Thursday, September 17, 2009

Propagation Workshop

On Wednesday Sept. 23 we are holding our Propagation Workshop in anticipation of the Holiday Plant sale for December. In order to fullfill the requirements of the Organic Certification rules for Dharma Farm, we will be using ONLY certified Organic plants and seeds at this workshop. Any cuttings brough MUST come from an Already certified organic plant. Our main focus for this Plant Sale will be Herbs and Flowers since it was suggested that the marketability of these at that time is best. We haven't determined yet where we will hold our actual sale--it has been suggested that a more public site would be preferred such as a shopping mall or other situation. If that will be the case, you are welcome to include for the sale only, plants that you have propagated and maintained.
If any of you haven't visited the newly opened SEED BANK in Petaluma--you're in for a surprise! The variety and selections of rare and organic seeds they have is outstanding. You'll find them on the corner of E.Washington and Petaluma Blvd. Interior of the bank is also a feast for the eyes with the 30ft. ceiling of hammered metal and large windows.
Also, don't forget to check out the weekend workshops at Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol. this Saturday from 10-12 is a cover crop class and next Saturday is a Garlic Class with Chester Aaron --king of garlic growing who has written several books on garlic growing. Each weekend in the winter months offers a workshop including Mushroom growing, winter gardening, water useage, etc.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sept 11

Don’t forget—Wendy has a MALT event at the Farm Saturday (today)
Vic and I had another meeting at the Kentfield Campus today and dropped off a “bribe” box for the Asst. of Student Affairs. It did it’s Magic—all in the club counsel would like a tour of our Farm. We’re going to be presenting ourselves to the Associated Students Group on Thursday and to request assistance for getting our Club off the ground.

Our 1st Farm Club project will be a Propagation Workshop on Sept. 23 at the Farm Field Greenhouse from 10 AM to 2PM.
We’ll be planting for our Holiday Plant Sale in December.
Here’s what we will be needing (if you can supply something from the list, please contact Vic or myself):

Soil (being picked up by Rob Fowler)
Seed trays or pots
Permanent marker pens

If you can, contact your local nursery or gardening friends to see if they could donate to our cause. I’ve contacted the Bolinas Nursery and will be getting cuttings from many of their Mother Plants to use (for example). They are also donating a huge amount of plastic pots to us. I’ll also contact my farmer friends out here in Bo, too.

Our first Field trip is scheduled in November to UC Santa Cruz to visit the Allan Chadwick garden. We’ll be discussing the details of this trip in the oncoming meetings.

A perk test was done at the Farm last week in a hole dug in the “melon patch”. The results aren’t so favorable. The hole was dug on Wednesday and filled with water. By Friday, most of the water was still pooled. Which means, we have an apparent hardpan layer.

Henry and his Conservation Corps and Interns are really making the Fall garden Glamour!! What a transformation we’re seeing there right now from harvest to hallowed grounds again.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Great Video, Hilary-thanks for sharing it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

White House Garden...

Check out this great youtube video!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 21

Hi All!
I visited the gardens during my first Landscape Design class last Friday. Everyone was Awed by our Garden--including a few members from our original class that hadn't visited since class ended last Spring. So, now that the new school session has started, how about adding some new members to the Farm Club? Should we have a welcoming party--or harvest party. Perhaps we should send out an invitation to all students participating in any of the classes of the department. Feedback?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Back in July, Wendy and Steve were involved in a discussion on Lavender and the disappearance of the true species. Do any of you, or Steve, can you tell me the name of that species and how you are trying to protect it.
And, regarding the Melon posting by Hilary--THANK YOU!! I wonder, though, which is which on the melons. Is the dark green melon with the yellow dots the Moon and Stars? Did we mark where the varieties were planted or just scatter the seeds?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Melon Reminder

The public keeps asking us what kinds of melons we've got and so far our answer has been a vague "well we planted so many varieties..." Here's my list of what we planted back in April with a link to more information.  We still might not be able to tell them which is which (Moon & Stars is the obvious exception), but at least we can sound a little more informed:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


It's a fact, I just can't seem to get enough of the farm life!  It's Camp Mommy this week, so what fun activities did I plan for my girls? That's right, hard labor!  

First, on Monday afternoon, I took them to Green Gulch to join Marin Organic's "Glean Team."  My eager young farmers personally harvested about 4 cases of rainbow chard, fingers turning red  and yellow in the process.  They were downright joyful upon realizing that some of the chard perfectly matched to their hot pink shorts. Relate it to fashion and they will come! Unfortunately we were not able to avoid the wrath of the abundant stinging nettle and we all left with welts on our knees.  But it was a small price to pay for the great contribution we had made to Marin Organic's school lunch program.

