Tuesday, August 11, 2020

‘Grav & Go!’ Pop-Up Replaces Canceled Gravenstein Apple Fair

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  • photo courtesy Sonoma County Farm Trails

Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair has celebrated the locally grown Gravenstein apple for more than 40 years with a weekend gathering every August that always features entertainment, education and lots to eat and drink.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the fair to cancel its in-person event for 2020. Agricultural organization Sonoma County Farm Trails, host of the fundraising fair, officially announced the cancellation in June, writing on the fair’s website, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times.”

Even though the Gravenstein Apple Fair is canceled, Gravenstein apples are still falling off of trees in West Sonoma County this month, and Sonoma County Farm Trails is setting up its first-ever “Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up” event in Sebastopol this weekend so that Gravenstein apple lovers can at least get the fresh Gravenstein apples and related products they love.

The pop-up will take place at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, the same weekend the fair was originally scheduled. Anyone interested in purchasing apples or apple products must preorder online by Thursday, Aug. 13, at Noon.

Sonoma County Farm Trails farmers and producers make all the available products from local Gravenstein Apples. The apple and apple-related items that can be purchased include fresh organic Gravenstein apples, applesauce, apple juice, apple butter and hard cider (note: cider must be ordered on the Tilted Shed Ciderworks’ site due to alcohol sales rules). Other available apple treats include apple pies, hand pies, cider apple doughnuts and much more.

Upon checkout, shoppers will be guided to select which day and time they would like to pick up their order. Show up at your reserved time for contactless curbside pickup of your Gravenstein apples and related items, and enjoy.

For the health and safety of customers and Farm Trails staff and volunteers, facial coverings, social distancing and thorough hand-and-surface sanitization will be implemented at the “Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up.” Additionally, Farm Trails asks customers to abide by all County and State public health requirements.

Established in 1973, Sonoma County Farm Trails is a nonprofit promoter of local agriculture, and the Gravenstein Apple Fair is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. Without the benefit of the fair this year, Farm Trails is in need of financial help to continue its efforts to preserve Gravenstein apples and keep farms a vital part of Sonoma County’s culture.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”

“Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up” takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, at Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. Online orders must be placed by Thursday, Aug. 13, at noon. FarmTrails.org.
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Monday, August 10, 2020

Marin Sanctuary Marks 75 Years of Arts and Gardens

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 3:30 PM

LOVE BLOOMS The Marin Art & Garden Center’s floral backdrops make it a destination for weddings as well as conservation. - PHOTO COURTESY MARIN ART & GARDEN CENTER
  • photo courtesy Marin Art & Garden Center
  • LOVE BLOOMS The Marin Art & Garden Center’s floral backdrops make it a destination for weddings as well as conservation.
Even in picturesque Marin County, the Marin Art & Garden Center stands out.

The 11-acre property in the town of Ross is an oasis of floral beauty and historic buildings, and the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the center hosts year-round events and programs on the grounds, including performances from resident theater company the Ross Valley Players.

This summer, as the country stays shut down due to Covid-19, the Marin Art & Garden Center remains open to visitors on foot or on bicycle who are welcomed to safely enjoy the spacious gardens for some much-needed respite. This month, the center celebrates its 75th anniversary, and Marin Art & Garden Center Executive Director Antonia Adezio hopes the grounds remain a fixture of Marin for many years to come.

“We’ve been here for 75 years and the world is a very different place, of course,” Adezio says.

The gardens were originally formed at the end of World War II by the women members of the Marin Conservation League, who also helped save Angel Island and Tomales Bay, among other Marin locales.

“(The Marin Conservation League) were very committed to the natural environment and the environment for people in the North Bay,” Adezio says. “We have that legacy, and there’s also the legacy of the groups that have come together to present programming and arts at the center, and that tradition is alive and well today.”

Working with the center for five years, Adezio is the nonprofit’s first professional executive director for many years, and she is helping raise the center’s profile along with expert horticulturist and garden manager Steven Schwager.

“He’s really taken hold of the gardens,” Adezio says. “People who come and see it now say, ‘I’ve been visiting here for 30 years and it’s never looked like this.’ And they’re right.”

Still, the massive property runs on a tight budget, and Adezio describes the nonprofit running the grounds as a small organization that does a lot with a little.

“We’re working to build our team and keep developing the garden for people to come and enjoy it but also to learn from it,” she says.

