Simple Seasoned Salts

Fresh herbs + salt bring a pop of flavor to any dish.
by Tamara McFarland, Cooperation Humboldt

One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs from my garden is to make herbed salt.

The recipe is very flexible and allows you to use your creativity; my favorite combination is sage, thyme and rosemary, but you can use anything you like. In the past I’ve experimented with lavender, oregano, and dried citrus peel.

You can use herbed salt 1:1 in place of salt in any recipe that could benefit from an extra kick of flavor.

Herbed salt

1/2 cup fresh herbs
2 cups coarse salt (divided)

Grind the fresh herbs and 1/4 cup of the salt in a spice grinder (a coffee grinder also works; just be sure you get all traces of coffee flavor out first).

Mix by hand into the remaining 1-3/4 cups salt. Spread onto a cookie sheet and allow to dry on the countertop for a day (or in the oven set to a very low temperature for a shorter time if you prefer).

Stir Fry Through the Seasons

Enjoy quick meals featuring local produce all year long.
Recipes prepared by North Coast Co-op staff


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

2-3 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
½ bundle asparagus, chopped
2-3 carrots, shredded or chopped into matchsticks
1 cup snap peas
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed
2 bok choy, separated and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh or pickled sliced radish (optional)
cilantro, chopped (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

In a large sauté pan heat half the cooking oil over medium-low heat until oil is warmed. Add asparagus, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining cooking oil, carrots, and snap peas, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

Continue stirring and add garlic and bok choy. When bok choy is slightly wilted, remove from heat, season to taste and serve. Optional: Top with radish, cilantro, and/or sesame seeds.


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

3-4 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
¼ medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
4 summer squash (zucchini, yellow crookneck, etc.), chopped
½ bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped
2 ears of corn, fire roasted or boiled and sliced off the cob
¼ medium red onion, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
Queso fresco, crumbled (optional)
jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
chili powder (optional)

In a large sauté pan heat half the cooking oil over medium-low heat until oil is warmed. Add yellow onion and tomatillos and stir until soft, about 6 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining cooking oil, garlic and summer squash. Stir for additional 3 minutes.

Add corn and half of cilantro; stir for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season to taste and serve.

Optional: Top with remaining cilantro, raw red onion and queso fresco, jalapeño and/or chili powder.


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

1 lb turnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges (about 2½ cups)
2 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 tbsp white miso paste
1 tbsp local honey
turnip greens or kale, thinly sliced and charred (optional)

Arrange the turnips snugly in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Add butter or olive oil, miso, honey, ½ teaspoon salt, and enough water to just cover the turnips (about 2 cups). Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cook over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until most of the liquid has reduced to a syrupy glaze and the turnips are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. (If the glaze is done before the turnips, add about ½ cup water and continue to cook. If the turnips are done first, remove them and boil the liquid until syrupy.)

Lower the heat to medium and toss to coat the turnips with the glaze. Season to taste with salt and serve (topped with greens if desired).


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

4 tbsp water (for quick steaming)
1 head broccoli – florets plus peeled and chopped stem
½ head cauliflower, core removed and cut into medium sized florets
1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
3-4 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
½ cup Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup baby braising greens, coarsely chopped
¼ head cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce (more or less to taste)
¼ tsp sesame oil (optional)
½ tsp rice vinegar (optional)

In a large sauté pan over medium heat add water, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts and cover to gently steam and soften these hardier veggies. The color will intensify and brighten after a few minutes. After 6 minutes (or when fork-tender) remove from pan and set aside.

Add oil and mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes. Add braising greens and cook for another minute. Add cabbage, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, and stir.

Add previously set-aside veggies back into the pan and toss with rice vinegar. Remove from heat, season to taste and serve.

Seasonal Salads

Recipes prepared by North Coast Co-op staff


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

2-3 carrots, shredded or matchsticks
1-2 cups snap peas
4 cups arugula
1 cup kale, sliced very thinly into strips
microgreens and/or sprouts (optional)
1 cup cooked/cooled wild rice or 2 cups cooked/cooled quinoa (optional)
¼ Meyer lemon (zest and juice)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (to taste)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
pepper (optional)
chopped chives (optional)

In a large bowl, combine carrots, snap peas, arugula, kale, microgreens, sprouts, and rice or quinoa.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, vinegar, mustard, pepper and chives. Toss salad with dressing and serve.

Summer – Shirazi Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

3 Persian or slicing cucumbers, seeded and diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ red onion, diced
handful of Italian or curly parsley, chopped
juice of ½ lemon
olive oil, generous pour to fully coat salad
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, red onion and parsley.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over veggies and toss to fully coat.

Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to let flavors meld, then serve.


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

1 bunch kale (destemmed and coarsely chopped)
juice of ½ Meyer lemon
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups baby spinach or mixed baby greens
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds/pepitas (with or without hulls)
1 cup husk cherries or “ground cherries” (optional)
¼ cup goat cheese (optional)
Simple Tangy dressing (optional; recipe below)

Cover chopped kale with lemon juice and olive oil, massage by hand for about one minute and set aside.
Mix baby greens, apple, pepitas, and husk cherries if using; then mix in massaged kale.

Top with goat cheese if using. Salad can be enjoyed as-is or tossed with dressing below or of your choice.

Simple tangy dressing

Meyer lemon (zest and juice)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp local honey
1-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (to taste)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
ground pepper (optional)
chives, chopped (optional)

Whisk all ingredients vigorously until combined.


Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

1 head cauliflower, core removed and cut into medium sized florets
1 small head of radicchio, core removed and cut into strips lengthwise
1 pear, cut into matchsticks
4 celery stalks, cut into thin diagonals
1 tbsp fresh chives, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp celery leaves, coarsely chopped
pecans (optional)
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 tsp stone-ground mustard
⅓ cup olive or grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toss cauliflower, radicchio, pear, celery, and herbs in a large bowl. Zest lemon directly onto veggies and pear.
To make dressing, juice lemon into a small bowl and whisk in mustard, oil, salt and pepper.

Add pecans, toss and enjoy!

Fungi Fervor

Mushrooms have held an important place in local Indigenous cultures since time immemorial; today’s cultivators hope to blend native knowledge with modern technology.
by Sean McCann, Cooperation Humboldt

There has been an explosion of interest in mushrooms in the past several years. A walk around the Arcata Farmers Market or a glance into the display windows of one of our local bookstores is all it takes to pick up on the fervor. Coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and bearing evocative names like lion’s mane, black trumpet, shiitake, chestnut, blue oyster, and chanterelle, it’s easy to understand why the world of mushrooms captivates the imaginations of so many. It seems that this has always been true, although what people from different cultures have imagined about them has varied widely, ranging from adoration and worship to fear and mistrust. My hope is that this article helps to shed some light on what is happening in the world of mushrooms (and fungi in general – not all fungi produce mushrooms) here on the North Coast.

