In July, 2014, after taking a class At Antioch University Connected about Global Warming/Climate Change, I became interested in the the work and life of local farmers. I already had a number of connections through my catering company, so I had a slight understanding of some issues affecting them. My major takeaway from this class was that in order to feed the world as our population is growing (10 billion people by the year 2050) we must dramatically change how food is produced, shipped, stored, and consumed. We must depend on local farms, pay close attention to the soil, create local food groups and support these local organic farmers in everyway possible. The work that they do is spiritual, close to the earth. They understand weather cycles, life spans of animals, life itself. I wanted to understand if and how they were affected by climate change and how they will navigate farming for the future.
I began my study by driving up this beautiful coast in the early morning. I wake early, so getting out to for house isn't difficult and at this time of year (September) the sun rises about 7AM and that is when the light is best on these coastal farms. It's a theater.
After a 25 minute drive up this beautiful coast I arrive in Pescadero, California, home to Harley Farms Goat Dairy.
As I interviewed Dee, first on the phone, I felt her frustration about new government policies, something I had not thought about. This was a surprising departure from my original issue of water. I understood the water issues as either having water or not having water and this is what I was ready to talk about. After our discussion,it was clear that the government was getting involved in her business in a new and intrusive way. She had plenty of water, but the government was trying to regulate the water she already had access to and was planning to fine her unless she went along with the new stipulations. She asked me to come up when the State Water Board was there for an inspection.
While this government policy issue looms, farmers everywhere need to find new streams of income, as their basic expenses have climbed. Harley Farms has a shop, events, and tours.
The Homeless garden Project is a wonderful project located in Santa Cruz. The land has been donated for the next two years to the project. Homeless people are hired after a lengthy interview process and paid to work on the farm in different capacities for 12 months. The goal is for the workers to get a job on a farm or cook in a restaurant. Many companies in the town of Santa Cruz donate to this worthy project which not only has a 12 acre farm but a shed that sells produce to the public, a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, that goes out to the subscribers, as well as a store where wreaths are sold that are made from the flowers at the farm.
The Homeless Garden Project raises money through their quarterly dinners as well, but as water becomes scarce and expensive things could change. They are planning a major fundraiser over the next two years as the farm will be moving to another location. Condominiums are to be built on this land. This is another subject revolving around our food. Land is scarce and housing expansion is taking over the farmland which feeds the people.
Speaking with my final "farmer," was a true lesson. She had even more to say about government intervention than Dee Harley.
Dina had a lot to say about climate change and water scarcity, but mostly about government intervention, validating Dee Harley's situation. She works with farmers everyday, listening to the latest difficult situations and does her best to create connections between the farmers, restaurants, and even government bureaus. The biggest issue, Dina says, is food safety. The Food Safety Modernization Act is designed to protect us from food-born illness. While it is an important act, it is a great imposition on the farms, especially the small farms. The process to become certified is excruciating and expensive. It takes money to become certified, hence driving farmers out of business. Similar to the water/well issue at Harley Farms, it's food (water) safety laws that, like a catch 22, could be the end of some farms. Another issue is the bill signed by Jerry Brown in September(AB 1066) granting farm workers overtime after 8 hours. While this is a plus for the union, the farmers will suffer losses and the situation will add to the cost of food.
Seeing the glorious vegetables, the healthy animals, the beautiful land and seascapes,and the people on my journeys around the county cemented my appreciation for the farmers and their incredible connection to the land. They are the ones who feed the planet and will be the ones to continue this job. And what an opportunity I had to photograph the landscape, people, animals and vegetables.
There is a potential for sustainable farms to feed the world without depleting our finite resources. And this potential must be our future,
"We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims. The challenge is to make the world work for 100% of humanity int he shortest possible time, with spontaneous cooperation, and without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone"