agriculture

In agriculture, building, urban design transportation, energy production and use and more, there are steps already being taken to keep carbon out of the atmosphere. And according to a serious new book, scaling up those actions—all of them—could be a pathway to reversing global warming.

Many of the 100 climate change solutions examined by Project Drawdown have interlocking effects. Editor Paul Hawken says their analyses work scrupulously to keep their projected benefits separate.

For decades, composting toilets have been an off-the-grid novelty. But in a time of limited fresh water and burgeoning interest in sustainable living, they are ripe for re-examination.

Sonoma County is hardly the only place that composting toilets have been put into use for remote rural residences. But Miriam Volat believes this area may be more receptive than most to the wider use of such fixtures.

Hops were once a major agricultural product in Sonoma County. Now they’re starting to come back, but mostly as a specialty crop for the craft beer market.

 It's not hard to get started growing hops,  says Mike Stevenson of the NorCal Hop Growers Alliance. And its even easier to keep them going once the field has been established.

Making beer is by far the primary use for hops. But not, says Stevenson, the only one.

Bruce Robinson / KRCB-FM

Ag Days returned to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this week. The annual event, hosted by the local Farm Bureau, gives thousands of elementary school students some first-hand exposure to this region’s agricultural heritage and its products. 

Raymond Baltar, Sonoma Biochar Initiative

In centuries past, bio-char helped grow food for the indigenous people of the Amazon basin for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years before the first Spaniards arrived. Now it could help the 21st century world to slow global climate change.

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative is hosting a workshop on the process this Friday at Circle Bar Ranch south of Sonoma. Find details here.

An informational meeting about the expanding business of agri-tourism drew an intensely interested cross section of farmers, promoters and others to the Petaluma Community Center yesterday. 

Tim Zahner, Chief Marketing Officer for the Sonoma County Tourism office, says that the agricultural and culinary diversity of Sonoma County is one of the area’s greatest attractions.

Nancy Fiddler sees expanding operations to bring more visitors to her Rollin’ F Ranch near Sebastopol as a critical step to maintain her business viability.

Roots of Peace

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the beginnings of the San Rafael-based humanitarian non-profit Roots of Peace. The group, founded by fifth-generation Marin County resident Heidi Kuhn, converts war-torn land in countries all over the world into rich and bountiful farmland. KRCB’s Tiffany Camhi reports that with new federal funding, the organization can now take their efforts further.

The process of setting up a new composting operation in Sonoma is finally taking its first steps. But in the meantime, both residents and compost users are paying significantly more.

Cultivators of cannabis breed their plants for specific characteristics—potency, medicinal efficacy, even appearance. Today we meet someone whose emphasis is primarily on flavors—which can be manipulated in some divergent directions.

Cannabis has long been combined with other things in foods—brownies being a classic example. But Jay Michaels says his cross-breeding efforts have been able to simulate the tastes of some other foods—and quite a range of them.

 

Dirt is ancient, alive, and essential to agriculture. But it is not necessarily eternal. And that can be a big problem.

You can see the trailer for Symphony of the Soil below. And watch the entire documentary on KRCB television Saturday afternoon, Nov. 26 at 3 pm, or next Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 10:30 pm.

Tiffany Camhi

Women farmers have been a backbone in agriculture for hundreds of years, but according to some their voices and stories are not being heard. Now a group in Sebastopol is trying to break that mold. KRCB’s Tiffany Camhi reports.

The event included many local Bay Area farmers and food advocates. To find out more information about the speakers check out the Foundations and the Future website.

Thanks in large part to the widespread use of genetically modified corn, soy and other crops, herbicides containing glyphosate are being more widely used than ever before. At the same time, new concerns about the health and environmental damage that the chemical causes are prompting calls to restrict it.

Bruce Robinson, KRCB

  The Heirloom Expo, a colorful celebration of old, rare, exotic and bountiful produce, returned to the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa yesterday, with scores of vendors and nearly as many speakers. We hear from one of them on today’s North Bay report.

  All of the abundance and diversity of fruit that can be grown around the Bay Area tends to belie the fact that very little of it is actually native to the region, explains John Valenzuela.

The National Heirloom Exo continues through Thursday.

Russian Riverkeeper

  The Russian River is the primary water way in the North Bay, but for most of its length, it flows quietly out of sight. This week, a group of river stakeholders, organized by LandPaths and Supervisor James Gore, are beginning a firsthand exploration of the waterway by kayak. Russian Riverkeeper Don McEnhill is leading the group, and checked in with KRCB to tell us about what they saw today.

True Grass Farms

  Self-sufficiency is a cornerstone of sustainability, and it can even be applied to raising prime grass-fed beef. On today’s report, we hear from a young farmer who is doing just that.

The best time of year for butchering beef cattle is usually late summer, explains True Grass Farms’ Guido Frosini. But exactly when is determined by the growth cycle of the grasses that the cattle feed on.

Beyond his own farming practices, Frosini is also determined to build new bridges between consumers and food producers.