I spoke with a handful of mushroom farmers, gatherers, and lovers living in the area to find out how they view, relate to, and work with fungi. The conversations covered a staggering variety of topics – everything from forest health to food sovereignty, favorite recipes, family traditions, innovative building materials, and the healing of trauma. If I were to choose a few words to encapsulate what I learned about fungi from the wonderful people with whom I spoke, they would be, “connection,” “community,” and “relationship.”

Stewarding mushrooms for future generations

Kodi Martinez, a Yurok tribal member and lifelong mushroom lover, emphasized this relational piece. For Kodi and her family, gathering mushrooms (particularly tanoaks and chanterelles) each Autumn is a time for sharing, teaching and gratitude. She began gathering mushrooms at a young age and has passed on this tradition to her two-year-old son. Kodi, like many mushroom gatherers, has a secret location where she likes to harvest. This allows her and the others who know of it to tend the plot carefully. While the location is not shared publicly, she and her family will take other families to the spot and teach them how to sustainably harvest its bounty.

Kodi enjoys sauteing tanoak mushrooms with deer meat and potatoes or simply frying them with butter, garlic, and salt.

When asked if she has noticed a change in the abundance or distribution of mushrooms since she was a child, Kodi replies, “I haven’t seen a change in the area where we gather because we care for it and leave some for the future, but there has been a change in the areas where people gather them to sell at the market. They are harder to find in those places now.” She attributes this to greed and people not being part of a tradition that teaches responsible harvesting. The key, she says, is to respect the earth and not be greedy. “Never take all of the mushrooms in an area. Leave the little ones and be careful how you harvest. Then they will be there for future generations.” In addition to sharing the harvest with elders who may not be able to gather for themselves, she explains that it is also important to leave some for the deer and other animals.

It is all too evident, given the intersecting social and environmental crises we are facing, that placing this level of importance on community and ecology must be at the heart of any resource use, mushrooms included. This is also an example of the importance of Indigenous leadership as we attempt to solve climate and biodiversity crises and heal social rifts based on centuries of oppression.

Leading the way in the local mushroom scene

Like so many aspects of building a more equitable and sustainable society, expanding access to and utilization of fungi/mushrooms will require a blending of traditional knowledge and modern technologies. It will also require cooperation. This is where local mushroom cultivators like Mike Egan come in. Mike is the founder of Mycality Mushrooms and has over 20 years of experience cultivating mushrooms. He’s had a lot to do with building interest in mushrooms locally, making them available through direct sales, cultivating expansion of markets, and helping other growers get their starts. Many of the people I talked with either learned some aspect of what they know from Mike or buy mushrooms from him.

Mike grows both edible and medicinal mushrooms, processing the medicinals (reishi, lion’s mane, and turkey tail) into tinctures. He also sells kits so folks can easily grow mushrooms at home. For Mike, a marker of the increased interest in mushrooms is how popular these kits have become recently. He sees this as hugely positive, noting how quickly and in how little space mushrooms can be cultivated. When asked about their role in food security, Mike responds, “[Mushrooms] will be an integral component of a sovereign food [system]…and I think historically they were as well…filling in that protein when food was pretty bleak as far as food production in the forest.”

Mike sees a local fungi co-op as one solution to solving the problems of access, cost, availability and scale (this last piece being particularly important for larger ecological remediation projects). Space and equipment account for most of the cost of production. Mike questions, “Why does everyone need to have their own refrigeration unit? I’ve got two pallets in mine, and I can fit twenty.” He adds, “Maybe we need just one big facility to produce blocks for farmers…I’d be totally interested in doing that with folks.” While he has the space and a lot of the equipment needed to pull this off, it would require someone working to open markets outside of Humboldt County to make the venture financially viable. While everyone interviewed agreed that over-commodification of mushrooms runs counter to their nature, mushroom farmers (like everyone else), need to make a living. Striking a balance between these needs will be an important part of building the way forward in the world of cultivated mushrooms.

Catching the mushroom bug

Caleb Van Lynn, owner of Local Culture Mushrooms, is one of the newer faces in our local mushroom scene. When asked about the idea of a fungi co-op, he responds, “I think [it] would be fantastic. I would love to get involved in that because I think that would open it up to different ideas, like doing some kind of trash decomposition where there is not really any money in it.” This was another common topic amongst the mushroom growers I spoke with: A lot of the important waste reduction and ecological restoration work does not pay well, but there is a lot of interest and desire to engage in this work. A co-op could be the answer.

Caleb caught the mushroom bug about five years ago while doing environmental restoration and wilderness therapy work. He began selling cultivated mushrooms at the farmers’ market about six months ago. “[Growing mushrooms has] got a steep learning curve, but once you get over the hump, it’s really not that hard at all. I think it’s easier than growing plants.” Like many others, the first mushroom he brought regularly to market was a variety of oyster mushroom. Known for their incredible versatility and ability to grow on a number of substrates, it’s a go-to choice. It’s also delicious and easy to cook, making it a market favorite for many mycophiles. His interest extends far beyond this little mushroom, however, and he is excited about medicinal mushrooms and the expansion of research into the effects of psilocybin on PTSD, anxiety, depression, addiction, and more. He is currently developing a line of medicinal tinctures under the business name Mind At Large Mushrooms.

In an effort to create spawn for local environmental remediation projects, Caleb is also working on collecting spores from local mushrooms, including a few varieties of oysters, lion’s mane, and bluits. He grows these spores in petri dishes to create spawn with which to inoculate growing substrates in an effort to find/develop local species that are suitable for cultivation. This would be beneficial for food production and also for remediation projects, particularly when considering that it is ideal to use local species to speed up the regeneration process after catastrophic fires.

