Environmental Groups Sue State Over Pesticide Plan

Jan 30, 2015

  A sweeping plan to give the California Department of Food Agriculture free rein in applying pesticides statewide is being contested by a broad coalition of food and environmental groups that contend it violates the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

   During the public comment period, before the environmental document was finalized, thousands of people offered thoughts, suggestions and feedback. Yet very little of that was acknowledged, says Nan Wishner of the California Environmental Health Imitative.

Natural Gift Flows Through Water Dowser

Dec 30, 2014
Bruce Robinson, KRCB

  As California’s severe drought continues, farmers, ranchers and vineyard owners are desperately searching for new or additional water sources. So Santa Rosa’s Rob Thompson is keeping busy. 

Rob Thompson’s water dowsing success rate is remarkable, even to him. He attributes it to a combination of a natural gift, and lots of concentrated practice.

Local Potato Variety Stages Comeback from near Extinction

Dec 23, 2014
Danielle Venton/KRCB

The Bodega red potato was once a mainstay of life in the North Bay. But, after years of neglect, the heirloom spud nearly died out before being rescued by food historians. Today, the Bodega red is once again a thriving commercial success. A survey of farmers suggested that around 30,000 pounds of Bodega reds were grown for consumption this year. 

Living with Migrant Farmworkers

Dec 2, 2014

  To learn about the harsh realities of a migrant farm worker’s life, researcher Seth Holmes took a first-person approach, living and working alongside them for a season.

The group of farmworkers he joined were willing enough to allow him to work and travel with them, Holmes recounts, but gaining their trust took more than five months.

‘Upcycling’ surplus tomatoes

Nov 26, 2014
Kate Webber Photography (

  Better than just recycling, “upcycling” uses waste materials to create new products with increased value. Laci Sandoval is doing exactly that with surplus tomatoes.

Laci Sandoval says the success of her pilot partnership with County Line Harvest is not a business she intends to pursue for herself, but a demonstration model for other, smaller farmers in the area.


Vineyard Frost Protection Rules to Kick in

Nov 24, 2014
Sonoma County Farm Bureau

  Winegrape growers are facing new regulations governing diversions of water from the Russian River and its tributaries for late season frost protection.  But some say that state and county bureaucracies stand in the way of a better response to the problem. The issue was the subject of an Agricultural Water Use Workshop in Cloverdale yesterday. KRCB’s Bruce Robinson was there.

Closing the Waste Loop with Compost

Oct 22, 2014

Farms in Sonoma County are part of an innovative program to close the waste loop. It’s “Farm to table, back to Farm.”

After bottles and cans are separated out for recycling, food scraps are the largest section of household waste that enters landfills. But as KRCB finds, several local cities like San Francisco and Oakland are working to change that and Sonoma County farms are cashing on the benefits. 

Documenting the Grape Harvest

Oct 12, 2014


  Growing grapes is a form of farming. Making wine is a quite different process. The bridge between the two is the harvest, which has a drama all its own.


John Beck's previous short documentary was Worst in Show, about the Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma.  Harvest will be shown on KRCB television twice in October: at 9 pm on Monday the 13th, repeating at 11 pm on Sunday the 19th. You can view a trailer for the film below.

Fewer birds in North Bay skies

Sep 18, 2014

  Climate change and habitat loss are threatening the survival of hundreds of North American bird species. And local birding observers say, the numbers of numerous familiar birds are already visibly declining in the North Bay’s skies.

  The Pacific flyway along the North coast is a vital corridor for many larger birds of prey, but Susan Kirks, past president of the Madrone Audubon Society, says that as a group, they are among the most threatened species that traverse this region.

Food System Innovations Showcased

Sep 17, 2014

  This is North Bay Innovation Week in Sonoma County, which suggests a lot of new technologies. But innovation is also about new ways of doing long-established things, too, and that includes how we produce and prepare the foods we eat. Go Local is hosting a pair of presentations which look at innovations in that sector. Here’s  a preview.

Heirloom Expo Looks Back, Forward

Sep 10, 2014

  The 4th annual Heirloom Expo got underway at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds yesterday. KRCB News Director Bruce Robinson paid a visit and talked with one of the event’s co-founders.

The 4th annual Heirloom Expo continues through tomorrow. You can find a full schedule of events here.

Tasting History at the Heirloom Seed Expo

Sep 9, 2014

The 4th Annual Heirloom Expo has come to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this week. KRCB was on hand for the opening day to get the “dirt” on the heirloom food movement.

Heirloom seeds are usually thought of as being "pure breeding." Their seeds can be saved, used again and the produce will remain true to type. (Hybridized seeds generally do not.) Many heirloom varieties have been passed down for generations. 

Developing Solar Power on Agricultural Lands

Aug 22, 2014
West County Union High School District

  Sonoma County has opened the door  for the construction of  new solar arrays that could feed Sonoma Clean Power, on agricultural lands and elsewhere. But local environmentalists are keeping a wary eye on where those developments might be located.

  Sonoma Clean Power’s new PRO-Fit program is open to 14 kinds of renewable energy generation projects, including biomass, tidal current, geothermal and small hydroelectric. But for now, says COE Geof Syphers, most proposals are expected to be solar installations.

Tastes and Tips at the Fermentation Festival

Aug 21, 2014


Fermentation is an essential part of the brewing of beer and other alcoholic beverages, but that process is also involved in the making of a wide variety of foods. They’ll be on display and, in many cases, available for both sampling and instruction at the Farm to Fermentation Festival in Santa Rosa this weekend. Here’s a preview.

Find a full schedule of festival events here.

  Homeowners and businesses up and down California are under increasing pressure to conserve water; however, they only account for one fifth of the state’s water consumption. Agriculture uses most of the rest, but many of the local water districts that serve farmers in the central valley are out of compliance with state laws that require them to monitor and report on their usage. Today we hear from a reporter who has been tracking that situation.

