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california agriculture, drought, and politics

cali drought

Published on March 30, 2015 by The Daily Beast

How Growers Gamed California’s Drought
by Mark Hertsgaard

Consuming 80 percent of California’s developed water but accounting for only 2 percent of the state’s GDP, agriculture thrives while everyone else is parched.

“I’ve been smiling all the way to the bank,” said pistachio farmer John Dean at a conference hosted this month by Paramount Farms, the mega-operation owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire known for his sprawling agricultural holdings, controversial water dealings, and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to high-powered California politicians including Governor Jerry Brown, former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.

Continue reading the full article here.


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the greenhorns presents: a night in the garden

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A NIGHT IN THE GARDEN

Pizza.  Drinks.  Music.  Historical and Art Exhibit. Talks.  Inspiration.  Urban Farming.

Friday, April 24, 2015 from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM (PDT)
Venice Arts Plaza – 681 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

 Special Guest Speakers and Presenters:

South Central Farmers Coop, Dr Elaine Ingham, Fibershed LA,
Muir Ranch, Malibu Grange, & Kiss the Ground

Schedule:

4pm Optional Fibershed Workshop w/ Fibershed LA ($65)
5pm Seed Planting with Seed Library of Los Angeles
5pm Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor UCCE  “From Cows to Concrete: How Farming Transformed Los Angeles”
6pm-10pm Pizza, Drinks, Local Fare, Music, Exhibit, Flowers on your Head (Mud Baron, Muir Ranch)
7pm Grange Future Exhibition – “From Cows to Concrete: How Farming Transformed Los Angeles”
Event is Free.  Please purchase pizza/drink tickets ahead of time (cash sales night of).


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occupy the farm action shuts down sprouts farmer’s market in walnut creek

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On March 14th, farmers and neighbors of the historic Gill Tract turned out in large numbers to disrupt business as usual and eventually shutdown a local Sprouts supermarket. Their message to this corporate supermarket chain? “Don’t build a Sprouts ‘Farmer’s Market’ on our historic Gill Tract Farmland”.

A crowd of 100-150 protesters, including a brass band, “occupy the farm” activists, and a large delegation of workers from the Fast Food Workers Union converged on a normally quiet Sprouts Supermarket in suburban Walnut Creek. Protesters held a sit-in to block the main entrance to the store, rallying around a 600 pound stump they had set down in the entranceway. The stump came from an approximately hundred year old Gill Tract tree that had been recently cut down by contractors preparing to pave the Gill Tract for the construction of the Sprouts store. Meanwhile, at the the other set of doors, protesters bearing branches from felled Gill Tract trees held a robust picket line turning away many would be customers.

Continue reading


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after the aqueduct: through april 12, 2015

As California’s severe drought drags on, water is top of mind, part of a zeitgeist that the things we’ve done for decades aren’t working so well anymore and never did, for everyone. The Los Angeles Aqueduct is one of them.

Pencil illustration of future aqueduct with two columns of text, one on either side of the sketch.

First page of survey document for L.A. Aqueduct, 1907-1944, courtesy of Library of Congress collection http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ca3095/.

The always controversial L.A. Aqueduct is a 233 mile hydraulic water conveyance system that has provided potable water for the City of L.A. since 1913. Today, the water for the aqueduct originates in the Mono Basin, 338 miles away, moves through the Owens Valley, and eventually reaches L.A. through a complex system of siphons, tunnels, dams and reservoirs. The water diversions from Owens Valley effectively killed it, and continue to threaten the ecology of Mono Lake and other areas.

In a refreshing contrast, the Aqueduct Futures (AF) Project “aims to inspire civic imagination about the future of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and Owens Valley” and is “mapping the hidden impacts of the Aqueduct to create a framework for lasting peace between Los Angeles and Owens Valley. 127 Cal Poly Pomona students (and counting), together with the Owens Valley and Mono County communities have contributed ideas to the project.”

Watch a video synopsis of the project on Vimeo and, if you’re in the L.A. area, check out the After the Aqueduct exhibit in person at the L.A. Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), 6522 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028. The exhibit runs through April 12, 2015.


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“our land” screenings in berkley march 17 & 18!

In this Reel to Real mini-series, the Brower Center and the Agrarian Trust explore the future of American farmland and farmers. In these two fascinating documentaries, audiences will encounter a first-generation farming couple who left the urban areas of their youth to found a biodynamic dairy (Brookford Almanac) and a lifelong rancher turned “eco-cowboy” (Hanna Ranch).
Poster advertising two films showing in Berkeley, CA at 7 PM on March 17th and 18thThese films allow us to explore issues of land access, land care, and land transition. Afterwards, engage in discussion with producers and stakeholders of these films.

Buy tickets in advance here!


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what nobody told me about small farming

Jaclyn Moyer, a small farmer and writer in Northern California, has an article at Salon on not getting by as a small farmer. She describes a situation familiar to many of us, that “90 percent of farmers in this country rely on an outside job, or a spouse’s outside job, or some independent form of wealth, for their primary income.”

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.

She writes:

“On the radio this morning I heard a story about the growing number of young people choosing to become farmers. The farmers in the story sounded a lot like me — in their late 20s to mid-30s, committed to organic practices, holding college degrees, and from middle-class non-farming backgrounds. Some raise animals or tend orchards. Others, like me, grow vegetables. The farmers’ days sounded long but fulfilling, drenched in sun and dirt. The story was uplifting, a nice antidote to the constant reports of industrial ag gone wrong, of pink slime and herbicide-resistant super-weeds.

What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.”
Read the rest of Jaclyn’s essay at Salon >>

We’d love to hear your comments on Jaclyn’s piece and your stories. How do you make farming work for you? Do you see outside employment as a long-term necessity or as temporary, a transition point from our modern day urban professions back to farming? What would most help you, as a new, small or someday-maybe farmer?


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see two “our land” films in berkeley, ca – march 17th and 18th at 7 PM

Poster advertising two films showing in Berkeley, CA at 7 PM on March 17th and 18thWhat does the land want? How can our human systems for legacy planning, farm transition and land-linking best serve the interests of the land? Please join the Agrarian Trust and Our Land at two film screenings that explore issues of land access, care and transition. Each film will be followed by a Q&A or roundtable discussion.

What: Film screenings of Brookford Alamanac and Hannah Ranch

When: Tuesday, March 17th at 7 PM (Brookford Almanac) and Wednesday, March 18th at 7 PM (Hannah Ranch)

Where: The David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA

How much: $10 Advance/$12 Door/$5 Students + Teachers

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