This morning, I was happy to assure my girls that there would be no thorny encounters at the IVC farm, our next harvest adventure of the week.  The shoppers were already there when we arrived and so I promptly put the girls to work under Henry's direction.  They started by gathering basil and peppers, worked their way over to melons, climbed up the hill to pull corn from the towering corn stalks and concluded by picking beans. I caught them a few times eating the goods, munching on tomatoes like they were apples...or was that me, caught redhanded, not in the cookie jar, but in the tomato vine?

We now have a white board at the farm entrance to list all the produce that we are harvesting.  Besides the items already mentioned, we also had potatoes, lettuce, chard, flowers, cucumbers (big), zucchini (bigger) and crook neck squash.  And while our visitors enjoyed this new shopping tool, they were disappointed to find out that the stand would be closed next week when the new school session begins (the stand will reopen in following weeks). That message carried a bittersweet reminder for us Dharma Farm Club diehards, that next week a new round of Organic Farm students will have their first class and the farm would no longer be "ours and ours alone."   We're a generous crew though, and in the spirit of many hands make light work, we are looking forward to the camaraderie of a new batch of volunteers working with us side by side.

So what's next on the agenda of Camp Mommy? Pt. Reyes station and a visit to Bobby Foehr's chicken ranch. If any of you attended Steve's Chicken workshop, you'll remember Bobby- he's the guy that captured the swarm of bees outside Toby's.  Bobby's got chickens for laying and chickens for eating, so I think it will be an exciting life lesson for my daughters. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

Farm Sweet Farm

Greetings! I have returned home. Can't wait to share stories and pictures with everyone. Farming in St. Croix was pretty sweet. Except everything was always thirsty!! We did not have enough water :( Lots of passion fruit, coconut, papaya - pretty much everything grows there except it is almost impossible to grow onions!

I'd love to come to the farm this wednesday... anyone want to carpool?

MORINGA! the miracle plant. put it through the chipper for compost (member of the legume family) three seeds sitting on top. these seeds make WATER POTABLE. check it out:
Working with a service camp from the US to weed this shade house. We built it for a local elementary school's own "edible schoolyard"
Go Wendy!!

new group of kids from the same service camp: overland. we spread all that gravel as a suppressant. it started as a 6ft pile in the back!

Sheep and Goat (annie) tend the mango/banana orchard
baby yellow warblers in the garden!!
little bunny foo foos are the meat we eat
coconut harvest. i learned to wield that machete like a master!
passion fruit, pumpkin, cucumber, gourd, loofah...

organic farming with the kids! mostly cover crop... the kids harvested pigeon peas. we followed Steve's example with the "spiritual sow" and planted some pineapple for fun :)
they covered the beds with mulch and compost (we sang your song wendy!)
me: what is the heart of organic farming?
2 or 3 kids quietly to themselves: feeding the soil
me: feeding the what?
all: SOIL!
me: what?!

more picture to come... Can't wait to get out to IVC!!

Lots of Love

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I'm reading an EXCELLENT book by Barbara Kingsolver called, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". It's certainly a book that strengthens the resolve of all that we are doing. She and her family decide to move away from Tucson, AZ to their farm in the Appalacian Mtns. where they can live sustainably from what they and their neighbors produce. It's a year long commitment that the family makes and a documentation of that journey. VERY well written, and includes commentary on how this country has gotten into the Industrialized "Pickle" that we are experiencing as far as diet and food consumption.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Take Action Now!

Williamson Act Terminated

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week used his line-item veto power to terminate the California Land Conservation Act, more commonly known as the Williamson Act. Since 1965, California landowners have voluntarily enrolled about 16 million acres in these contracts, agreeing to restrict land uses to agriculture or related open space. They're then taxed on the agricultural value of the land rather than its fair market value, and the state reimburses each county what it loses in uncollected taxes. According to the Department of Conservation, one in three farmers surveyed claim they wouldn't be able to keep their properties without Williamson Act tax savings. TellMarin County supervisors you hope they'll continue the Williamson Act on their own, despite the actions of the governor.

Another beautiful day at the farm...

