13, of Redwood City, had similar responsibilities raising a 1,253-pound Pen Pride steer with three other girls for Redwood City's 4-H. Pen Pride steers are donated by local businesses and raised collectively by each of the Peninsula's clubs. The auction revenue generated by the Red Angus steer, donated this year by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, goes to the club's scholarship fund.
Throughout the eight years she's been a 4-Her, Jenette also has raised Blue Butt pigs and Red Wether goats - all destined for the slaughterhouse.
"I do get attached," Jenette admits. "My first year I cried and it was sad; as you go on through the years it gets easier. With the steer it was really hard because I was with him longer, and I bonded with him more."
Like Peri, she has come up against her share of adversity. "I have had people come up to me at the fair and say, 'How could you do that?' but I just say I know where my food comes from, and I know the way of life and everything now.
"I think it's a great experience. I've been doing it since I was 5 years old and I love it."
Participation in 4-H is designed to develop leadership skills by fostering collaboration and personal initiative, but it also emphasizes citizenship. Rivette, for example, donated the proceeds from the sale of his turkey - $500 - to the Bryan Stow Fund, set up to help the beaten Giants' fan.
"I like that (4-H is) focused on service, that it's nondiscriminatory," Price of SF Urban 4-H says. "I like that it is focused on earth and agriculture and animals and helping - it is something that kids don't necessarily have access to in the city."

"Run by children" -
 Jenette's mother, Katey Masarie, takes pride in watching Jenette hold her own in the urban farming movement. "Four-H is basically run by children," Masarie says, "and Jenette works really hard to raise those animals and become close to them, and having to learn about different meats and things - what she's really doing is learning about how life works."
The Rafter children joined 4-H because of their family's backyard chickens, but through their participation they saw several other aspects of growing and preparing food.
"When you live in a city, you're exposed to cool stuff like museums, but you have to go out of your way to see a farm, or experience milking a goat," says Price, who organized several outings to Hayes Valley Farm for SF Urban 4-H.
This year, Elsa learned to milk a club member's backyard goats and make homemade ice cream from the milk. With Price, who is a pastry chef, she baked an apple and blackberry galette with fresh fruit and an egg wash from her own chickens.
Price puts 4-H in what she refers to as "the return-to-the-earth movement."
"Like the whole Chez Panisse thing with the urban gardening and Hayes Valley Farm and people canning their own vegetables and backyard goats and chickens ..." she spouts giddily. It's reminiscent of the '60s, she explains, and laughs: "It's why the parents seem to be just as interested as the kids are."

4-H clubs -
Contact SF Urban 4-H at and visit them on Facebook at on.[]
To learn more about 4-H and for a listing of local offices, go to
For a listing of upcoming county fairs, go to []

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011-02-08 "North Richmond garden project nourishes bodies and spirits" by Robert Rogers
Hope and life are springing up in North Richmond with an ambitious plan to create a host of community gardens.
Organizers hope to use grant funding to create about 10 community gardens over the next two years.
They say producing fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in a neighborhood where both whole foods and natural spaces are scarce could be a powerful force for improvement.
“This is a community of color, one that has had poverty and neglect weighing on its collective conscience for decades,” said Iyalode Kinney, a director for Communities United Restoring Mother Earth and the project manager for the North Richmond Lot of Crops project. “This lifts the community in so many ways.”
CURME is a nonprofit urban gardening project based in Richmond, and the North Richmond effort has been underway for several months.
On Third Street just north of Grove Avenue last week, about a dozen administrators, volunteers and local workers tilled several hundred pounds of fresh soil. They used the soil to enrich the wooden planters that contain a variety of crops, including kale, collard and mustard greens, cabbage, turnips, peppers and a number of healthful herbs and edible flowers.
Kinney said the garden can provide both low-cost produce in an area largely without and opportunities for education and healthy living.
“We will soon begin holding little community classes out here in the gardens,” Kinney said. “To open people up to the health benefits of the natural plants growing out here and cooking ideas.”
Unincorporated North Richmond is the poorest community per capita community in Contra Costa County. The roughly one-mile square area has no grocery stores or restaurants.
Residents who wish to buy fresh produce and other groceries must travel to San Pablo or Richmond proper.
Organizers say the community garden project, which relies on private property owners who essentially lend the use of their vacant lots lands for the gardens, is a key step toward building community pride in an area long maligned by violent crime.
“The way North Richmond has been depicted has served to drag the people here down,” said Saleem Bey, co-director of the project. “This is really building a sense of pride and excitement. People drive by and cheer us on.”
The Lot of Crops project was given life in part with money from a much less healthy enterprise. The nearby West Contra Costa County landfill pays annually into a mitigation fund, which is to be used in the community to offset the effects of the landfill’s pollution.
The community garden project was awarded $56,000 in 2010 and $100,000 from the mitigation fund this year, Kinney said, money that pays for materials, transportation, administration and, perhaps most importantly, jobs for young workers in a community that has for decades had virtually no labor market.
Five young adults were hired Jan. 10 on five-month-long contracts to build and maintain the gardens, Kinney said. Work is also occurring on a vacant lot on Vernon Street, and the hope is that as many as 10 gardens may be in some stage of development by the end of the year.
One of those employed with the grant money is Ervin Coley, 21, a soft-spoken man who sheepishly admits he loves to smell the different leaves and flowers.
“My father loves that I am learning and helping on this project,” Coley said. “In his eyes, it’s amazing that I have a job in my own community.”

Ervin Coley, 21, is one of five young locals employed as a garden worker.