In light of the 75-year anniversary, Adezio invites Marin residents to look at the Marin Art & Garden Center with new eyes and to revisit the distinctive and charming gardens and buildings that were designed by mid-century master architects such as Thomas Church.

As the gardens remain open for foot traffic, the organization is also bolstering its presence online with its virtual art exhibition, “Rooted in Wonder,” featuring a video tour of works by painter Frances McCormack and interdisciplinary artist Miya Hannan.

“We have seen that during the pandemic it’s become more important to have a place like the gardens, and people are appreciating that they’ve been able to stay open and let people spend some time in nature,” Adezio says. “We want people to know that we are still here for them, they can visit and we hope to be able to gather again before long.”

Marin Art & Garden Center is located at 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. oOpen daily, foot traffic allowed sunrise to sunset, parking lot is available 10am to 4pm. Free admission and parking. maringarden.org.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Join This Weekend’s Socially Distant Cleanup on the Petaluma River

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 at 12:41 PM

  • Scott Hess; ScottHessPhoto.com

Each spring, the Petaluma River usually gets a revitalizing and refreshing environmental facelift courtesy of the stewardship and educational community organization Friends of the Petaluma River, who annually host a major river cleanup project on the first Saturday in May.

Yet, the trash and debris is piling up in the Petaluma River this summer after concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the planned 2020 iteration of the Spring Petaluma River Cleanup scheduled for two months ago.

Now, organizers at Friends of the Petaluma River are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work, and the organization welcomes the public back to the river for a socially distant river cleanup event taking place on Saturday, July 25. Volunteers are invited to sign up online and choose one of several creek locations where small groups will meet to pick up trash from 8am to noon.

“While we can’t have our big gathering and BBQ, we can still work together to protect the Petaluma River,” Friends of the Petaluma River executive director Stephanie Bastianon says in a statement. “People are eager for a way to do good in our community and our annual river cleanup is a safe way people can come together outside, from a distance, and support our local waterways.”

The cleanup event, dubbed “Protect Our River from Six Feet Apart,” is meant to be a day of environmental volunteerism that will also keep participants as safe as possible during the pandemic. Organizers urge volunteers to bring their own water bottle and gloves and to wear sturdy shoes. Trash pickers will be provided, along with buckets, bags, sanitation wipes and gloves as needed. Registration and safety waivers are online now, and it is requested that volunteers sign up in advance to receive their preferred creek assignment.

The annual Spring Petaluma River Cleanup normally removes approximately 3,000–5,000 pounds of trash from the river and surrounding watershed each year. While this socially-distant event is expected to be smaller than the annual spring cleanup, which often includes many student and civic groups participating, the Friends of the Petaluma River still anticipates the removal of hundreds of pounds of trash from the river.

“The trash in our river impairs water quality and pollutes sensitive habitat,” Bastianon says. “It will also ultimately contribute to the astounding amount of trash that ends up in our oceans. With researchers predicting the plastic in our oceans to outweigh fish by 2050, we really need to act now to stop trash from reaching out oceans.”

In partnership with the City of Petaluma, Friends of the Petaluma River was formed in 2005 to celebrate and conserve the Petaluma River Watershed through education and stewardship activities.

The group manages Steamer Landing Park and the David Yearsley River Heritage Center where it hosts educational programs. Throughout the North Bay, the group's educational reach includes a watershed classroom that travels to local schools as well as youth nature camps like the award-winning Green Heron Nature Camp; an 'Adopt A Creek' initiative; the twice annual river cleanups; weekly 'Boating at the Barn' outings and the new after-school nature program, Friends’ Flickers.

In addition to the canceled spring cleanup, the Friends of the Petaluma River have also had to cancel several other community events and fundraising festivals, including the immensely popular Rivertown Revival this month. That event, which takes place at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center each July, was instead presented as a virtual variety show series on Facebook. Other planned events that have been canceled or postponed include the Transhumance Festival and the Wine & Whiskey for the Wetlands benefit event. As the Friends of the Petaluma River work to reschedule these events, the organization also invites the public to support the river through an online Clean Water Pledge.