Really.  It could not have been a more gorgeous day yesterday.  Conditions were perfect: a clear blue sky, warm but not too hot, a slight breeze and the scent of ripe melons in the air. And boy did we harvest melons! Dozens of cantaloupes of all shapes and sizes as well as scattered watermelons filled the farm stand, alongside red tomatoes, green and purple beans, lettuce, potatoes, chard, zucchini, peppers, basil and our ever popular cut flowers.  Oh, and did I mention the corn? Yes, that's right, our first ears of super sweet corn!  Originally an East Coaster, I never thought I'd meet a cob of corn that rivaled New Jersey Silver Queen.  As a kid, we'd drive to the shore and stop at a farm stand along the way so we could snack on the raw corn in the car- JOY! Well yesterday I was a child again as I chewed the sweet, tender kernels that we all planted with our very own hands.  With corn production under my belt, I must say I now officially feel like a true blue farmer!

Part of why our harvest was so successful yesterday was that we had many eager helpers. Henry had an enthusiastic group of Regen kids working the field and the compost piles.  His group was also joined by the Kentfield campus' outreach coordinator Jorge and his crew of teens who were conducted on a CCNB tour of the farm and greenhouse.

Another new addition to our activities yesterday was our new farm manager Bethallyn Black! We are lucky to have her years of experience working as the Urban Horticulture Program Manager for UCCE Contra Costa.  A resident of Walnut Creek, she made fast friends with the Dharma Farm Clubbers by bringing along a basket of asian pears and pluots from her productive home garden.  Bethallyn jumped right in working the stand, harvesting in the field and educating the public that are ever more interested in learning what we're doing out there.

Thank you all who were there and look for some pix that Steve will post (right SQ?!) under separate cover...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Through the Marin Open Garden Project I came across the "Free Farm Stand" blog.  Wow! In the latest post, Tree (who started the project) talks about Peak Produce (as in Peak Oil)- I just love that!  Are we at Peak Produce?  I don't think so with all those tomatoes, melons and corn ready (or almost ready) for picking.  

The stand has given away over 1500 pounds of free produce this year culled together from community gardens, home gardens, gleaning and even dumpster diving.  While this stand is in SF, we should remember that there are plenty of individuals and families in Marin County who can't afford fast food let alone the good, healthy, slow food we're growing.  

I hope we can figure out a way to connect some of those people with the bounty we're producing at our gorgeous farm. Given our good fortune at having this land to tend, it would be great to feed it back to those most in need.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Filled with glee!

I've taken a blog break this summer, but something happened on Wednesday that I feel compelled to share!  As I was planting cauliflower I looked over to the row next to me where broccoli had been planted the previous week.  Did I think, "Oh, how nice, broccoli"? No.  Instead I thought, "Who the heck planted these seedlings, because they did it all wrong!  Look at the exposed stems!  These need to be redug and replanted!"  So what could possibly make me gleeful about this?  Well, if you refer back to my first or second blog posting you'll see a reference to Steve voicing that very critique to our class and my cringing at the thought, "Was it me?"  HAH! Now I'm the criticizer, not the criticizee! So if you're listening Steve, or reading that is, your students have indeed learned a thing or two.  Watch out- we may be checking up on your work soon:)

PS No offense to the broccoli planters, teenagers from the Regen project. They're incredible kids with just a thing or two still to learn from their elders...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 15,2009

Work commenced at 9:30 am members arriving staggered throughout the morning and working also into the later afternoon hours

Elizabeth Baker, Creta Pullen, Veronica Valero, Barbara Leufien, Luanna Navarro, Victoria Stavig, Henry Wallace, Wendy Johnson

Wendy will be hosting a program for “Grown in Marin” at the Farm on Saturday-- Food and Farming on the Urban Edge:Growing Food in Your Own Backyard Any and all are welcome to come—and especially to help in the field. A perfect opportunity to show off our bounty (and sell it!!)
We had a willing Volunteer named Shannon come to help us on the farm today—able, willing, and very skilled. The Regen. Students were also in attendance on the field.

It’s time to get down to the Process of actually formalizing the club. I met this morning with the asst. of Nanda Schorske (Laurie Loeffler)because the Kentfield campus where I needed to drop off the paperwork was closed due to a power outage, so this has given us a wee bit more time to solidify our Mission Statement. Since we are having a Saturday work meeting this weekend, perhaps we can while we work, whistle the tunes of our mission. I hope to see a few more faces to help us accomplish this. If you haven’t been to the farm in awhile, you will be VERY surprised at the bounty we have been harvesting every week. People are making it a ritual now to stop by and ask (and to buy)what’s just been picked.

