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.

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After a 25 minute drive up this beautiful coast I arrive in Pescadero, California, home to Harley Farms Goat Dairy.

 

Harley Farms is a Goat Dairy that sells goat cheese as well as soaps and lotions made with goat milk. It is small (80 goats) and has a devoted owner and workers.

Harley Farms is a Goat Dairy that sells goat cheese as well as soaps and lotions made with goat milk. It is small (80 goats) and has a devoted owner and workers.

Dee Harley owns and runs the farm, employing 20 full time people.  She contributes to the community by hiring local workers and housing them as well.

Dee Harley owns and runs the farm, employing 20 full time people.  She contributes to the community by hiring local workers and housing them as well.

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.

Steve is with Dee awaiting the State Water Board.  Dee pays Steve $1,000.00 to come each month to test the water, which is required by the Water Board. Steve is an independent contractor and has come to the inspection to add his findings. He works indirectly with the Water Board, but considers himself an ally to Dee.

Steve is with Dee awaiting the State Water Board.  Dee pays Steve $1,000.00 to come each month to test the water, which is required by the Water Board. Steve is an independent contractor and has come to the inspection to add his findings. He works indirectly with the Water Board, but considers himself an ally to Dee.

The inspection reflects the fact that people are washing their hands at the farm and because the public is there, the level of the inspection is higher.  All because of washing hands!  No water is served to the people at the farm, although all of the wells and the creek have passed the drinking water inspection.  It makes little sense.

The inspection reflects the fact that people are washing their hands at the farm and because the public is there, the level of the inspection is higher.  All because of washing hands!  No water is served to the people at the farm, although all of the wells and the creek have passed the drinking water inspection.  It makes little sense.

The group is watching Eduardo explain and show the plumbing mechanism to the new well.

The group is watching Eduardo explain and show the plumbing mechanism to the new well.

Dee is watching and listening to the questions the Water Board people are asking Eduardo.

Dee is watching and listening to the questions the Water Board people are asking Eduardo.

Dee is clearly disturbed.  Her other two wells were inspected yearly for the last 10 years and the water was tested by the health department. The wells and the water in them passed all the tests. The state government supervision has radically changed some laws and the small farmers are feeling the financial burden, as they are forced to pay for the new inspections.

Dee is clearly disturbed.  Her other two wells were inspected yearly for the last 10 years and the water was tested by the health department. The wells and the water in them passed all the tests. The state government supervision has radically changed some laws and the small farmers are feeling the financial burden, as they are forced to pay for the new inspections.

This situation seems tense as Susan, from the State Water Board, asks questions.  Later Eduardo said that she was not particularly up on her subject and that her questions were redundant. Who is in charge? The meeting and inspection seemed like a farce.  Almost like the Water Board just needed money.  The inspection was not particularly professional.

This situation seems tense as Susan, from the State Water Board, asks questions.  Later Eduardo said that she was not particularly up on her subject and that her questions were redundant. Who is in charge? The meeting and inspection seemed like a farce.  Almost like the Water Board just needed money.  The inspection was not particularly professional.

After checking the mechanics of the well, they are now checking the pumps. Harley Farms passed the inspection, but this was after money and anxiety. This issue of extra expenses for farmers because of new inspections is huge and I found more examples of this which I will discuss further.

After checking the mechanics of the well, they are now checking the pumps. Harley Farms passed the inspection, but this was after money and anxiety. This issue of extra expenses for farmers because of new inspections is huge and I found more examples of this which I will discuss further.

Dee just wants her farm to run smoothly and for the goats to be happy and healthy, producing the best milk for the cheese.

Dee just wants her farm to run smoothly and for the goats to be happy and healthy, producing the best milk for the cheese.

Harley Farms Goat Cheese

Harley Farms Goat Cheese

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.

 

Chef Joe prepares sumptuous dinners for reserved parties and weddings.

Chef Joe prepares sumptuous dinners for reserved parties and weddings.