Crafting A Lexicon of Sustainability

Jun 30, 2014

When we talk about something—food, for instance—it’s essential that we all understanding the same meanings for the words we use. That’s the reasoning behind the Lexicon of Sustainability.

There’s another way that language shapes the food choices in his own home, explains Douglas Gayeton.

    Food, of course, extends beyond agriculture, as does the importance of sustainability. One important example is fish.

New Mountaintop AVA Builds Community

Jun 19, 2014

High altitude isolation defines the newest grape-growing appellation in the North Bay, which has also forged a sense of community among those who live and work there.

Find out more about the history and farmers in the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak area at the AVA's website.

Wine Tasting may Soon be Allowed at Farmers Markets

Jun 13, 2014
Flickr user Michael Porter

In Wine Country, tasting opportunities seem to be here, there and everywhere. That may soon include your local farmers market. 

Farmer's Little Helper: Beneficial Insects

May 22, 2014
courtesy Quarter Acre Farm.

Spring is bug season. Andrea Davis-Cetina sees plenty as she walks through Quarter Acre Farm. She's especially happy to see green lacewings this year, beneficial insects that prey heavily on pests like aphids, leafhoppers and mealybugs. 

Researchers like Riccardo Bommarco, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, work to help farmers such as Davis-Cetina find the best was to re-introduce insect habitat onto their farms. 

Dry times hard on bees

Apr 13, 2014

It's a foggy morning in Petaluma at Ettamarie Peterson's Farm. Peterson, who now has about five hives in her yard, has kept bees for 21 years. She is the president of the Sonoma County Bee Keeper's Association and says times are tough right now. 


"Last year we didn't get much honey at all because of the drought," she says. "A flower that is dry isn't going to produce the nectar or the pollen."


'The Soil Will Save Us'

Apr 4, 2014

  Plowing, using pesticides and fertilizers and other common agricultural practices actually contribute to global warming. But adopting alternative practices could reverse that, as a growing number of small farmers are already demonstrating.

  Industrial agriculture has dominated the industry for years now, but with a far higher carbon footprint than traditional methods. But reporter Kristin Ohlson says small farmers who are reverting to those historic practices are finding them profitable as well as green.

Drought driving up feed, milk prices

Apr 4, 2014
courtesy Wallaby Yogurt

Despite recent rains, local dairy producer's water woes are far from over. On today's North Bay Report we take a look at what the drought is meaning for our local dairy farmers. While recent rains have brought some relief those in the dairy business are worried about what the coming months will bring.

Image courtesy Flatland Flower Farm

With spring in full swing, it's time for gardeners to turn their attention to planting. On today's North Bay Report we visit Flatland Flower Farm in Sebastopol, where they're growing a tomato variety that is both brand new and a well loved favorite.  Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz is developing an Early Girl-like tomato. 

"The Early Girl is a great tomato, it's the best one I've ever had," says Schirmer. "And it's not the Early Girl's fault that Monsanto bought the company that grows it out." 

Cost breakthrough for water desalination

Mar 19, 2014
Water FX

  In California’s Central Valley, a small water district is pioneering the use of solar energy to power water desalination through distillation. An extensive article on the pilot project in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle reported that this approach cuts the power requirements for desalination by as much as three-fourths, which is a breakthrough in cost-effectiveness. We learn more in this conversation with the article’s author.

To get Buffalo Mozzarella Outside of Italy try Tomales

Mar 17, 2014
Audrey Hitchcock, Ramini Mozzarella

Craig Ramini came to his second career through a combination of luck and pluck. After deciding to leave the Silicon Valley tech industry with a near-terminal case of boredom, Ramini launched himself into cheese making after a relative asked, "Why don't Americans make buffalo mozzarella? 

Made Local, Volume 2

Mar 16, 2014

The second quarterly issue of the new Made Local magazine is out (read it here). It’s written and edited by Gretchen Giles, former long-time editor of the North Bay Bohemian, who stopped by to talk about it with KRCB’s Bruce Robinson.

What To Do When Bees Are On The Move

Mar 11, 2014
Photo by Ettamarie Peterson / Sonoma County Beekeepers Association

  With spring-like weather conditions and warming temperatures, conditions are ripe for swarms of honeybees to be out looking for a new home. But even though they can be frightening, these buzzing clouds of bees aren’t really a hazard. So rather than getting out a spray or pesticide, the best response is to call a local beekeeper. That’s what Bruce Robinson did to get more detailed advice.

To find a beekeeper near you, go to the website for the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association  and click on the button that says “Swarm Help.”

Beginning farmers taught business savvy

Feb 16, 2014
Image courtesy Vince Trotter

Farmers love working the land, but often need help learning to plan and market their business. A local program is teaching aspiring farmers the business skills they need for success. 

The program, called the Sonoma County Agropreneurship's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training Program, is looking for aspiring farmers with 1-10 years of experience. The training teaches them to formulate business plans, market products and connects trainees with experienced mentors. 

Huge Beef Recall Questioned

Feb 13, 2014

  The sweeping order by the USDA earlier this week, demanding the recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef butchered by Petaluma’s Rancho Feeding Corporation—an entire year’s output—has sent shock waves through the North Bay’s meat producers. Many are customers of the respected Sonoma County facility, and deeply skeptical about the federal agency’s action.  On today’s Exchange, KRCB’s Bruce Robinson talks with one of them.

Defending Your Yard Against Drought

Jan 27, 2014

  Vineyards and other agricultural operations are bracing for a very dry growing year in California, and homeowners with landscaping or gardens will need to do likewise. We get some tips for residential water management on today’s segment.