As treasurer, too, I would like to request a bit more professional housekeeping with the money end of the club. We’ve been a bit loosey-goosey as far as record keeping. I need to receive reports on all monies brought in from our harvesting and I need to have receipts for all the expenditures. The farm is getting a new Farm Manager next week. She will be handling all the monies from now on, so let’s give her all the help she needs to keep it on target (whatever that is).

Prepared beds for and planted-
Eggplant (All Star Organics)
Sweet and Hot Peppers (All Star Organics)
Broccoli (Green Gulch farm & Harmony Farm Supply)
Lettuces (Green Gulch Farm)
Onions (Green Gulch Farm & Harmony Farm Supply)
Lettuces (Green Gulch Farm)
Beans and Buckwheat
Cleared for Harvest-
Kale, Chard, Lettuce, Turnips, Zuccini, Beans, Flowers

Friday, July 10, 2009

Must read...

Check out this article from Sunday's NY Times magazine: Street Farmer. Think big!!

July 8-2009

We hosted another Project Regeneration class through the Conservation Corps. This class was very enthusiastic about working and extremely helpful in all they accomplished. Mention was made concerning a Saturday work day. Neither Steve nor Wendy has time to oversee this, but Steve said a self directed work day on Saturday is an EXCELLENT idea for any and all who wish to put in some time on the field. You can also sell produce during the time you are there and we can figure out a spot for you to leave the $$$ collected for me to pick up on Wednesdays. Let me know who is interested in this situation. I do know that Dione and Paige expressed interest—and anyone else is certainly welcome. I can come at least one Saturday and show you how to set up the buckets for selling.
Speaking of selling—we have collected by any and all means—approx. $200 to date.(you can ask me personally what “by any and all means” is) There have been some expenditures leaving us with cash in hand of $140. We can really use plastic sacks for giving out to customers who show up w/o something. (And, they are many). If you save plastic bags, please recycle them in our direction. We can also use more buckets (large tubs are good) for holding water to support the produce—if you have any or would like to donate them.
For anyone wishing to pass on information that Henry should know, you can contact him via cell phone at 612-327-4167 or via email at

Steve discovered the giant Turnip that nearly ate Dharma Farm!!

We harvested our First ripe tomato from what looks to be a bumper crop. And, we discovered 3 baby watermelons.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Harvesting and sales were the order of the day on July 1. I arrived early to find people already clamoring at the gate salivating for fresh picked. I couldn’t harvest fast enough!!! Thank you Henry for preparing the tubs for produce early!! AND, thank you Liza for the WONDERFUL gazebo!! It certainly is a Blessing to stand under and a respite from the Sun. We harvested lettuces, chard, kale, zucchini and Flowers for bouquets. The word must be out, because people were coming in DROVES, (actually, they were the morning hikers) and they’re all telling their friends and are looking forward to every Wednesday, now.
We planted pole beans, artichokes, and cucumbers. And, we also harvested the arugula for seed. Steve will be giving a demonstration in our next class on seed saving.
We also had someone stop by to see if one of the class members might be interested in a gardening job. The mention was made of making a posting board for people to leave us messages, and for us to leave announcements. What do you think of that idea?
Steve discovered a gopher invasion in the melon patch and secured two cinch traps. Hopefully, we can nip their intrusion before they do too much damage.
Anyone wishing for a Saturday workday, please contact either Hillary or myself—if there’s enough interest, we’ll try to set one up. I know those of you who can’t make it on Wednesdays are really missing the bounty and the fun of interacting with all the interested people wanting to purchase our produce.
Growing up in Iowa, the corn state, we had a saying: “The corn should be knee high by the 4th of July.” Well, our corn certainly is!!! It looks great, and we found 5 melons on one vine that are of a remarkable size already!! YEAH US!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 24th Meeting

A bright hot sunny day in Novato. We were without our venerable leaders today and Liza pitched in to give us direction. Steve, unfortunately, was called away on an emergency family matter. We hope all is well with you, Steve—and with your son. We all put you in our thoughts as we worked and worshiped in the field.
Today was the first class for the Children’s Program of the Conservation Corps. After a tour, Henry put them to building a new compost pile, and then sifting one of the existing piles.
The calendula flowers were dead headed, the tomatoes needed and got more supports. Hillary, Barbara and Victoria weeded the melon patch which is suffering from an infestation of cucumber beetles and also creeping Bermuda grasses. Also, the row of sun flowers in the melons was thinned. It was a very sparse gathering today.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's been a while...