The Socially-Distant Petaluma River Cleanup takes place Saturday, July 25, throughout Petaluma’s watershed area. 8am to Noon. Registration and additional information can be found at FriendsofthePetalumaRiver.org.
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Friday, June 5, 2020

Join the Conversation With These Timely Online Discussions

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 1:45 PM

Acclaimed poet Nikky Finney appears in a virtual conversation on "the Witness We Bear" today, June 5, at 7pm as part of Bay Area Book Festival  #UNBOUND virtual program. - FORREST CLONTS
  • Forrest Clonts
  • Acclaimed poet Nikky Finney appears in a virtual conversation on "the Witness We Bear" today, June 5, at 7pm as part of Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND virtual program.
It seems that everywhere one looks in America today, there is unrest.

Police brutality has been on full display for over a week, with videos, photos and reports of peaceful protesters being met with batons and tear gas from police forces across the country. Those reports include Santa Rosa—where an unknown law-enforcement officer reportedly shot a plastic grenade at a protester less than 15 feet away on Sunday, May 31, fracturing the protester’s jaw, splitting his lip and knocking out four teeth—as well as a young man who was shot and killed by Vallejo police early on Tuesday, June 2.

Covid-19 had already created a tense situation before this week’s nationwide protests against police, having kept people isolated since March and causing massive spikes in unemployment as businesses across the Bay Area closed their doors due to the pandemic.

Add all of that to a country that has already endured three years of unprecedented presidential lying and social division from a former reality-TV star, and it’s a no-brainer that Americans’ mental stresses are at never-before-seen levels.

This week, several organizations are taking to the web to help those dealing with mental, social and health problems through online lectures, conversations and discussions that are sure to go a long way in opening up meaningful dialogue and affecting social change that benefits us all.

Today, Friday June 5, the Mental Health Association of San Francisco hosts a virtual event, “Real Talk: A Discussion About Police Brutality and Racism,” at 5pm via Zoom.

MHASF originally planned to facilitate a discussion with mental-health activist and writer Leah Harris on Friday, but due to current circumstances, they are instead facilitating this new discussion with the hosts of its ongoing "People of Color Support Group,” Dewonna Howard and CW Johnson. The support group regularly meets to discuss issues, coping strategies and resources relevant to people of color in the local community.

“This will be a safe space for anyone and everyone—especially our Black community members—to speak up, vent and talk through their feelings, thoughts and emotions surrounding the suffering and destruction taking place in our country,” wrote MHASF in an email sent out June 4.

Also today, June 5, the Bay Area Book Festival is rearranging its schedule of online events to present a timely discussion, “The Beautiful Witness We Bear,” at 7pm as part of the festival’s #UNBOUND virtual program.

The thought-provoking conversation will feature two acclaimed poets, Pulitzer Prize–winner Jericho Brown (The Tradition) and National Book Award–winner Nikky Finney (Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry). Twenty years ago, Brown was Finney’s student, and while much has changed since those days, their mutual dedication to bearing witness to hard truths through art remains ever-present.

In this conversation, the poets will share their own responses to the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans, and they will discuss the protests against police brutality and the power of poetry to capture these human experiences. The conversation will be moderated by Ismail Muhammad, reviews editor for The Believer, board member at the National Book Critics Circle and Program Committee member at the Bay Area Book Festival.

Tomorrow, June 6, Book Passage hosts an enlightening conversation on women and politics with New York Times reporter and author Jennifer Steinhauer and New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, presented online at 4pm.

Steinhauer’s latest work, The Firsts, begins at the November 2018 midterms, in which the greatest number of women in history was elected to Congress. The book then chronicles the first-year experiences of those women, detailing their transitions from running campaigns to their daily work of governance.

Looking ahead, Point Reyes nonprofit group Black Mountain Circle hosts a Zoom Virtual event on mental health and well-being featuring Florence Williams, journalist and the author of The Nature Fix. The event, happening on Thursday, June 11 at noon, will make the connection between spending time in nature and our health, especially in the wake of a two-month stay-at-home order that’s kept many people in isolation. Now that some parks and beaches are reopening, Williams will discuss the role nature plays in making us happier, healthier and more creative.

Anna O'Malley and Donna Faure will join Williams on June 11 for this virtual discussion. O’Malley is executive director of Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine in West Marin, and Faure is the executive director of Point Reyes National Seashore Association. The event is co-presented by Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Mesa Refuge, Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine, and Point Reyes Books.
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More North Bay Summer Camps Are Going Online

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 10:19 AM

Kids (and even adults) of all ages can virtually learn the art of bookmaking with award-winning artist C.K. Itamura through the Healdsburg Center for the Arts this summer.
  • Kids (and even adults) of all ages can virtually learn the art of bookmaking with award-winning artist C.K. Itamura through the Healdsburg Center for the Arts this summer.