Dinners are held in this gorgeous barn.

Dinners are held in this gorgeous barn.

And Dee now charges for tours as another income stream. Many schools come for tours as well as corporate and private groups.

And Dee now charges for tours as another income stream. Many schools come for tours as well as corporate and private groups.

Driving out of town, I see the mustard cover crop on one of Dee's fields that she leases to a berry grower.  Cover crops feed the soil helping it to retain water.  My initial thrust in this project was to study water scarcity specifically, which is definitely a problem.  Two of the farmers I interviewed have run out of water and are selling.

Driving out of town, I see the mustard cover crop on one of Dee's fields that she leases to a berry grower.  Cover crops feed the soil helping it to retain water.  My initial thrust in this project was to study water scarcity specifically, which is definitely a problem.  Two of the farmers I interviewed have run out of water and are selling.

Linda, who has owned with her husband, Lindencroft Farm, is selling her  property.  She can no longer farm as both her well and her creek has dried up. She has one crop of peppers that will finish out her career.  Their place is going on the market next spring.  Lindencroft Farm supplied a number of high end restaurants with their produce in the Bay Area and they will be missed.

Linda, who has owned with her husband, Lindencroft Farm, is selling her  property.  She can no longer farm as both her well and her creek has dried up. She has one crop of peppers that will finish out her career.  Their place is going on the market next spring.  Lindencroft Farm supplied a number of high end restaurants with their produce in the Bay Area and they will be missed.

Billie is also leaving the farm system because of lack of water.  Billie grows marijuana and makes a CBD tincture, a powerful component of marijuana which does not contain the THC hallucinogen and is good medicine for arthritis and other pain and encourages appetite in cancer patients. Her well is dry on her farm, so she will finish up this years's crop and either find new land or get another job.

Billie is also leaving the farm system because of lack of water.  Billie grows marijuana and makes a CBD tincture, a powerful component of marijuana which does not contain the THC hallucinogen and is good medicine for arthritis and other pain and encourages appetite in cancer patients. Her well is dry on her farm, so she will finish up this years's crop and either find new land or get another job.

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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. 

Mike Erikson runs the farm meticulously, but has serious concerns about water.  He pays $1,700.00 a month for city water and isn't sure how long he can keep up the donations to pay for the water.

Mike Erikson runs the farm meticulously, but has serious concerns about water.  He pays $1,700.00 a month for city water and isn't sure how long he can keep up the donations to pay for the water.

People come an pick their own vegetables. 

People come an pick their own vegetables. 

The flower gardens supply the flowers for the wreaths sold in the shop.

The flower gardens supply the flowers for the wreaths sold in the shop.

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.

 

As I drive back down to coast to meet Dina Izzo, I gaze at the beautifully laid hay bales .

As I drive back down to coast to meet Dina Izzo, I gaze at the beautifully laid hay bales .

How could anyone believe that these beautiful farms are in such precarious situations?

How could anyone believe that these beautiful farms are in such precarious situations?

We see so much dazzling food at our local Farmer's Markets, it's difficult to understand the plight of the farmer today without knowledge of the issues.

We see so much dazzling food at our local Farmer's Markets, it's difficult to understand the plight of the farmer today without knowledge of the issues.

Speaking with my final "farmer," was a true lesson.  She had even more to say about government intervention than Dee Harley.  

Dina Izzo owns a company called BluDog Consulting:  "It is our mission to teach small scale organic farmers forward thinking business practices through understanding the impact of basic marketing techniques while creating financial welfare for our local and rural communities and their urban counter parts."

Dina Izzo owns a company called BluDog Consulting: 

"It is our mission to teach small scale organic farmers forward thinking business practices through understanding the impact of basic marketing techniques while creating financial welfare for our local and rural communities and their urban counter parts."

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. 

Farmers sell their fruits and vegetables on highway 1.

Farmers sell their fruits and vegetables on highway 1.

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"

                           Buckminster Fuller