Wow- I guess I went a little AWOL, huh? 
Well, our class ended, I went to DC for a week, my kids' school ended (how can a 6 year old and an 8 year old have such busy social calendars?!), but still, it's hard to believe 3 weeks has gone by since my last post.  There's a lot to catch up on but frankly, I'm not even going to try.  Suffice it to say that 1) Wendy's event with Deborah Madison at Commonweal was fantabulous!!! (yes, count them, three exclamation points) and 2) The farm club has now met three (coincidence?) times.  
So let's talk farm club...
We have a name
Dharma Farm Club
We have officers
Hilary - president (is that lower case or capital "p"??)
Veronica- vice-president
Creta- secretary/treasurer
We don't yet have an official mission statement, but...
We do have RULES!!!
e.g.  For now, no selling food, no donating food (so do the math, as a member of the farm club you get loads of free booty!)
We have fun!!
e.g. This past week, we harvested lettuce and cabbage and planted a whole lot of carrots and winter squash- yummy.
and we have plans...
e.g. a harvest festival celebration in August where we can sell our produce and value added products (think, calendula oil)
To join us, all you have to do is be an active student in the Farm or Environmental Landscaping program, just 1 unit qualifies you!  And the good news is that your 1 unit can be a Directed Study with Wendy or Steve. At UVa we called the really easy classes "gut" classes.  Please do not confuse a 1 unit Directed Study with a "gut."  You actually need to put in many recorded hours on an object of study related to the program, but not currently offered by the program, for your unit to qualify.  So, some ideas that were tossed around were "planting mix building," "food donation," "value added products development" or "organic certification."  The list is by no means limited to this so please, if you have an idea, check in with Steve or Wendy.
Bottom line, the goals for the club are to support the Organic Farm Program and to keep learning, so, if that sounds good to you, your participation sounds good to us!!
Look for a change to the blog as we transition to the Dharma Farm Club and join us on Wednesday's from 9:30-1:30- you know where to go!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 17th Meeting of Dharma Farm Club

June 17, 2009
Nanda Schorske sailed into our Sacred spot today giving us direction on how to accomplish Directed Study for those who cannot take a Class next semester or for those who wish to gain additional credits to their study in the fall. One can assume Directed Study with Steve or Wendy as advisor and select a subject within the farming context with which to concentrate such as Pruning and Propagation. This will be the last chance to use Directed Study before it is transferred over to Independent Study in the Spring which will serve the same purpose and help the student further their learning experience within a context that may not yet be offered at IVC or to explore more in depth study of interest. She also explained to us that the college is attempting to enroll at least 12 full time students each semester in the new Environmental Landscaping Dept. Full time being 12 units per semester or 4 classes. A student who is earning less than 12K/year is eligible for Work/Study—getting paid to take classes. Anyone wishing to assist with developing the curriculum for this new dept. is encouraged to contact Nanda at (415) 883-2211xt8506 She also discussed with us the possibilities of moving forward with ideas to help raise money for club purposes. We decided to have some sort of Harvest Celebration on Aug. 1st where we would be able to sell the produce that will be ready.
The rest of the meeting was spent in the field harvesting, planting, and weeding. Both cabbages and lettuces were picked for club members to take home. And, winter squashes were planted on the upper edge of the field (Butternut squash and Steve’s Chiogga Squash). Henry, Wendy, and Elizabeth began archival duties in earnest, recreating our progress from day 1 of the first class meeting. This will also help with our status of being Organically Certified.
The club has elected Creta Pullen(me) as the new Secretary to replace Jenny who had to resign because of conflicts with Conservation Core duties. So, the officers for the Dharma Farm Club are now, Hillary Jenkins—Pres., Valerie Valero—V.P , Creta Pullen—Sect./Treas.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness the title of a new book just released by Mill Valley resident Lisa Hamilton.  I haven't read it, but it sure sounds like it's right up our alley, right class?  Check out her website to read the intro to the book.  Too bad we missed her Bay Area book tour (last week!).  Or maybe you caught it? If so, write a post to this blog- I for one would love to hear about it...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Lemon Tree, another must see film

Though not a documentary like The Garden, the film The Lemon Tree is an equally powerful portrayal of  the connection and bond formed between people, the land and the plants they nurture from the soil.  I cannot recommend this highly enough!  You can see it at the Raphael Theater and support the efforts of the great independent film makers and theaters that recognize that "block busters" aren't the only movies worth making.