More than food and medicine

Levon Durr, owner of Fungaia Farm, has been practicing mycoremediation (using fungi to restore polluted ecosystems) in Humboldt for years. While he also cultivates and sells edible and medicinal mushrooms, including kits for home growing, he is most passionate about exploring the ways fungi can be used to heal the environment. This can be done both through mycoremediation and by reducing environmental impacts of industries by modifying upstream practices through creative uses of fungi. He has spearheaded and participated in multiple projects of this type, ranging from household contaminant cleanups to oil and gas spills. “All of us are spilling hydrocarbons. All of us are discharging contaminated effluent off of our properties and our cities, parks, and farms, so bringing that into the public mind, that these are accessible technologies that are not silver bullets but are pieces of the puzzle of how we reduce our impact [is important].” For more information on his work on mycofiltration, the diesel fuel cleanup he completed in Orleans in 2011, or the motor oil contamination he remedied in Southern Humboldt a few years later, visit
Levon is also looking to partner with Ecovative to shift upstream practices in the building industry. “We are pursuing a temporary license agreement from Ecovative…to look at waste diversion…be it styrofoam, building materials, or agricultural waste, and use mycelium to turn it into insulated wall panels.” This project is getting off the ground after Levon and local contractor Ryan Hayes of Hayes Building Co. won first place at HSU’s Awesome Business Competition and received a $3,000 prize.

Fungi are not the cure for all of our problems. Rather, they are one piece (albeit one with wide-ranging applications) of an overall ecological regeneration and waste reduction strategy, which must also include reducing consumption, reusing materials, recycling and upcycling. Restoring our planet will take a diversified, decentralized and creative approach with each of us doing everything we can. Levon advises us, “Test, test, test [your water and soil], and educate yourself about solutions. [Consider whether you] need to do phytoremediation [the treatment of pollutants or waste by the use of plants] or mycoremediation. Then start addressing your own contamination of the environment using simple, nature-based technologies. We need to learn from the Indigenous communities that have tended these lands for thousands of years, and combine those ways of thinking and living with these modern technologies and strategies.”

Forests and fires

In the wake of the devastating fires of recent years, and with climate change creating conditions that are less than ideal for forest regeneration, many people are thinking creatively about ways we can assist nature in the regeneration process. The USDA Forest Service found that extreme fires damage soil microbiology, killing bacteria and mycelium that are crucial for nutrient cycling and overall soil health. Cultivated fungi could be used to inoculate wood chips that would be spread over scorched forest floors, thereby helping to restore mycelium in the soil and improve water retention. There are, however, a number of logistical issues including transportation, adequate substrate to keep mycelium alive for more than a few weeks, and climatic factors. Increased funding, participation, and cooperation will be needed for such projects to be successful.

Controlled burns are an important part of forest/fire management. One solution to reduce fuel loads is to thin the forests using a wood chipper, inoculating the wood chips with fungi to speed up the decomposition process. While there would be a temporary increase in dead fuel on the forest floor, the fungi would quickly increase the water holding capacity of the wood chips, thereby making them less flammable. The time to decompose the wood chips is decreased, resulting in nutrients returning quickly to the soil to boost forest health.

In addition to requiring cooperation between mushroom growers, local tribes, the timber industry and government agencies, this kind of approach would require a significant number of people on the ground doing the work.

An eco-social perspective

Laura Woods is the manager for the Yurok Title XI Elders Nutrition Programs. She also serves on the Yurok tribal court. A self-proclaimed mushroom lover, she views food as medicine. Mushrooms are an important part of her diet, especially since she went plant-based about a year ago. The “lowly, beautiful, majestic mushrooms,” as she refers to them, are particularly important in helping her (and others) meet protein needs. She uses them fresh, dried, and/or powdered multiple times per week, often adding them to sauces and soups. One of her favorite preparation methods is rehydrating dried shiitake in a bowl of water, and then using that water to cook ramen, later adding the mushrooms themselves back in to cook. Simple and delicious.

Laura, like Kodi Martinez, primarily gathers tanoak and chanterelle mushrooms. She learned to gather mushrooms and other edibles – as well as how to smoke salmon – during trips to visit family in Orick throughout her youth. She was eight years old when she began learning these things. “Those were idyllic times,” she recalls. While her family and ancestors had always lived in and been an integral part of this area, she did not grow up here because her father was sent to the Sherman Indian Boarding School in Riverside as a child. After that, he joined the military and found himself in the middle of World War II. When he got out, the family moved back to Humboldt briefly, but poverty and a lack of work forced them to move to New Mexico. It was always Laura’s goal to move back to Orick, which she did in 2014 after a period of soul-searching that motivated her to make the move and spend the following years learning all about her culture and the living things here.

She notes that tanoak trees, the acorns they produce, and the tanoak mushrooms that grow at their bases are very important in Yurok culture, history, and stories. “It is important to honor the gifts from these living beings,” she says. Further emphasizing the importance of relationships, she shares that mushroom gathering has its proper time, as do all things in nature, “whether it is the gathering of basket materials or berries, or the return of the eels heralded by singing frogs in winter.” All of these are family or community events that facilitate building connections, sharing stories, socializing, and laughing. “This is medicine time – the gathering almost becomes secondary [to these other pieces],” says Laura. “Solutions need to be grassroots, community- and ecology- based, not the profit-based industrial model.”

The fracturing of relationships – both with one another and with our ecosystems – is at the core of many of the problems we face today. From mental illness, to resource use and climate change, food insecurity, and violence, isolation is a primary causative factor. May we find the wisdom to follow Indigenous leadership in prioritizing community over profit, as well as learn from the humble fungi that the ability of each individual to live and thrive is dependent upon a whole world of relationships.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sean McCann is a practitioner of Chinese medicine, gardener, mycophile, and revolutionary living in Eureka with his wife and six-year-old daughter.

Farming in Harmony With Wildlife

by Christi Dawn Nash, Cooperation Humboldt

Global industrial agriculture has had devastating impacts on soil, air and water quality. It releases excessive CO2e emissions which contribute to climate change, fuel food injustice and public health crises, and reduce habitat.
In the Central Valley of California, irrigation stemming from Northern California dams undermines Indigenous food sovereignty and devastates salmon runs, while the air pollution from factory farms sickens residents, disproportionately affecting Latinx communities and poor, working class populations.

Besides these detrimental impacts on human health, industrial food systems are also hurting other living beings in many ways that extend beyond cruel animal agriculture practices.

Farmers’ choices can support keystone species

In the past five years evidence has emerged that the choices farmers make to protect their livestock can determine the success or failure of carnivorous species like wolves and mountain lions.

Mountain lions are a keystone species in California. Instead of shooting predatory male lions, opting for non-lethal methods of depredation can protect farm animals and this umbrella species whose wellness indicates overall biodiversity and ecosystem health. Methods include security lights, sprinklers, fencing, enclosures for young, sick or breeding animals, restructuring barns, bringing grazing animals in from dusk to dawn, and guard animals such as llamas, sheep dogs or alpacas.