Summer has started for thousands of students in the North Bay, but many families are struggling to figure out how to spend the season, as the usual array of kids’ camps and outings is largely canceled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, several Sonoma County arts and education organizations such as the Alexander Valley Film Society, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and Transcendence Theatre Company announced their plans for offering virtual summer arts camps in lieu of in-person programs.

Now, many other North Bay groups are jumping in the digital pool to provide their own virtual art experiences for kids in Sonoma, Marin and Napa County.

Healdsburg Center for the Arts is one of many nonprofit arts hubs that are temporarily shut during the stay-at-home orders related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Center also cancelled many fundraising events in the wake of the pandemic, including the beloved Healdsburg Earth Festival, the Healdsburg Art Festival and a number of popular art classes for adults and children.

“The past ten weeks have given us an opportunity to reflect on the benefits a community art center provides and we’ve had the opportunity to re-think about the future of the organization”, said Diana Jameson, Healdsburg Center for the Arts Board Member, in a statement. “We have discovered there is great interest and enthusiasm in the community for Healdsburg Center for the Arts to continue its creative endeavors, even during this public health crisis.”

To that end, the center is now offering online Bookmaking Summer Camps through a partnership with Book Arts Roadshow, co-founded by award-winning artist and former HCA board member C.K. Itamura. The camps are run over Zoom and offer the opportunity to explore the art and craft of making books while at home. The online sessions run select dates, June 27 to July 26, with sessions for ages 5–7, 8–12, 13–18, and even adults.

Bookmaking materials for the online sessions are provided by a grant from the Bill Graham Foundation. Packages of bookmaking materials will be mailed to registered participants ahead of the workshops.

“An online Bookmaking Summer Camp series for adults is included,” Itamura said in a statement. “Because bookmaking can be stress-free and fun and we’re pretty certain most adults can use a dose of that right about now.”

In addition to the Bookmaking Camp, local artist Jean Warren reformatted her popular Watercolor & Journaling workshop to make use of Zoom. Warren will guide students through watercolor painting lessons via video and email at a to-be-determined date. Register for camps and get more information at Healdsburgcenterforthearts.org.

When most people think “summer camp,” they think of the great outdoors, and usually the North Bay is a haven for kids to backpack, hike and explore in natural sites like the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

This summer, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation knows that gathering, even in nature, is problematic in the face of a pandemic, so the group is inviting kids to join the Laguna Explorers @ Home program to explore the wonder of nature in their own backyards.

Aimed at kids ages 6–11, Laguna Explorers @ Home includes at-home activities that engage the senses, ignite curiosity and increase environmental literacy. The activities are designed for children to do on their own without much need for parent’s interference. The program also incorporates online meetings and circle time for discussion, play, and sharing with other children and Laguna camp staff.

Environmental explorations will run July 6–10 and July 13–17. Each Monday, explorers will pick up a pack at the Laguna Environmental Center, the pack comes with the materials needed for the week, including custom field journals, nature craft supplies, activity instructions, naturalist tools, game cards and more.

A Parent Pack will also be provided with instructions, website links and supplementary materials including “rewards” for participation that parents can give their child each day. Get more details and register for Laguna Explorers @ Home at Lagunafoundation.org.

Now in its 15th year of operation, the Napa School of Music has provided thousands of lessons to families in Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, with approximately 400 students taking lessons every week from 16 top-notch teachers. In addition to private and group lessons, the school engages budding musicians in Music Camps, which are going virtual this year.

Beginning June 8–12, and running several subsequent weeks through August, the Napa School of Music’s camp schedule is packed with small-group sessions in guitar, ukulele, music recording and other classes that are designed for all ages and all skill levels, with instrument rentals available.

Beginner guitar, bass guitar and ukulele virtual camps will start aspiring musicians on the right foot with instructions in fundamentals and exposure to a repertoire of songs they can play with minimal skill.

Advanced virtual camps, designed for older tweens and teens, take the basic concepts of guitar, bass and ukulele to another level with new strumming concepts, advanced arrangements of popular melodies to learn and more. Other virtual camps include Musical Theater Camp and Songwriting Camp. Get details and sign up at Napaschoolofmusic.com.