Chickens, Chickens Everywhere

For those of you unable to attend Steve's Backyard Chicken workshop on Thursday, check out the great front page article in Saturday's IJ. Elizabeth and I carpooled out there and the scenic drive alone was worth the price of admission.  Plus it was a great excuse to support Kevin Lunney and pick up 3 dozen oysters out at Drake's Bay!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Wednesday afternoon aftermath

Wednesday afternoon highlites

Marin Magazine Redux

I mentioned a few blogs back that Marin Magazine did a piece on Organic Farmers in the May issue.  Well, I wrote a letter to the editor about it and it was published! Check it out:

Dream Gardens

How fun to see and hear the first group's interpretation and manifestation of what a dream garden is to them.  You could see that a lot of heart and hard work went into each presentation and clearly we have all learned some important lessons by taking the class.  A couple of messages really stood out to me: gratitude vs. abundance (Elizabeth); do it anyway (Liza); remember edges and borders (Coleman/Janet); think big (Dion); work with what you have (Jenny); sometimes you have to throw your plans out the window (Rob); make it a community effort (Mark/Will). The messages/reminders that I hoped to communicate in my presentation were: know where you are, dreams can evolve.

Although this was the first of two classes more about what we've learned rather than about "instruction,"  there were certainly a couple of nuggets of information that I took home from Steve and Wendy: alfalfa is not a one season cover crop (deep roots); artichokes need to be divided every couple of years, and true Green Globes are best; apples are biennial; and, most importantly, my two new Santa Rosa Plums will not fruit unless I can bring in at lease a branch of another American (not European) plum like a Burbank.

We also talked about some good salvage resources: Heritage Salvage in Petaluma (, Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley (, Building Resource in San Francisco (

Some of us prolonged our second to last class, staying on for some "extra credit" work time planting zucchini, potatoes, peppers, scallions, basil and more lettuce, chard and bok choi.  You'd think we had no room left, but Steve remedied that by having us dig up many rows of our cover crops including quinoa and amaranth.  Oh well, easy come, easy go- see how unattached we've learned to be!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Come to work day!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Check out this new release by one of my favorite garden writers.  A blogger on Garden Rant (a great blog for home gardeners) Amy Stewart is also the author of  The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, a fascinating read on the essential role of earthworms in forming and preserving the soil that is so critical to all of us.

Isn't the title of her new book is irresistible, especially after last weeks weed discussion!

What is Certified Organic anyway?

Well, I'll get to that. But first I want to fast forward to the end of the day.  Did you all go home feeling as satisfied as I did?  What a great feeling to have planted out the last rows of beans and corn not to mention all those fabulous melons!!  Of course farm work is never done, but I really felt justified in allowing myself a private, "we did it!" when reflecting back on the last two months.
That being said, we sure had a Full (note the capital F) day on Wednesday.  Steve started off by answering a couple of questions from class members:
Q: Why rotate crops? A: How healthy is your soil?  A healthy soil (ecosystem) doesn't require rotation. Rotation serves two purposes: fertility and disease reduction.  So if you've planted a heavy feeder like corn, follow it with a soil booster like beans or peas.  If your tomatoes developed Verticillium Wilt, follow it with a brassica that is not susceptible.  Barring disease, tomatoes can be grown in the same location for years as long as you prepare your soil with lots of...that's right: COMPOST!

Q: What's up with corn? A: Corn is a grain like wheat and rice. It's in the grass family, making it a monocot. It's also a super heavy feeder. A minimum 5x5 plot is necessary to be productive but most important is human pollination (i.e. the artificial simulation of wind) to ensure that every silk gets pollinated.  Because this is a wind pollinated crop it is important to take the unusual step of sowing seeds against prevailing winds to maximize natural pollination.  Wendy likes to soak corn seeds in diluted Maxsea (a kelp based fertilizer) before planting the seeds in warm soil.  (N.B. How do you know if the soil is the right temperature? Stick your hand in it!)

Q: What's up with weeds? A: Check out "Weeds of the West" published by the Western Society of Weed Science, a great reference book on what weeds you might expect to find in our area. 
Q: Are all weeds bad? A: Most aren't pernicious (excepting bermuda grass, oxalis and convovulus!) and many are medicinal.  They also serve as a good indicator of the kind of soil you have.
Q: How do you control them? A: Rototill (let them grow, rototill, let them grow, rototill); hoe; mulch paths; drip irrigation; solarization. DON'T LET THEM GO TO SEED!

So back to the original question at hand "what is Certified Organic"? Certification is based on the adoption of USDA standards set in 2002 known as NOS (National Organic Standards). Certification covers livestock, human food and fiber and requires inspection by a credited certifier like MOCA (Marin Organic Certified Agriculture), CCOF, Oregon Tilth, etc.  In California we actually have two certifying entities: SOP (State Organic Program) as well as NOP.  Certifiers themselves (like our guest Anita) have to be "certified" as well through an auditing process conducted twice every five years (certification audits for imported items are conducted annually).  

