As an organic farmer in Lagunitas for the last 27 years, I must correct several misconceptions that Brian Staley seems to be laboring under in his June 7 letter.
But first, a personal plea to the community: I implore everyone to make the conversation about our wishes for this land, the golf course in the heart of the valley, to be positive. Let us put everything on the table—our needs and hopes for this commons—instead of simply opposing each other and trying to mislead.
If we can listen to each other and honestly put forward our ideas, we, as a community, can come to a consensus.
Now to the misconceptions apparent in Mr. Staley’s letter concerning the group I am a part of, called Vision SGV.
1. We are envisioning farming on part of the property, advocating small-scale, ecological, no-till production of organic produce for the community—an agricultural park, if you will. Imagine walking the now-golf cart path among a small organic farm grown for local consumption. A fruit orchard is a beautiful sight, as are row crops of seasonal vegetables. We envision educating aspiring young farmers and our school children.
In addition, by using restorative methods, the soil would be cleaned of toxins and could be certified organic in three years. It would absorb exponentially more water that would slowly drain into the creek, improving summer flows for the salmon and absorbing large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. The valley would be more food secure, as most of our produce currently comes from outside the county.
2. We can all agree that the creek should be restored and setbacks established to protect it. The golf course is made up of 157 acres. We are advocating protecting some of the rare and valuable soils for the common good of growing healthy food and diversifying county grants so as to not preclude growing food on these precious soils.
3. Organic farming on a small scale is not profitable—I have been trying for a long time. Ask any small farmer and they will tell you it isn’t lucrative, but rather the opposite. It is the love of bringing forth food for people that keeps us going. This is why we are proposing an educational program rather than a commercial farm.
4. Permaculture or regenerative farming is the exact opposite of the “industrial” agriculture that Mr. Staley asserts we are proposing. There is immense potential for this deep bottom land to restore itself with cover crops in the winter, evoking billions of beneficial soil microbes that will break down even hydrocarbons. There would be zero contamination of the creek because ecological farming methods preclude it.
In addition, most of the water during heavy storms would be caught by swales, or shallow trenches on the contours, that sink 98 percent of what would otherwise run off the land. This would create a slow release of water to the creek over the whole year.
5. Mr. Staley’s assumption that there is no demand for locally grown organic produce is off by a mile. If that were true, the all-organic Good Earth would not be crowded with shoppers every day and the farmers markets and farm stands would all be begging for customers. Food creates community, Mr. Staley. That is what we are really about: envisioning a community-accessible farm as part of the park.
Diane Matthew is an organic farmer and the owner of Mt. Barnabe Farm, which she founded in 1991. She has lived in Lagunitas for 45 years.