In Mill Valley, the Marin Theatre Company is renowned not only for their stage productions, but for their commitment to community engagement. That includes the company’s Drama Conservatory, which provides classes, camps, workshops and performance opportunities for Bay Area children and teens. Approximately 8,5000 students participate in the company’s programs each year, and while the MTC’s doors closed in March due to Covid-19, they continued to engage with young actors and playwrights remotely in online classes through the Spring.

Now, MTC is introducing a new concept, Summer Camp in a Box, which was created as a way to bring summer camp activities directly to younger students so they can participate from the safety of home. The format is literally a box of theatrical supplies that can be picked up or dropped off. Boxes range from $50-$75, and scholarships are available.

Each box is themed and targeted at Kindergarteners-through fifth graders, and each box includes instructions and materials needed to complete drama activities, arts and crafts, games, recipes and more.

Themes range from “Living Literature,” which lets young ones act out classic kids books like The Magic School Bus, The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Dr. Seuss stories, to boxes based on Disney movies like The Secret Life of Pets and Frozen that let kids run wild with their imagination.

In addition to the Summer Camps in a Box for the young ones, theater kids in middle and high school can sign up for summer camps conducted virtually through Zoom, with an emphasis on acting and improvisation. All virtual camps for tween and teens are $100 and, again, scholarships are available. Register for MTC’s summer camps and boxes at Marintheatre.org.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bill McKibben Calls Out Obama's Shoddy, Contradictory Policies on Climate Change

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Bill McKibben is never one to mince words about the steadily encroaching monster that is climate change, but in his latest article, 'Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story,' the writer and environmental activist lays it all out in plain, powerful language. It's definitely worth a read. Just like the Obama administration has a consistently worse record for marijuana prosecutions than the Bush administration, it's proving to be the same kind of failure on a massive level for environmental policy and regulations.

If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet's biggest oil producer and Russia as the world's biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we've begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.

And this is no joke. The surprise drop of a new Beyonce album may be on the minds of most Americans under the age of 40 this week, but maybe what we really should be getting all crazy about is the fact that it's almost 'game over' for the climate, according to recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen. Pretty may hurt, but dead oceans, water shortages, endless droughts, killer typhoons and devastated ecosystems hurt a lot worse.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Farmed Salmon Worth Another Look

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 2:21 PM

Salmon with pear vinegar cream by John Ash
  • Salmon with pear vinegar cream by John Ash

There are two opinions on farmed salmon. One says that salmon is salmon and it’s good for you no matter where it’s from. The other says farmed salmon is horrible for your body and the environment no matter where it’s from. Whereas though the latter school of thought may have once been the case, in the past few years there have been dramatic changes made in the way salmon is being farmed; it now takes another level of investigation to determine what really is the wave of the future.

John Ash
  • John Ash

Chef John Ash has been involved with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program since it launched in 1999. The organization is regarded as the most stringent guide of what’s sustainable in terms of fishing and what’s safe for the human body in terms of minerals and pollutants. Currently, farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list because of environmental concerns from the process and the amount of fish it takes to feed the salmon. The current standard, according to the Seafood Watch, is three pounds of feeder fish for every pound of farmed salmon harvested. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that isn’t sustainable, and that’s one of the main reasons the program does not endorse the practice. But if the wild population of salmon continues to be the only source that’s used for food, even with the best regulations on fisheries it is estimated there will be none left by the end of this generation.

“I’m an old guy,” says Ash at a demonstration this morning for a new company offering sustainably-farmed salmon. “I’ve seen the ups and downs of farmed salmon.” He even took a tour in 1981 of a salmon farm in Norway, but it was less than inspiring. “It was like conventional chicken farming,” he says. “You could literally walk across the water on the backs of the salmon.” This created the need for extensive antibiotics and still resulted in low-quality fish. Fast forward thirty years, and companies are still trying to figure out how to sustainably farm the world’s favorite fish, but things are getting significantly better.

Japanese style roasted salmon by John Ash
  • Japanese style roasted salmon by John Ash

For example, Verlasso, the company he was endorsing and which supplied the fish for a cooking demonstration to about 30 students, media members and fish buyers at the SRJC Culinary Café, has found a way to control the ratio of feeder fish to 1:1 by supplementing omega 3-rich sardines, anchovies and herring with omega 3-rich yeast borne from algae. Coloring of the flesh comes not from dyes or chemical agents fed to the fish, but from beta carotene harvested from another type of algae, “which is what makes flamingoes pink,” says Verlasso Director Allyson Fish (yes, that’s her real name). The resulting mixture is pressed into pellets and fed to the salmon. As for Ash’s first farm experience, Verlasso is among a new breed of companies expanding the size of their ocean-based pens, giving the fish enough room to keep them from getting sick en masse.