The key information for certification is covered in the handout Anita gave us and can also be accessed online on MOCA's website:  But I think my biggest takeaway from the morning was this: keep meticulous records.  You can follow every regulation to the tee, but if you don't have the records to prove that you have done so, your diligence is worth nothing. 

As we concluded in the classroom, Wendy made an important observation.  While NOP certifies farms, it is us who certify NOP.  Just as public outcry was responsible for the USDA revising their first set of (lame) standards for Organics, it is public outcry that will keep them in line.  This is not just a privilege, but a responsibility of us all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Dedication...

If we've learned nothing else from this class, we all know that successful farming and gardening is all about feeding and cultivating the soil.  From compost building to cover cropping, it is the behind the scenes, soil building work that enables our plants to grow healthy, strong and tasty and allows us to garden year in and year out.

Well Friday's Dedication was also about behind the scenes work.  While we can all be in awe of the incredibly lush and verdant patch we have created out of an empty swath of dirt (I mean soil), I left on Friday in awe of the work and cultivation that went into getting us that soil in the first place.

The IVC Farm was years in the making, as Steve Kinsey recounted to us, and required the grit and yes, dedication, of so many people and organizations to put together.  From county officials like Steve, to UCCE, to the College, to the Corps, to our instructors; so many people worked tirelessly to make this teaching farm and the educational program that goes with it, a reality.

So thank you Nanda, thank you Ellie, thank you MariLee, thank you Steve and Wendy, thank you all for the fertile growth we are privileged to enjoy as a result of all your preparation.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Detailed notes are on Steve's blog, but for the short version, read on. Just remember, the basics are quite simple: treat pests by using the least toxic methods first and only using chemical interference as a last resort (if ever).  

The most important step in controlling pests is accurately identifying them.  If you don't know what insect or other animal is causing your problems, pretty obvious stuff here, you won't know it's lifecycle and habits, and those are the keys to treating the buggers most effectively and least toxically.  

Once you know which pests you're dealing with, your first line of attack is prevention.  Usually pests attack unhealthy or overly stressed plants, so this is where good cultural practices come in.  One of the most common causes of pest problems (insect/disease) is planting the wrong plant in the wrong place and/or watering it inappropriately.  Again, it seems pretty obvious, but I can't count how many times people have come into Sloat looking for a pesticide when their problem could easily have been prevented by selecting the right plant for the given location in the first place.  As always, it just comes back to knowing your soil, knowing your plant material and knowing your micro-climate.

Mechanical controls (like traps) and Biological controls (like predators) are considered the next line of defense in IPM.  But Tolerance is another approach as well.  "Knowing where you are," as Wendy pointed out, comes in handy here.  Some people can't tolerate a single hole in a single leaf, others of us don't mind eating holey greens, and others of us (that would be Will) don't even mind eating a few of the hole causing creatures!  In short, it is as always, all about balance: balancing your aesthetic and food producing needs against natural, ecosystem responses to human interference (AKA gardening and farming).

Besides the resources mentioned in class (Pam Pierce's book and the Master Gardener Handbook), the UC Davis website has loads of specific information on treating specific pests using IPM methods.  I've added it as a link off to the right. Definitely check it out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garden Tour of Marin's Eco-friendly Gardens

On Saturday, May 9th over 20 gardens are on a self-guided Tour that features rain gardens, cisterns, native and drought tolerant plants, native no mow sod, edible landscapes, bees, permeable surfaces, smart irrigation controllers, pesticide free gardens, and vineyards and much more.

The best part is--it's FREE to Students!!! and it includes admission to a Post-tour Event that features free Eco-Seminars, a native plant and seed sale, shopping boutique and dessert cafe. Most gardens are open from 10am to 2 pm
Details on gardens, seminars,etc. are in the Garden Guide-available to everyone who registers.

For more information visit or call Gina at 499-3202

Sponsored by the Marin County Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program and Marin Art & Garden Center

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The Garden," a documentary


THE GARDEN is an engaging and powerful look at the famous political
and social battle over the largest community garden in the U.S (located in south
central Los Angeles).

A follow-up to Kennedy's award-winning documentary, OT: OUR TOWN,
the film shows how the politics of power and greed (backroom deals,
land developing, green politics, money) tragically intersect with working
class families who rely on this communal garden for their livelihood.
exposes the fault lines in American society and raises crucial and
challenging questions about liberty, equality, and justice for the
poorest and most vulnerable among us.

