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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - April 2016


Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - April 2016

 "It's All About the Soil – Farming on a hot planet” was the topic at the event put on by Slow Food Russian River at Bob Cannard’s Green String Farm. 

Everyone in Sonoma – all the old timers at least – knows of Bob Cannard, who advocated for organic agriculture before it became a byword in our fair county. He’s a Sonoma Valley native who used to farm on the east side of Sonoma Mountain. Now he has been restoring the soil on a battered piece of land adjacent to General Vallejo’s Fort on Adobe Road.

The event was held in the beautiful old barn where the wind sneaks in through the cracks between the boards, the kind of place that would be leveled in the interests of Progress by a modern supermarket but which is beloved to the movement for Slow Food that aims to turn away from consumption of plastic wrapped processed foods in favor of real down home nutrition. Charming as it was, it was cold in that barn on March 19 as bursts of rain poured down on the flocks of sheep and lambs feasting on fresh grasses outside. Thanks to the careful tending of its soil, nurtured with compost tea and freshly delivered animal manure, places like Green String Farm do not easily flood; and that was one of the messages in Anna Lappe’s smart, fast paced talk.

The big take-home message is that soil rich in organic material and thickly planted with organically grown plants can actually reverse climate change.

The plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and deliver the carbon to their roots in a process only recently understood, where the roots exchange nutrients with micro-organisms in the soil. Thus farming actually can actually reduce 30-50 percent of the carbon in the air over the next thirty years (or less, depending on which scientific paper you read).

Why haven’t we been hearing more about this actual solution to the most serious crisis we face?

The answer is, Politics.

Wherever we turn today, the issues are big and the dynamics are the same. Proposed solutions, glossy and packed with pages of words, charts and pictures fail to address the root cause of the problem: multinational corporations with their relentless pursuit of extravagant profits block innovation and intelligent policy supported by a government seeking by any means the domination and control of the planet by the United States of Empire and its allies.

Too few are willing to face the dire reality for fear of paralyzing the public or themselves by unveiling the great spook of our era, the demon of negativity. Even Anna Lappe, daughter of Frances Lappe, who proved vegetarianism to be the answer to global starvation, was careful “not to end on a negative note.” 

But speaking the truth is not negative. The situation is urgent and the obstructionism is evident. To actually solve the climate crisis – and the housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, the water crisis and many more – we need to identify its real cause. Then we can propose its real and existing solution.

In every case, the cause is the same: runaway corporations supported by the big government they like to say they dislike!

In the same light, our county continues its struggle to come up with more affordable housing for its residents while turning a blind eye to the real issue.

Supervisor Susan Gorin organized a meeting on housing, the first in a series called “Sonoma Connects” held in the gym at Altamira School on March 16. Tables from various governmental and nonprofit organizations bordered the large room but where were all the citizens we expected to see in the middle? Almost everyone present was working for an agency or nonprofit. But the elephant in the room – the way investors expel residents without cause, raising rents, and eventually selling the buildings at super-inflated prices – was not on the agenda. 

A recent article in the Bohemian took a look at the policy of “rent stabilization”  being considered in Santa Rosa, calling it a “soft” form of rent control. Developers are opposed of course, and guess what? The city is with them. The cost of regulating rents is an obvious factor. But in a “Close to Home” commentary in the Press Democrat March 20, Hugh Futrell points out that $42 million collected over the years from an add-on property tax in Santa Rosa was never used for housing.

Santa Rosa is not our problem, of course. Here in Sonoma, affordable housing finally made it to the City Council’s agenda. I don’t know whether they ever got to it. The motion to exclude gas leaf blowers took an hour to pass. About 40 Mexican landscape workers showed up. Leaf blowing was starting to look like a racial issue! Someone had led them to believe they would lose their jobs if this thing passed. As I was leaving, I heard another man thank them for coming. Their boss perhaps? He was white. 

So goes democracy these days, local and global. 

Please excuse our error last week: Councilmember Edwards is Gary, not Bob!