Jennifer Bushman
  • Jennifer Bushman

Despite the slew of feel-good facts about any company, and no matter how environmentally friendly the farms are, the bottom line boils down to taste. Will chefs and consumers buy this? Does it taste better than what’s available now? With endorsements from Ash and chef Jennifer Bushman, who also spoke on behalf of Verlasso this morning, the tide may be turning on the farmed salmon debate. It tastes good, with a fat percentage closer to wild salmon than any other farmed Atlantic salmon (which is by far the most popular farmed salmon species). Ash said, “I don’t think you could tell the difference,” between Verlasso and wild Atlantic salmon. One caveat to this argument, however, is there may not be a chance to tell the difference. Wild Atlantic salmon are all but extinct due to overfishing. Pacific salmon is a different species, therefore will have a different flavor to begin with, farmed or wild.

But no matter how tasty farmed salmon is, wild salmon will always be preferred by top chefs. David Holman, executive chef with the Charlie Palmer restaurant group in Reno, said he has to keep salmon on the menu year-round due to customer demand, but chooses to offer wild salmon when in season. He says customers are always informed of the origin of their fish.

SRJC culinary students taste the lecture
  • SRJC culinary students taste the lecture

Holman cited showcasing local ingredients and seasonal bounty as reasons, but it’s no coincidence that wild salmon does taste better. As a former fishmonger, I have never had anything from a farm that tastes as good as wild salmon. Consumers know this, too. Wild salmon, even at $25 per pound, was nearly impossible to keep in stock when we could get it. Farmed salmon, despite being from a sustainable farm similar to Verlasso, sat neglected in the corner of the case even though it was half the price.

Jodie Lau, of Sonoma County supermarket chain G&G, was on hand with other executives from the market. All seemed impressed with the fish and the company, and Lau said she hoped the market could look into ways to begin carrying the fish year-round. If offered at $10.99 per pound retail, it would be comparable in price to other farmed salmon of lesser quality.

Verlasso is trying to break the stigma of farmed salmon not just for profit, but for the future of the world’s fish supply, says Allyson Fish. The company is working with Seafood Watch in hopes it will become the first farmed salmon to earn a “recommended buy” from the organization. It’s one of six aquaculture companies, the only one producing salmon, vying for this certification. By shooting for the top, this opens the door for other groups like the Marine Stewardship Council to look at farmed fish in a different light, and hopefully help change public perception through education.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Extended Play: Author and 21st century forager Langdon Cook on food, foraging and fungi renegades

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Our Dining Feature this week digs into the food history of Langdon Cook, the Seattle-based author of

Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. An expert on forging for seafood and plants in the wild, Cook is incredibly passionate about his chosen field. In the following interview, he talks about his great love for the “mushroom people,” the deliciousness of dandelions, and his childhood love for TV dinners and Spaghetti-O’s.

Did you grow up foraging?

Not at all. I come much more from traditional,  New England, Anglo-Saxon roots where you would never consider eating anything in the wild. The mushrooms are toadstools and all the greens are potentially poisonous and you  do not touch. That’s not to say that my parents didn’t give me room to roam around in the woods, but food was something you bought at the grocery store. I came of age in post-World War II, you know, my parents are boomers. I came-of -age eating TV dinners, and processed food, and things in colorful packaging from the supermarket, which we’ve since learned is a horrible mistake.. I loved TV dinners as a kid. The  little compartmentalized deal, and Mom would throw it in the microwave. We ate Spaghetti-O’s out  of a can. Now, it’s pretty common to turn your nose up at that sort of food, but when I was a kid that was pretty common. You didn’t think about getting food from the wild, at least where I was at (in Connecticut).

How did foraging influence the way you approach food?

By the time I graduated from college, I really didn’t know how to cook. I’d either been eating the food that my parents prepared, or that I got from the cafeteria. I think there were a lot of people like me who didn’t know how to cook. Here we were, suddenly, y outh in the world,  with no idea how to chop an onion, or when to use garlic. But I loved to eat, and I’d always been a big eater. And I think I always enjoyed good food. It was sort of a joke in my family that I always wanted to order the most expensive item on the menu when we went out for dinner.