Livestock, wildlife & water issues intersect

Raising beef cattle is the most water-intensive form of agriculture in the state. One 2020 study revealed that the beef industry causes the most grievous harm to fish populations in the American West. Tule elk have also suffered in recent years due to the water demands of cattle ranching at Point Reyes.

Regenerative ranching or silvopasture with smaller ruminants can reduce impact on state droughts. About half of Millennial ranchers are opting away from cows toward sheep. These young farmers are also more likely to be women or people of color than traditional cattle ranchers, who are predominantly white males in their 50s and 60s. Of course, experienced farmers can also make the shift by choosing to raise smaller animals or a mix of existing cattle with vegetables or other livestock to reduce water usage.

Silvopasture & food forests promote biodiversity

Silvopasture makes grazing land for grass-fed livestock friendlier to native fauna. Planting trees in pastures provides shade for cattle and other farm animals and reduces evaporation from water sources. The selection of tree species can contribute to flourishing ecosystem health; while converting forests to grassland destroys biodiversity, silvopasture maintains robust watersheds for both people and a wide range of wildlife while attracting much-needed pollinators.
Food forests are a traditional form of ecological knowledge that provide food in a way that can alleviate dependence on practices such as monoculture cropping with invasive plant species, which in turn helps local wildlife as well as humans.

Helpful kelpful possibilities

Kelp farms significantly reduce water usage in agriculture, absorb CO2e emissions (thereby lowering ocean acidity), provide nourishing food for people and/or livestock, and serve as a potential plant-based alternative to harmful plastics. Kelp farming can reduce water- and land-wasting industrial monocropping which destroys wildlife habitat and is overwhelmingly utilized to feed livestock raised for human meat consumption.

Humboldt Bay kelp farms support aquatic wildlife species while mitigating climate change and drought and providing alternative feed to farm animals.

If we all work together to make shifts like these at the local level, critters and human beings can coexist peacefully.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Christi Nash is an environmental educator and activist pursuing her Master’s in Wildlife while living in ancestral Wiyot territory. She focuses on social change, sustainable food systems, and animal welfare.

Comida del Pueblo

An interview with Centro del Pueblo’s garden teacher, Adán Cervantes
by Denise Villalva, Centro del Pueblo

The non-profit Centro Del Pueblo (CDP) is an organization that is committed to supporting the Indigenous immigrant community. A program of CDP, Comida del Pueblo is designed to spread food sovereignty to the immigrant population of Humboldt. Centro Del Pueblo has community gardens located in Arcata, Fortuna, and Loleta. These gardens are a place for the immigrant, Indigenous population to redefine their relationship with food, and they represent a safe space for all immigrants.

Adán Cervantes is from Puebla, Mexico, and he is our teacher and guide in CDP’s Sanctuary Gardens for Immigrants. He shares his experience in these gardens with us:

“When I come to the Arcata Sanctuary Garden, it excites me because it reminds me of my country and all the people who come here to improve the space. At the beginning, this space was sad and dry, and several things needed to be changed. Now the neighbors pass by and they see for themselves how the place has changed. I remember when I first arrived, I recognized that it needed the love of human hands, patience, and sacrifice. We had to remove the weeds and constantly water- the plants needed sun, water, and affection. All of the volunteers who have been there since the beginning have brought friends and family because they enjoy being in this space so much.

“We have many surprises for this year. The garden events have become community spaces for us to dream together about the future of the gardens. We are able to share the harvest of our efforts and to enjoy what our own hands sow. We will soon have greenhouses in Fortuna and in Loleta dedicated to producing seedlings to distribute to all of our sanctuary community gardens.

“Through my blood, sweat, and tears I’ve brought flint corn, purple corn, and black corn to the gardens, which all have different flavors. Flint corn or maíz pinto has a rich flavor and history, and it is very healthy, even more so when we plant it with organic methods. We avoid killing ourselves with pesticides and get closer to our goal of returning to natural fruits and vegetables. Corn reminds us of the diverse ways that we can cook our harvest: we can make atoles, roasted corn, tortillas, etc. There are so many ways to enjoy corn. We have planted fava beans, peas, onions, cilantro, and many more vegetables. We want to plant everything that our imagination and the land will allow. We have many planter beds, some of which will be used for medicinal teas, as well as aromatic herbs.

“It is exciting to see a garden that is changing so much. We do it for love of ourselves, love of people and our healthy diet. All families with children are very welcome, we want to learn from you and we also have many things to teach you. Leave the shame and fear of being immigrants. We invite you to feel at home and to sow, harvest and share what we are doing for our community.”

Volunteers are needed to care for CDP’s community gardens. If you’d like to participate, email

Sustain CDP’s local organizing and empowerment of Immigrant and Indigenous Peoples from the South by donating at

Permaculture’s Third Ethic

Embracing Equality, Balance & Fairness
by Heather Jo Flores, reprinted with permission

The permaculture design system, which contains a specific set of ethics, principles, tools and techniques, offers an opportunity for individuals, families, and communities to create a living human culture that nourishes, rather than annihilates, the Earth.

While the word permaculture does refer to a specific toolshed and philosophy, most of what permaculture teaches is not new information. Many of these techniques come from Indigenous practices around the world, and some of them feel so natural that you can easily intuit your way through them, once you get started.

In permaculture, it begins with what Bill Mollison called the prime directive: to take responsibility for the needs of ourselves and our children. And, in pursuit of that directive…we begin with ethics.

Permaculture stems from a triad of ecological ethics: First, care for the earth, because the earth sustains our lives. Second, care for the people, because we need to look after ourselves and each other, and because people are the primary cause of damage to the earth.

And that brings us to the third ethic.

In his monumental Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual (1988) Bill Mollison taught the third ethic as “limits to population and consumption.” Rosemary Morrow used “redistribute surplus to one’s needs” in Earth Users Guide to Permaculture. In Gaia’s Garden (2001) Toby Hemenway used “return the surplus.” I used “recycle all resources towards the first two ethics“ in my book, Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community (2006.) Jessi Bloom used “careful process” in her book Practical Permaculture (2016.) In David Holmgren’s, the third ethic is distilled into the bland and unoffensive “fair shares,” whatever that means.

Nobody seems to agree, and you’ll encounter these ethical variations again and again on your permaculture journey, but the point that isn’t often made is that a thorough, multi-level understanding of what permaculture is and does can be found within the ongoing, sometimes controversial discussion about the third ethic.