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times said: "It's tempting to call "The Garden"
a story of innocence and experience, of evil corrupting paradise, but that
would be doing a disservice to the fascinating complexities of a classic
Los Angeles conflict and an excellent documentary that does them full

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Marin Magazine covers West Marin Farmers

Magazine coverage for our locals....

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Marin Open Garden Project launches without a hitch!

Well classmates, I am happy to report that the launch party for Marin Open Garden Project was a huge success! The turnout was great, but not only that, people were really excited by the idea of cultivating the soil in their neighborhood and sharing its yield with their friends, family and neighbors.  It looks like we already have a couple of gleaning prospects and, if the bounty presented today is representative of what we'll see on a weekly basis, I believe many Mill Valley residents will be experiencing the great pleasures of organic fare without one single red cent being passed.

Thank you Steve and Wendy for all the seedlings you donated. Once people heard where they had come from, they were literally clamoring for the chard, lettuce and tomatoes that came from IVC. In fact, I floored my partner in MOGP (Julie) with the greens harvested at Wednesday's class which I served as a salad at our celebratory, post-event dinner.

I just want to share that, as I described our class to the many strangers who were curious about my other involvements, people's eyes literally sparkled.  I feel so privileged to be part of this initiate class and thankful for the community it is providing and the lessons I am fortunate enough to receive.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wiped out!

I don't know about you guys, but I was thoroughly pooped leaving the farm today! My brain was sooo full, my hands caked with soil, my bones and muscles a little tweaked, my sunburned shoulders burning and, did I mention, my brain soooo full?  Truth be told, I must confess that it "Hurt So Good." The physical work is satisfying on such a primitive level: conquering the elements so to speak, carving pathways and mounds of green, deliciously edible growth from a chalky, rocky, dry expanse of soil.  This multi-sense interaction with the earth is certainly worth an hour or two of aches and pains easily remedied by a tall, ice cold, Trumer Pils (trust me, it works wonders)!!
While my body has found relief, I must say, my brain is still churning.  First of all the whole vermiculite/asbestos thing. Not good (certainly worse than the dust bowl, three mile island and katrina). But good (without the asbestos) if you're looking for aeration, moisture retention and sterility.  Need an old school formula for planting mix? We got that:1/3 soil, 1/3 sand (sharp not smooth), and 1/3 oak leaf mold (think humus).  Fun new fertility terminology? How does "humanure" work for you? Wondering what the difference is between an annual (seed to seed in one year) and a biennial (seed to seed in two years)? Covered.  Foreign languages? How about some Classical Latin/Greek:
Chenopodiaceae (think goose feet)
Compositae (think multiple flowers)
Leguminoceae (think butterfly flowers)
Solanaceae (think toxic leaves)
Curcurbitaceae (think MELONS- our favorite)
Don't forget, "Think in a family way."
or Classical Tractor:
hard pan (bad), ripper, disc in, cross hatch, rotary blade
Don't forget: 30" between tires= 30" bed

I'd go on but I'm pooped and my laptop's on reserve battery power so it's time to sign off....

Occidental Farts and Ecoli Plant Sale

Don't forget...
....May 2nd and 3rd:)

New Links

Please check out the new links that have been added including a link to the Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food that Wendy referenced today as well as a link to the NPR program on the Vermiculite "disaster" in Montana...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homegrown organic lunch from the farm

D'Arcy displays the first salad lunch from the farm: arugula, chard, lettuce, kale and asian greens - fresh, organic, local, yummy and we grew 'em!


Last view of the Master gardener tomatoes before they all migrated to numerous locations around the county. The greenhouse is now full of open space, soon to filled with melons and eggplant and myriad other herbs, flowers and vegetables. Barbara Garfein had been transformed into the melon queen, ordering and planting 10 varieties of cantaloupes and watermelon.

Interim farm manager Henry Wallace has been hard at work installing irrigation, putting up tomato trellises and designing the road. Al the grader put in a new road that circumambulates the row crop field. Kevin Lunny again comes the rescue by delivering tons of oyster shells to pave the farm entrance on Tuesday, Apriol 21.


Al from Lunny Grading pushed the manure piles around and condensed them into steaming mountains.

Will in charge

Will and the 10 April 15 volunteers performed miraculous tasks: weeding the existing beds, adding bark to the paths and deep bed digging of four 80 foot long tomato beds.

Soil warrior