I always liked good foods, but it wasn’t until I started foraging that I really started trying to transform myself in the kitchen as well. You come home, with a few pounds of morels that might be selling at the Farmer’s Market for 30 bucks a pound, and you suddenly realize that you have this booty-like pirate’s booty-and you want to do something that honors the food and really makes the best meal possible. I’m pretty much self-taught in the kitchen. I’m not a great cook, by any stretch, I’m pretty much a typical home cook who’s learned different techniques along the way.

My wife comes from a Polish-Italian background in which the food ways were really important  bec ause they brought them over from the “Old World.” They were handed down. So she had recipes from both sides of her family. I watched her in the kitchen, and then started picking some of it up for myself. I’ve been on  this parallel track with the cooking and the foraging. And each step along the way has informed the other. As I ratchet up the foraging, I also ratchet up the cooking.How did you first get into foraging?

I landed in Seattle in 1991. I moved from the Bay Area, where I’d lived for a couple of years and that’s where I cut my teeth as a reporter and writer at the Bay Guardian and then at the Berkeley Voice., my first two newspaper jobs out of college. I moved up to Seattle for grad school and  got my MFA in writing at the University of Washington. Seattle happens to have a very outdoorsy population and I was immediately doing a lot of hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and back country skiing. We would find these wild foods during our outdoor excursions, and it would be great. Find some chantrelles or fiddleheads, and it’s a great way to eat fresh foods when you in the outback. But over time, foraging, instead of a side trip, became a focus of the outdoor pursuits. The next thing I knew I was planning to go morel hunting, or free diving for crabs, and spear fishing Lingcod and things like that.Can you talk about the morel-hunting chapter? Specifically the outlaw commercial mushroom hunters featured in one of the chapters in Fat of the Land.

I’m fascinated by the mushroom people. Santa Rosa is at the southern terminus of the commercial mushroom trade. Goes  all the way up to the Yukon and Alaska. They  call it the mushroom trail and these folks can be on it for years. You can harvest wild mushrooms in that area essential year-round on that circuit. They’re also known as circuit pickers. They’ll work there way up the Cascades in the spring for morel picking.

These people drive their mushroom mobiles up and down, mostly on back roads and forest service roads, camping out in little guerilla camps in the woods along the way. And they’re making a living in this underground economy, which in many ways is the last gasp of the wild west. It’s like the gold rush.

The thing is that these people have incredible knowledge of the woods. I’ve spent some time with commercial pickers and I’m just amazed by their wood savvy. Most of them don’t even bother with a map and compass. They know about patches up and down the West Coast, that they just sort of know.

It seems to me that some of these people are coming from places where there is a lot of traditional foraging. Cambodia. Laos. So when they get here, foraging in the woods just comes naturally. They’re comfortable out there. A lot of people frankly would be nervous, to be off trail, bushwhacking, deep into the wilderness, picking mushrooms, and then trying to find their way out at the end of the day as it’s getting dark. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, being on some lonely logging road way out in the middle of nowhere. But they have these skills.

Maybe you don’t speak the language but it’s not important in this case. You’re working for yourself, you don’t have a boss. There’s a certain pride in figuring it out. It’s like a puzzle. There are so many factors that go into mushroom-hunting. You have to be aware of tree composition, and slope aspect, humidity, moisture, ground temperature, tree types., All different factors combined make it a puzzle that needs to be solved.Do you still live off-the-grid? How did that experience influence your foraging?

My family and I live in Seattle. We spent a year living of the grid in a canyon, in the Rogue River area of Oregon. And that was really the germ of the book. When we were down there, we were two hours from the nearest town of Grants Pass. We would go to Grants Pass to get food staples every couple of weeks, but otherwise it made sense to have a huge vegetable garden, to make best use of the orchard as we could. Cherries, apples, pears. All this incredible food. We canned and had a garden going gangbusters. We foraged in the spring for wild greens. During the summer we caught salmon and steelhead in the Rogue River and smoked them. In the fall, it was incredible mushroom hunting. We would walk right out the back door and forage. So it really focused my attention on the whole idea of foraging. It was something I took for granted.

I started writing these essays while we were living off the grid. In part to hold onto that experience bec ause it was so transformative. I also had a lot of content from the personal blog (kept while living off the grid) by the time we got back to Seattle. I started taking that raw content and putting it through the mixer, just trying to shape it.  The  reentry to civilization was difficult. I really loved our time off the grid. Writing about it was a way to hold onto it.