So, in the interest of deepening our understanding, let’s unpack a few different versions:

Limits to population and consumption

Clear, specific, and controversial, this original version of the third ethic is a call to action that can trigger a lot of negative response. Without veering off into a treatise on the permaculture community’s aversion to discussing overpopulation, let’s just say that this version is probably the least popular in many permaculture circles today.

Return the surplus

This version of the third ethic reminds us that unused resources equal waste and therefore pollution, and we can increase cyclic opportunities by sending it all back around. This makes lots of sense, in some ways, but can be problematic because it’s too easy to assume something is a “surplus” when in fact somebody else might be already using it, or in desperate need of it. If we remove ourselves from the center of the design, and consider the needs of other species, the notion of “surplus” becomes confusing.

Fair share

Sure. Ok. But who decides what’s fair? Lots of room for misinterpretation here. Lots of corners to cut. But this version is, for me, too much watered down, too easy to ignore, and I have seen too many privileged permaculture property owners yammering on about “fair shares” while exploiting volunteer workers and enjoying the first-world luxuries of the 1%.

Recycle all resources towards the first two ethics

I’ve always been a pragmatist, and in Food Not Lawns I wrote, “Recycle all resources toward the first two ethics, because surplus means pollution and renewal means survival.” I still very much appreciate and agree with this perspective, because it feels tangible, measurable. But I also feel that this version lacks precision. It lacks specificity. Recycle which resources? And how, exactly? The first two ethics? So, we recycle everything towards caring for the Earth and caring for the people? Sure, ok. But again, it feels kind of watered down. This version doesn’t do enough to say: “Hey! Step up! This is on you!”

Careful process

This version asks us to consider the impacts of our actions, and to become aware of how our pursuit of happiness and “sustainability” could have negative effects on others. If we look at how humans have provided for ourselves throughout history, we see a trail of tears, carnage, and denial, all of which might have been avoided if approached with a more careful process. I find this version provocative and empowering but also lacking in accountability. To me, it feels like it could be too easy to say “I was careful, so it’s not my fault.” Because being careful isn’t enough. We have to be vigilant, and we have to be proactive, aggressive in our pursuit of balance.

Future Care

Originated in the African Permaculture school and used by Starhawk, Maddy Harland, and other well-known feminist teachers, this version echoes the “seven generations” consideration of many Indigenous and ancient traditions, and asks us to work for those who will live after we are gone. It asks us to embrace our role as “determiners” of the future, and to take responsibility for the future we’re creating with every action we take today. Yes, of course, and always. But this version takes us out of the present, and, to me, feels hyper-spiritual, almost evangelical. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time concentrating on something that will happen when I’m dead.

So, where’s the common ground in all of these? The third ethic, by any name, always has two sides: The first is about boundaries, limits, and self-regulation. The second is the sharing of resources.

But why is the combination of these two actions so crucially central to permaculture that it shares the ethical throne alongside Care for the Earth and Care for the People?


Parity is an old word with many meanings. It comes from the latin parere, which means “to bring forth.” In the 1700’s it meant “equality of rank or status,” as applied to the society that was unfolding during “the enlightenment.” In the 1950’s it was used to describe a “condition in which adversaries have equal resources,” and in the 1970’s it was often used to describe what women fighting for equal pay were trying to get.

These days, parity is generally defined as meaning equality, balance, and fairness.

At first glance, my ethical triad of People-Planet-Parity seems a play on the “triple bottom line” of the oxymoronic “sustainable development” movement: “People-Planet-Profit,” which is, I assume, what they chant to make themselves feel better about capitalist exploitation.

And, while I wasn’t thinking of the so-called green capitalists when I made my triad, I appreciate the connection, because, while I do see the value in obtaining a yield, the third ethic is all about asking ourselves who we are taking that yield from.

Think about that for a minute. Think about it for an hour. No, really. Go for a walk and think about what care, equality, and fairness really mean to you. Is your life more important than a flea? Why? More important than a bear? How about your neighbor’s life? Is yours more important than theirs? Why? Or why not?

Let’s talk about equity too. It’s not the same as equality. Does the short person get the taller chair so they can see the show as well as the tall person? Why? Or should the short person be required to bring their own chair, and the tall person required to stand at the back? Why?

How far does it all go, and who decides? And who has the authority to enforce these ethical laws?

On our quest for balance, wholeness, and sustainability, we have to be careful about trying to make everyone obey and conform. It doesn’t work that way. It’s complicated, and there is no one true path. But that doesn’t give us an excuse to stop trying.

Indeed, it is precisely our failure to acknowledge the third ethic that so often divides the permaculture community. And the defiant refusal to address social justice, mental health, and decolonization, as part of a whole system design platform, characterizes a large and domineering faction of the movement.

Add to that the sad but plain fact that no small number of well-known permaculture teachers face multiple accusations of abuse, fraud, exploitation, and sexual harassment, and what we have left is a global community of highly-skilled designers doing some good work but being oft-overshadowed by a massive berm of seemingly unresolvable ethical differences that could threaten to discredit our movement as a whole.

#permaculturemetoo? Yeah, it’s a thing. And I’m hardly the whistle-blower on this. We’ve all been riding the elephant in the room for decades now.

Fact: an ecological design cannot be implemented unless its inhabitants are willing to engage, collaborate, compromise, and actively participate in the ongoing evolution of it.

I started the Permaculture Women’s Guild (PWG) in direct defiance of the long-discussed, yet for the most part largely-enabled patriarchal power structure that continues to exist in the global permaculture community. And my goal with PWG is to achieve, well, parity.

Parity is care, in action.

Parity is an overt effort to strike a balance, whether it’s equal pay, shared resources, giving credit where it’s due, or initiating a return of what was taken. Parity is on the books, clear, defined, measurable. It is concrete. You can see it, document the effects of it, and replicate the process as needed.

Let’s add yet another definition of parity — one which inspires a metaphor that might be really helpful to our movement at this stage: In biology and human medicine, parity is when a fetus reaches a viable gestational age.
How many permaculture projects fail when they are in the first or second trimester? And why? What would happen if more of those projects could reach a level of development and self-awareness that they are ready to be born as their own entity into the world, to learn to walk and speak for themselves?

As of this writing, the long-term working models of thriving, sustainable permaculture are few and far between, with many of the very-close-to-it examples hiding those dirty #permaculturemetoo secrets under the tattered blue tarps and piles of hoarded resources (read: undistributed surplus/waste/imbalance/disregard for the third ethic.)
How do you define the permaculture third ethic?

