California habits challenge resilience

While Meadowcreek slumbers in the cold and the residents enjoy the wood they were smart to cut on those beautiful clear fall days, a few of us are waking up to the last day of our climate change excursion to California.  I’m typing this with my door open to the sound of Pacific waves crashing.  It’s hard to not look up to watch the waves breaking and the sky turn colors as the sun gets closer to splitting heaven from earth.Surf-on-Davenport-Beach-California

In a few hours we will be back at our beloved Meadowcreek, remembering this morning on the beach along with a myriad of other inspiring agricultural systems.

For the last few years we’ve been working to understand resilience in local food systems and farms in Arkansas and the Southeast.  Now we’re out trying to see how our ideas play in the “big city.”

California is head and shoulders above any other state in climate change legislation.  For details, just ask our hosts based in Sacramento, CalCAN or California Climate Action Network.

Thanks to CalCAN, we’ve had wonderful visits with insightful Californians we’d never met till this week.  I grew up with a little distaste for California.  Hollywood, I was taught, is a vortex of villanous, vile, degradation-spewing, vegans.  The Central Valley is a tribute to the power of capital to destroy ecosystems while enriching the rich.  And amidst all this, Californian secrete this odor of superiority.  They are more convinced than Texans of the primeness of their state.

But they have reason to be proud.  They are far ahead of all other states on environmental law, especially climate change.  However, we’re not interested in the letter of the law.  We know how little impact the letter of the law has on scofflaws (such as those who go 60 in a 55 zone) and how much the virtuous should ignore the letter for the spirit.

We sought out those with the spirit–those who are building resilience to climate change on the ground while creating profitable enterprises.

We found Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm–an amazing example of a resilient farming system which creates wealth and opportunity for its workers.  Rotation from broccoli to strawberries is how they keep diseases under control.  Conventional growers have to use tons of deadly chemicals to do the same thing.

We found Carol Shennan, who does research on Jim’s farm and uses natural processes of water and heat generating anaerobic conditions to destroy disease organisms in strawberries.

Others we visited enlightened us about how lacking in resilience much of California agriculture is, including the recent trend of investors paying $25,000 per acre, putting  $6-7000 more in to lay irrigation lines and plant water guzzling almond trees, doing it square miles at a time.  And each time they do it, leaving 640 acres of bare ground to be eroded.  All in a drought.  Planting trees in the desert in a drought.  Resilient?

We visited a university cattle research farm where the manager is using management intensive grazing to improve his pastures, while researchers at the same university advocate shipping cattle between Idaho and California to find good pasture.  Not local, ot resilient.

And we found John Teixeira outside Firebaugh, caring for his almonds as he creates a new system with ancient grains, heirloom tomatos, hogs, goats and a myriad of value-added enterprises.

He and many others were inspirations for us, as was the crashing surf on beautiful January days.  Luckily we have an even more interesting little valley to go back to–Meadowcreek.