I started realizing that this theme of foraging was running through quite a few of the essay. I’ve got all these foraging stories from our year off the grid, but  also stories that stretched back ten or  fifteen years.

Can you talk about the connection between wild foods and conscious eating?

My wife is much bette r about this than I am. She was doing all this years ago. The more I got into foraging, the more I started thinking in terms of local food and sustainability. My wife was teaching  an essay class on “Food Issues” We got a crash course on the literature. Books like Fast Food Nation. Some of Michael Pollan’s early stuff.

People are waking up to the fact that the food system is broken. You can see the trajectory of it. The technological advances. The advent of refrigeration and the post-war generation that suddenly have access to convenience food and processed foods. But at a certain point, it just went off the rails. Finally, we are coming back full-circle and people are getting back into what I like to refer to as the “home arts.” You hear about people who are sewing, knitting, tanning, making backyard gardens,  victory gardens. You could say it’s the economy, but I think there are larger factors at hand

What advice do you have for people that are interested in getting into foraging?


Step outside your backdoor and eat weeds. Look at your own backyard garden as a potential source of food. If you are going to start eating food, particularly weeds out of your yard, you might want to think about what you are putting down in that yard. Are you using pesticides or herbicides? You probably shouldn’t be because all of that stuff ends up in our water supply. Think about what you’re putting down on your lawn in terms of chemicals. From there, consider eating the weeds. They’re more nutritious than virtually anything we can grow ourselves.. Like a dandelion, for instance.. Adandelion is such a great source of food. In fact, it’s been known for centuries, if not millennia. You’ll see them all over the markets in Europe. Even as recently as the 19th century, New Jersey was known for its commercial dandelion crops.

We basically crave sweet food, so dandelion greens are a little more adventuresome. They’re at the bitter end of the spectrum. If you like kale or swiss chard, you’ll love dandelion greens sautéed.

Start with the weeds in your own backyard and then you can get more adventurous as your go. The golden rule is that you never eat anything that you can’t identify with  100% certitude. Take a class, or a botany workshop. Or maybe just find a mentor. Field guides, although useful, are not the end all. I wouldn’t just start trying to identify plants through pictures in a field guide and start grazing, because you can get yourself into trouble. It really helps to go out with someone and see these plants and fungi in the wild, what they look like, get a sense of them, hold them in their hand. With mushrooms, for instance. There are several varieties of choice mushrooms that are easy to identify. Most people, once they’ve looked at and held a chanterelle  will be able to identify it again in the wild. With the plants, some of them we are already familiar with like dandelions and stinging nettles. And then, it doesn’t take much to learn how to identify say Chickweed, or Lamb’s Quarters, or Fiddleheads, or Miner’s Lettuce. Miner’s Lettuce is  the food that the gold miner’s were eating so they wouldn’t get scurvy. It’s loaded with Vitamin C.

Mycological societies are really great learning environments. Most of them have people like me that come and lecture, and so they are great places to learn. And they’ll share their secrets with you. They’ll take you out on forays and there’s usually good seminars and identification classes.

With social networking, people are in touch. There’s just kind of an excitement in the air as people get to know each other in this emerging food culture. I’ve been meeting chefs and people that can cook up incredible meals, but know nothing about foraging, and so they want me to take them out and show them, and then I learn how to make some incredible sauce from them. It’s a give and take. It’s just been really fun.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Jordan and Brita Ride

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 4:00 AM


We just learned about the Brita Climate Ride yesterday and today it passes through Sonoma County, ending at Casini Ranch in Duncan's Mills for an overnight camp out before heading south tomorrow.

Designed to alert citizens to the dangers of climate change -- and, just perhaps, to strengthen the Brita brand -- the ride's unusual aspect is educational. Each night, special speakers regale the riders and the public with their stories. Tonight's speaker is Pacific Northwest photographer Chris Jordan, whose work we adore and who has been kind enough in the past to allow us to reproduce some of it.


Jordan's thing is, well, things. Masses of them. As many Barbies as their are breast augmentations performed in one month in the U.S. arrayed to look like a breast. As many lighters are there are annual smoking-related deaths every six months in the U.S. shaped to mock death. Charlie Brown and Snoopy underscoring animal rights. And so on.


His genius lies in the sheer volume of objects he aggregates and their resonance to numbers in real life. Jordan speaks tonight, Thursday, Sept. 23, at 7:30pm at Casini Ranch, 22855 Moscow Road, Duncans Mills. It's free.

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