Do you simply repeat that which you were taught, or do you engage in a daily praxis with an ethical foundation that you have rigorously and passionately investigated?

Because, if we can master the third ethic, then it can unlock the doors to the first two.

If we can tighten our design, strike a better balance in our emotional and social landscapes, and spiral back out to extend that balance, that awareness, that parity to the other humans and resources we’re working with, then perhaps we can, as a movement, birth a chance at survival as a species.

The scope and quality of our survival is largely dependent upon how we deal with the inevitable and sometimes horrible facets of humanity.

So, what’s our design strategy? (Spoiler alert: I don’t know the answers.)

All cataclysmic inevitabilities aside, permaculture, in practice, whether agricultural, structural, social, emotional, or any combination of the above, is simply loads of fun. A permaculture life, on any scale, is filled with wonder and abundance!

When you train your mind to remember permaculture theories, to pull them out like a master craftsperson would pull out her favorite chisel, then you begin to see everything around you in a different way. By putting our hands in the soil, we gain access to the wisdom of the earth, and by putting our heads together we learn how to use that knowledge for the benefit of all.

These slow, steady changes in the way you experience the world shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor should they be rushed. And, just reading this article won’t get you much farther than the armchair — you have to get out there and try this stuff in your own yard, in your own community.

You have to do the thing. Daily.

However, in closing, I feel the need to caution against allowing “permaculture” or any other catchphrase to replace critical thought, common sense, and a steadfast commitment to being present, available, vulnerable, and willing to do the work, on the ground, on the daily. And not just the land-work. The heart-work is just as important. That’s what the third ethic is about. That’s what permaculture is. When people participate in an ecological design, when we work hard to improve soil, purify water, plant trees, encourage wildlife, reduce pollution and waste…something deep inside of us shifts. We tune in to the subtle voices of nature. We become more aware of our bodies, more mindful of our impact on the environment, better at listening and communicating, and more able to overcome fears and obstacles.

So, let us engage as a community of individuals who think our own thoughts, do our own work, and yet trust and rely upon each other as we move toward a common and fruitful future. One step at a time, we can become adept at caring for the Earth, caring for the people, and finding a myriad of ways to communicate and demonstrate equality, sharing, and abundance.

Like yoga, like writing, like art, permaculture is a life-path, a daily practice. And, at first, you might not feel like you’re very flexible. Don’t worry about it. Just keep trying. Breathe in, breathe out, chop wood, carry water.

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Heather Jo Flores is the director of Permaculture Women’s Guild and created about 30% of the content in the Permaculture Design Course, as well as designing the overall program. She is a Gen-X Chicana writer, farmer, musician, artist, educator and introvert.

What is Permaculture?

Some say it’s a movement; some say it’s a collection of growing methods; some say it’s a philosophy.
by Dianne Sette, reprinted with permission from Permaculture Design Magazine #98 –

What is ‘permaculture,’ anyway? Maybe you hear people talking about it all the time, and still have no idea what it is. Maybe someone loosely recommended to you that you check it out, because it might interest you. Maybe picking up this magazine is the first time you are seeing the word. Whatever brought you to this point, I can assure you that there is something in permaculture for you. I can also assure you that even for many permaculture practitioners, it can be challenging to pin down in a quick ‘elevator speech’ what exactly permaculture is. Some say it’s a movement; some say it’s a collection of growing methods; some say it’s philosophy.

In this article, we will focus on permaculture as a design system. During my Permaculture Teacher training course, our teachers challenged us to take five minutes to come up with a definition for permaculture. Some people came up with it quickly—some needed more time. Overall, the variety of definitions painted a colorful array of nuances and subtleties. Hopefully, this article will leave you with a clearer sense of what is permaculture, with ways in which you may be able to take the next steps on your journey.


First, let me break the word “permaculture” down for you. “Perma:” short for “permanent.” “Culture:” short for “agriculture” and also “culture.” So you can think of “permaculture” as simply “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture.” We don’t mean “permanent” in the sense of unchanging, but rather in the sense of a deep sustainability. The term was coined and popularized in the mid-70s by two Australian ecologists, Bill Mollison (1) and his young student, David Holmgren (2). “Permaculture” is now a term understood on a global scale.

Contrary to what our digitized and mechanized culture may present at times, humans rely on the land. Our ability to survive rests wholly on plants’ ability to capture the sun’s energy and translate it into a form useable to us through photosynthesis. From the land, we create our food, shelter, water, and clothing—and also our culture.

Traditionally, human cultures centered on the seasonal rhythms and cycles of the earth. Observing that the world has grown alienated and disconnected from our intimate relationship with the earth, permaculture looks to re-center our systems (food, economic, political, etc.) in the flow of energy and the cycles of nature.

As we face extreme global catastrophes—climate change, war, and hunger, among others—we can see that if human societies do not change course, we will perish, and the earth will continue to adapt and go on without us. Therefore, the more we work with the earth, learn from her natural cycles, and model human systems on ecological models of adaptability and resiliency, we can better weather the storm to create a permanent and resilient culture. Permaculture proposes this approach.

More than fancy gardening

Permaculture is an holistic, ecological design system that can be applied to everything from urban planning to rural land design, from economic systems to social structures, and everything in between. It is not only one set of practices, or a philosophy—it is a way of integrated thinking, using a set of design principles to work with nature’s energy. This ecological perspective sees the world as a complex web, rather than as a complicated series of segregated events or discrete elements. The design system can produce a paradigm shift that may be comforting and inspiring to those who feel as if they are constantly putting energy into a system (whether it’s their home garden, farm, political, social, or economic work) that never seems to change or offer much of a yield as compared to the input. Permaculture is a way of designing the world we want that cares for the earth and people so that all needs are met in an equitable way. Permaculture design is abundant systems thinking, and prevents the constant banging of one’s head against the wall when faced with supposed constant scarcity. Because the point is that by working with rather than working against natural forces, one can minimize inputs and harvest maximum outputs. It’s a simple idea at first glance. Yet, it is an integrated system with many facets—anything can be viewed through a permaculture design lens.