Mendocino Grain Project

  Agricultural diversification in Mendocino County doesn’t just mean adding new varietals, or even preparing for legal cannabis cultivation. For a small but growing number of farmers, it includes growing traditional and specialty grains. Reporter Valerie Kim visited the man at the center of this incipient trend, Doug Mosel of the Mendocino Grain Project.

Northern California is home to a growing number of innovative and holistic farms and farmers. A new Farm School program in Sebastopol is out to help export those practices more widely.

  The Farm School doesn’t just teach aspiring agrarians what to do on and with their land, says Director Miriam Volat, it also strives to help those students find land they can work.

Sustainability is on the rise in Sonoma County’s vineyards, and that movement is gathering attention much further afield.

    To assist local vineyards in moving toward sustainability, the Sonoma County Winegrowers organization has compiled a fat binder of best practices, many of them developed by a team at UC Davis. It’s not a series of steps that must be taken, says Executive Director Karissa Kruse; more like a menu of possible actions.

Sonoma County Water Agency

  As local well owners, water suppliers, and other stakeholders begin to implement the state’s new groundwater management law, they’re having to find ways to make something designed for central and southern California still work locally.

A series of three local workshops on implementation of the state’s the Groundwater Management Act hav e been planned in Sonoma County. See the full schedule below.

Thursday, June 30
Sonoma Valley Workshop
6-8 p.m.
Sonoma Charter School
17202 Highway 12, Fetters Hot Springs

  Now that California is collecting billions of dollars from greenhouse gas emitters, some of that money is being directed to programs that help farms and dairies reduce their carbon footprints.  But while additional funds are being sought, the entire program’s future is uncertain.

More than a decade after the divisive and expensive political battle over Measure M—which would have enacted a 10-year moratorium on growing bioengineered crops in Sonoma County—the issue will be back on the local ballot this fall.

During the lengthy public hearing, Taft Street Winery owner and former Santa Rosa City Councilman Mike Martini suggested three changes he said would make for a better proposal to limit local use of GMOs.

Bruce Robinson, KRCB

  When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, ugliness is only skin deep, while flavor and nutrition go all the way through. But is that enough to win over consumers?

Ben Simon, co-founder and CEO of Imperfect Produce, says the company's slightly pejorative name was deliberately chosen.

The “Imperfect” brand also gives farmers an alternate way to find a market for their less-than-ideal produce, Simon explains.

Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

  A proposed hands-on "incubator farm” for young would-be farmers next to Rohnert Park has generated protests from nearby residents. So the project is being revised to ease their concerns.

The 45-acre Young-Armos property was purchased by the county’s Ag and Open Space District for $370,000 in 1997. Rohnert Park Mayor Gina Belforte is sympathetic to the Rohnert Park residents who would strongly prefer that nothing be changed on it.

Recent warm weather has triggered the onset of bud break in the vineyards, yet the lingering threat of cold nights carries enormous risk. But some new research suggests there are chemical and botanical measures that can deflect the danger of freezing, without requiring the use of large amounts of water or electricity. We get details from reporter Valerie Kim in Hopland.

Five years after Sonoma County’s first Food Forum laid the foundation for the county’s Food Action Plan, a second session yesterday focused on the economic forces that challenge farmers and the long-term prospects for sustainable local agriculture.

High costs for both land and housing in Sonoma County are hurting small and new would-be farmers, notes Agriculture Commissioner Tony Linegar. And he’s got a suggestion to help ease that bind.

Pesticide Action Network of North America

  Pollinating honeybees in California could gain some protection from pesticides believed to be contributing to their decline, under a measure now under consideration in Sacramento. Reporter Suzanne Potter has more.

  Eleven years after local voters rejected a ballot measure to restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Sonoma County, a new initiative with the same goal is working to win a spot on the ballot next November.

GMO Free Sonoma County leader Karen Hudson was not active in the 2005 campaign for Measure M. But she says they have tried to incorporate some lessons learned from that bitterly contested election as they drafted their new initiative.

UC Riverside

  Last year, according to a UC Davis report, the drought cost California’s agricultural economy about one-point-eight-billion-dollars. One response to this—and to climate change in general—has been an expanded use of cover crops, as Byrhonda Lyons reports.

  From the outside, it looks like business as usual at local grange halls across northern California. But a bitter internal power struggle between the state and national offices is forcing each community group to choose sides.

  The 180 local granges in California have a long history that added an unexpected new chapter in recent years, as younger and progressive new members infused fresh energy and activism into a number of formerly moribund chapters. That political advocacy has been embraced strongly within the Sebastopol Grange, says local leader Lawrence Jaffee.

Queen of the Sun

Dec 18, 2015

  Honey bees have been pollinating plants all over planet Earth for millennia. But now, rather abruptly, there are far fewer of them around to do the job. A new documentary examines the history of bees—and worries about their future.

  

An abridged version of Queen of the Sun: What Are The Bees Telling Us? opens the new season of Natural Heroes  Monday evening at 7:30 on KRCB Television. See a trailer for the full-length film below.

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