 Iyalode Kinney, 62, is the director of the community garden project.

2011-04-15 "North Richmond lays to rest a native son" by Robert Rogers
Ervin Coley III had a natural curiosity, and a curious favorite animal: Earthworms, the slimy invertebrates that burrow into the soil, enhancing its richness with organic matter.
Coley would gently handle the tiny worms, one at a time, and place them in patches of soil that he hoped to improve.
“We called Ervin the ‘Worm Man,’” remembered a tearful Iyalode Kinney, Coley’s manager and mentor on the North Richmond Lots of Crops project, where Coley worked since December, “because when he first came out, and I taught him about what purpose the worms served, he just loved that philosophy of enriching the ground so more life would come out of it.”
Coley had found something of a calling in his work as a gardener in North Richmond, friends and family say. He had put in a day of work on March 29.
That evening he was killed.
More than 500 people filled Hilltop Community Church on Thursday to mourn Coley, 21, a lifelong North Richmond resident who was killed by a hail of bullets on March 29 while walking near the corner of Silver Avenue and Second Street.
Many people wore t-shirts with Coley’s smiling faced embossed on the front and back. Coley’s mother, father, and 5-year-old brother sat up front in the two-story worship hall. Several of the neighborhood’s most prominent religious figures attended.
“I am just getting hit with mixed emotions here,” said Jelani Moses, 30, Coley’s co-worker on the community gardening program. “I know we’re here to celebrate Ervin’s life and remember how beautiful he was, but this hurts real bad. Ervin was young and had it all ahead him and it all just got destroyed … totally senseless.”
Coley’s death was the first homicide in the tiny neighborhood of unincorporated North Richmond since May, 2010, but was part of a spate of crime that rocked the neighborhood with three shootings in three days. One night later, Jerry Owens, 22, was shot and killed less than two blocks away.
No one has been arrested in connection with either killing.
Police and neighbors have speculated that the deadly violence has origins in a simmering feud between rival neighborhood gangs in Central Richmond and North Richmond. Among the casualties were central Richmond native Joshua McClain, who was shot and killed in San Francisco; and Coley and Owens. Two other men were shot and wounded during the chaotic 72-hour period.
Friends and family have maintained that Coley was not an intended victim.  “They come through, and they were just looking for a target,” said Saleem Bey, who supervised Coley in the gardening program.
Police have said that retaliation attacks between the neighborhoods have been known to target any young man found on the street at a given moment, and that the victims do not necessarily have ties to gang activity.
The service Thursday was a mix of laughs and celebration—thanks mostly to a slideshow featuring pictures of Coley’s irrepressible smile—and solemn reflection.
Bey told the crowd that North Richmond is under siege, and that despite glimmers of hope, violent crime continues to decimate the community.
“This young man was part of the positive change that was occurring in North Richmond,” Bey said. “I can’t tell you how much it hurts to see someone who had such a future get cut down like this.”
Before the spate of shootings, North Richmond seemed to enjoy a sustained period of calm. A one-square mile unincorporated community of about 3,000 people, North Richmond has the lowest per capita median income in Contra Costa County, according to Census data. Crime rates remain down from recent years, according to Sheriff’s Department statistics, but there is new unease about the prospect of future violence.
Several people in attendance Thursday expressed concern about the potential for retaliatory violence, given the raw emotions and the assemblage of so many hundreds of people for the service, many in their teens and 20s.
“We just have to do our best and hope that things don’t flare up again these next few nights,” said Joe McCoy, a longtime North Richmond resident who works for the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, a crime intervention program.
Coley was born in San Pablo in 1990, but his family’s roots in North Richmond run deep. As a young child, Coley spent periods living with a great-grandmother on Sanford Avenue. He attended the local elementary school, and later graduated from high school, an event featured in a slew of photographs during a slideshow commemorating his life.
In recent years, he lived mostly with his mother, Mariecelle Lowery, 37, and his baby brother in a unit in the Las Deltas Public housing project.
In December, he was hired as a community gardener in the Lot of Crops program, an initiative funded with money that comes from a nearby county landfill to mitigate economic and environmental impacts from the waste disposal. The job gave Coley a jolt of confidence and hope. During an interview in February, Coley enthusiastically told reporters how fulfilling it was to work to better his community.
“He wasn’t afraid to say, ‘I don’t know—can you teach me?’” Kinney said. “He was so open and so eager to learn, he was a sponge.”
After the services, Coley was buried at Rolling Hills Memorial Park in El Sobrante.
Kinney said Coley will be commemorated for his work in the neighborhood where he lived all of his 21 years. The day before his death, Coley worked at North Richmond’s newest garden, which he helped build in a vacant lot on Vernon Street. On April 23, his co-workers will dedicate the garden to Coley, with a yet-to-be-determined symbol honoring him.
“That garden will be a special place that will honor Ervin and symbolize the healing and growth of the community that he was a part of,” Kinney said.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

LNG Plant in Vallejo supported by VPOA

 "Missed Opportunities", 2011-01 by VPOA Vice-President Kevin Hamrick, for “In Your City (A crime and public safety magazine)” issue #4, pgs. 4 and 5, courtesy of the Vallejo Police Officer’s Association (VPOA):
From the introduction to issue #4 by VPOA President Mat Mustard - “More than 15,000 Vallejoans receive In Your City, and we have heard from hundreds of community members that the magazine brings a welcomed message.”

Peppino Messina is a VPOA boardmember, and advertises his business in the magazine. More info about him here [link].