The Permaculture Design Course (PDC)

As an integrated design system, permaculture incorporates numerous disciplines of study and practice. These disciplines are presented in a PDC resulting in a certification as a Permaculture Designer (3). [Editor’s note: The certificate should be viewed as notice that you have completed the PDC and are ready to take up further study leading to competency as a designer. We want to stress that the course is introductory.] Because of the numerous systems in which these design principles can be applied, the PDC covers a sort of introductory buffet to design topics that emphasize the core ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

Each PDC covers Introduction to Permaculture Ethics, Metasystems, Permaculture Principles, Pattern Language, Design Methods (site analysis and observation, zones, and sectors), Natural Systems, Climate & Biogeography, Ecosystems & Ecology, Earthworks/land forms, Water, Soils (microbiology, remediation, regenerative practices, compost, carbon sequestration), Forests (tree and mushroom cultivation), Arid & Tropical Regions, Cultivated Systems, Home Systems (root cellars, medicinal herbs), Microclimates, Building Design (natural building, energy efficiency), Greenhouses, Forest Gardening, Aquaculture, Agroforestry (alleycropping, forest farming, riparian buffers, silvopasture, windbreaks), Seed-saving, Waste Treatment (grey and blackwater, humanure), Energy, Appropriate Technology & Tools, Livestock (pasture management, holistic animal care), Social Systems, Urban/Rural/Suburban Ecologies, Community Design, Economics (local, slow, and regenerative), Invisible Structures (governance structures, personal patterns), Broadscale Farming & Land Use (keyline design, land trusts), and Ecological Restoration & Wildlife. The standard PDC is an intensive 72-hour course, sometimes split into two separate weeks or several weekends. Various teachers emphasize different subjects, but all PDCs should touch on all the above.

Considering that any one of these topics warrants a life study (!), there are numerous entry points to design resilient systems. A PDC is a way to step outside your daily life and take a fresh look at an expansive array of topics. Permaculture marries indigenous ways of knowing with regenerative agriculture, modern green infrastructure, and progressive socio-politico-economic structures. Permaculture is a process of looking at the whole, seeing what the connections are between the different parts, and assessing how those connections can be changed (4) so that relationships function more harmoniously.

But where to start?

My advice to someone just dipping their toes into the permaculture ocean? Get a lay of the land, observe what themes and topics attract you, and then walk toward them. Don’t try and figure it all out at once. Start small and build on your successes.Ask lots of open-ended questions and listen with curiosity. A few tips…

Get rooted in permaculture principles and ethics. David Holmgren presented the 12 Design Principles as the petals of a cyclical flower (5). These guiding principles can be adapted to any systems thinking. Ethics are core, as People Care may seem simple, yet lead us into a deeper journey of unlearning and teaching ourselves new communication patterns and listening skills—or rethinking urban planning to be centered on the real needs of human beings. This is perhaps the area that continues to expand the most and require the most experimentation and feedback, as every city, town, neighborhood, street, house, and bedroom has its own social microclimate, and healthy social ecosystem models and patterns are myriad. Earth Care has perhaps gained the most attention and focus, at times creating the misconception that permaculture is just a set of practices, rather than a way of approaching a problem. Nevertheless, permaculture has a lot to offer in food growing and land stewardship. Finally, Fair Share is the third essential piece of permaculture, teaching us to be aware of the existing yield in front of us and to know when we have enough, but also to act ethically to distribute surplus resources when our ‘cup runneth over.’

Attend a PDC, read everything you can about permaculture, listen to podcasts, and visit working permaculture sites. A PDC can be like a trip down a rabbit hole that leaves the sojourner wanting more at the end. It is one of the best ways to get significant exposure to what’s possible with permaculture. Studying permaculture through reading (7) will help you gain more clarity to know where you want to dive in more deeply. For many people, simply spending time in a place that is a thriving permaculture model leads to tremendous shifts in awareness and confidence.

Find what interests you most and work from your niche. Evaluate your strengths. What existing assets and resources are already present? Use that as your starting point. What interests you? How do those interests overlap with the needs of your community? From there, take the smallest steps possible to make the biggest impact on existing systems. Maybe that means meeting your neighbors, planting perennial onions, saving seeds to plant out the next year, collecting rainwater off your roof, getting involved with or starting a food cooperative, building a humanure composting system on your property, or simply recording patterns for a year or more where you’re working. Whatever your entry point, make sure to take a step back and observe the social, biological, and economic ecosystems, and listen for feedback before taking the next actions. That is our civic duty as residents and stewards of this earth and of our communities: listen and accept feedback.

Finally, walk the walk, and work to establish good working demonstration sites. Starting with one or two systems that are manageable is wise so that you don’t become overwhelmed. In modern society, we have grown quite ignorant of energy systems, and by creating these working systems that demonstrate that there is no free lunch in ecological systems—something always comes from somewhere, and waste is food for something else—we can demonstrate a new paradigm in action (8). Share replicable systems with those who are interested, and focus your energy on creating a world we want, rather than being drained by fighting against systems that are broken. As Buckminster Fuller puts it, “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

As one of my permaculture teachers, Peter Bane, tossed out in a PDC class one day while reflecting on ancient Viking culture, “it’s better to adapt than die.” I will add to that: better than not dying is thriving! And I think permaculture design principles and ethics present a way to rethink our current social, political, economic, and agricultural systems with new eyes, embracing the transformation to thriving whole communities of abundance.

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Why Grow Your Own?

Gardening is one of the most powerful tools for personal & societal change at our disposal.
by Tamara McFarland, Cooperation Humboldt

Food holds the power to heal or harm; to connect or divide; to restore or exploit. Every time we take a bite, we’re registering one tiny vote for the world we want to live in.

For many among us, decisions about what to feed ourselves and our families are outside of our independent control. If you live in a food desert, it’s tremendously difficult to gain regular access to nutritious foods. If you work three jobs to pay rent, you’re going to have a hard time finding time to cook from scratch. If you don’t have access to land, you’re facing a challenge to growing a garden.

To truly empower individuals and communities to meet their own needs, we must think – and work – both big and small.

Gardening – either at home or in a community setting – is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. And as a bonus, it’s fun – and rewarding! Here are some of the reasons why growing one’s own food matters.

Save Money

If you’re careful about how you approach it, gardening can save you a lot of money. There are also plenty of ways to waste money while gardening, and the information in this magazine (as well as in our free Garden Guide) is intended to prevent that.

Produce can be pricey, especially fruits and veggies that are grown organically. By growing some of your own, you can enjoy high quality foods in season for just pennies on the dollar. The health benefits of a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables can also reduce your medical expenses by promoting good health.

Improve Your Health

Regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to fight disease and maintain positive health. By bringing more of these foods into your diet, your garden empowers your family to live longer, healthier lives with less reliance on medical interventions.

Time spent outdoors engaged in gentle exercise like gardening is good for both your physical and mental health. Studies have shown gardening to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Become Better Prepared for Disasters

Disasters come in many forms, from earthquakes to the loss of a job. No matter what shock you encounter, you’ll be better prepared if you’re growing some of your own food.

We are isolated behind the Redwood Curtain, and our ability to connect with (or rely on) the outside world can change quickly due to earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, and more. As we face long term climate crisis, these kinds of disruptive events are forecast to become more frequent, and we are well served to become better prepared, both at the individual and community level.

Help the Planet

Growing food close to home has a number of benefits for our natural world.

By refraining from using harmful chemicals, you protect yourself and all your helpers, including humans, birds, bees, and butterflies from the toxic effects of pesticides.

Through responsible soil practices, you can improve your soil and sequester carbon.

By reducing – or ideally eliminating – your reliance on meats from factory farms, you help to protect the health of our watersheds by preventing toxic runoff that is an inevitable byproduct of large-scale conventional animal farming.
Food grown close to home helps prevent global warming because it requires less fossil fuels to transport, generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

And since the produce you harvest at (or near) home requires no plastic packaging, you’re keeping our oceans cleaner and our landfills less impacted.

Support Wildlife

Wildlife thrive in gardens of all kinds, particularly when fruit trees and vegetable plots are planted at the edges of undeveloped rural areas because bees and other pollinators enjoy supportive habitat that protects them from the pesticides used in industrial orchards and monocropping.

Large well-planned gardens with appropriate sun exposure are best for producing nectar and pollen; however, any effort at planting individual home and community gardens provides necessary resources and reproductive shelter for adult insects.

Deepen Human Connections

Most gardeners find that their hobby nurtures human connection.

Gardening provides an opportunity for those with children to engage in a wholesome (non-screen-based) joint activity that grows skills and builds relationships.

Beyond your own household, gardening is likely to connect you with neighbors, friends, and family as you share your harvest, swap seeds, and turn to one another for advice. You’re likely to make new friends as you plug into our wonderful local community of gardeners.

Cultivate Food Sovereignty

Gardening moves us closer to a world where everyone has what they need, and no one goes without.

It reduces our reliance on large corporations, supports our regional economy, strengthens local networks, and builds a growing cadre of residents who possess the skills needed to care for one another in good times and bad.

A community-scale shift to a local food system will not only benefit the natural world tremendously; it will also improve our individual health and our communal wellbeing as we learn to rely on one another and to collectively grow the skills we need to thrive.

Bountiful Benefits of Business Gardens

Area companies help the environment, local community, and their employees through community gardening.
by Christi Dawn Nash, Cooperation Humboldt

Cultivating small gardens in suburban areas beautifies cities, provides fresh produce, increases food access, reduces dependence on industrial agriculture, and helps to absorb harmful carbon emissions. Community gardens also bring folks together in a healthful activity which nurtures cooperation and altruism. Restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools may recognize that growing fresh food supports their economic interests and social goals. On the North Coast, non-food businesses are planting seeds of opportunity, too!

Times Printing Company: Pandemic-Inspired Growth

Times Printing is a local family-owned business founded in 1854. Today, it provides offset, digital and variable data printing, mailing services, bindery procedures, and other print processes for books, brochures, newsletters, labels, and more – all entirely powered by renewable energy.

When businesses began closing during the rise of COVID-19 in March 2020, Times Printing’s owner and production manager, Seth Strope, and its business manager, Lynn Dugaw, felt an urgency to utilize the company’s resources fully to provide fresh food through a community garden for employees. Seth and Lynn had an existing interest in permaculture and the pandemic was the final push they needed to develop a gardening space on the company’s property near the corner of First and T Streets in Eureka.

The Times Printing garden provides an opportunity for team building outside of the regular work context and feeds participants and their families while providing hands-on education on the process of growing fruits and vegetables. Neighbors enjoy the attractive green space on their daily walks, too.

Lynn says, “Having a garden at work has added a lot of enjoyment to my job. I have my own planter box to grow vegetables in and everyone else has been generous in sharing what they grow. It’s fun taking home food from the garden to eat with my family. The garden is also a peaceful place to spend time in.”

Seth continues to find inspiration to grow fresh produce in his favorite quote by Australian biologist and permaculturist Bill Mollison: “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

Green Diamond Resource Co.: A Pumpkin Patch Expands

Green Diamond Resource Company is a fifth-generation family-owned forest products company that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) while also complying with state forest practice rules.

In the Fall of 2017, Green Diamond created a pumpkin patch and grew 300 pumpkins for team members’ families. Senior Operations Coordinator Linda Herron recalls, “We saw that the local pumpkin patches were closing and thought, ‘We could do that!’ I talked to a few of my colleagues, they all thought it was a great idea.” The following year, the company expanded the space to include a 100’ x 50’ vegetable garden, which now provides an abundance of fresh food for employees’ plates as well as augmenting their neighbors’ meals through a partnership with the Blue Lake food pantry. Green Diamond also hosts Blue Lake Elementary School children each year, sending each student home with a pumpkin.

The fresh vegetables grown at Green Diamond’s garden support employees’ healthy eating habits, and time spent in the garden supports cross-department collaboration, according to Botany Supervisor Gabe Cashman. “When an individual goes through the paces of growing food from seed there is certainly an increased appreciation and respect for high quality produce,” he explains. Linda adds, “It’s fun to meet and get your hands dirty with employees you don’t normally work with.”

Tips for Starting a Company Garden

Our friends from Times Printing and Green Diamond have shared their struggles and solutions to support others on their journey.

Seth and Lynn from Times Printing advise starting small, focusing on building soil and growing what you like to eat. They initially prepared the garden space by layering used cardboard, mulch and wood chips to suppress aggressive bindweed which can interfere with food crops. They are currently developing an efficient harvesting system via an interactive online list of garden beds to avoid food waste and beds sitting empty between crop rounds.

At Green Diamond, Gabe recommends planning what to plant and being realistic about what produce is desired by employees and food banks; he learned this lesson the hard way after overplanting some varieties each year. Logging Operations Administrator Will Devenport relates that their small setbacks have been overcome by infrastructure improvements, like alternative forms of communication between departments, flexible work days, and assigning projects to individuals based on their own interests; this can include composting, herb gardening, garden layout and more. Will continues, “I would suggest networking around the county to local businesses for assistance in making a community garden happen, either through donations or wholesale. For example, our 2022 season has started off with much needed soil amendment donations from local distributors Fox Farm, Wes Green, and Royal Gold.” Linda reiterates her co-workers’ advice, “Communication is important. Make sure there is a plan and stick to it.”