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.”

New Composting Law: SB 1383

An ambitious new law aims to drastically reduce food waste and its resulting methane emissions statewide.
by Tobin McKee, Cooperation Humboldt & Full Cycle Composting

If you are a resident of Humboldt County and you put your food waste in the garbage, most of that garbage is currently transported 205 miles by truck to Dry Creek Landfill near Medford, Oregon. The truck then returns to Humboldt County, empty.

While it is absurdly inefficient to truck our food waste so far (and it makes more sense to integrate that precious carbon and nitrogen back into our local food web as rich, living compost), it turns out there is an even bigger problem – the methane gas that food waste produces as it rots in the landfill.

Right now, about 40% of Humboldt County’s waste dumped into the Dry Creek Landfill is made up of compostable organic material, which is producing huge amounts of methane. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in California, emitting 20% of the state’s methane, a potent greenhouse gas 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

The problem is so significant that in 2016 California lawmakers passed the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Reduction Law (SB 1383). It’s called “short-lived” because pollutants like methane don’t stay trapped in the atmosphere as long as CO2 – but while they’re up there, they do much more damage. The law aimed to reduce organic waste disposal by 50% by 2020 — which it did not achieve — and by 75% by 2025. It also aims to rescue at least 20% of currently disposed surplus edible food for people to eat by 2025. (Much of the food waste going into landfills is perfectly edible.)

While the statewide law became enforceable in January of 2022, McKinleyville, Arcata and Eureka have until 2024 – and the more rural parts of Humboldt County have until 2027 – to have their organics recycling programs in place. While there won’t be Compost Police deployed to enforce the new law, CalRecycle does have enforcement responsibility and can levy fines to jurisdictions not in compliance.

Humboldt County currently has no composting facility, and the astronomical cost of building one means that such a facility is years from happening. In the meantime, the new municipal systems that will be put into place locally are likely to look something like this:

  • Residential and commercial customers will put their food waste in compostable bags to be collected by Recology.
  • Food waste will be trucked 280 miles to a large-scale composting facility in Yolo County.
  • The trucks may return empty, or they may haul finished compost back to Humboldt County for reintegration.
  • Waste hauling fees will increase.
  • Customers who do their own composting or prefer to use a local composting service may have an opt-out choice so they don’t have to pay the additional fee to Recology.

Local Regenerative Solutions

While industrial-scale composting produces far less methane than decomposition in the landfill, local, zero-emissions, regenerative systems are by far the better choice.

If you don’t want your food waste to be hauled 280 miles away in diesel trucks owned by a statewide corporation, and then “composted” in a distant industrial facility that produces low-grade compost deficient in the complex microbial life that is the basis of the food web, and instead you value vibrant local soil and local businesses, here’s what you can do:

  • Produce Less Food Waste: Don’t let good food rot in your refrigerator. Regularly check what you’ve got, use it, and eat your leftovers. Write a shopping list so that you only buy what you need, when you need it. If you work in the food service industry, create new systems that decrease the amount of edible food that you discard.
  • Feed People and Animals: Before you put something in the compost bin, ask yourself, “Could a person or an animal eat this?” If the answer is “yes,” then give it to a person, or feed it to an animal. If you work in the food service industry, develop relationships with organizations like Food For People who will distribute your edible food to hungry people.
  • Recycle Fats and Oils: When possible, use services that render fats and oils for fuel and industrial uses.
  • Compost Locally: Backyard composting can be done simply and effectively, or you can use a local composting service.

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Tobin McKee (they/them) is a worker-owner at Full Cycle Compost and a Cooperative Business Developer at Worker Owned Humboldt in collaboration with Cooperation Humboldt and the North Coast Small Business Development Center.

Local Food Waste Reduction & Composting Resources

Zero Waste Humboldt specializes in providing waste reduction solutions through public education, advocacy, and technical assistance and training. Visit

Food for People works with local grocery, pharmacy and health food stores to divert edible foods that would otherwise go to waste.

Full Cycle Compost is a worker-owned, bicycle-powered composting service. Full Cycle Compost produces living, nutrient-rich compost and worm castings, and provides consulting services for individuals and organizations that want to make their own compost. Visit

The Certified Organics Recycler (COR) program offers businesses no-cost consultation and third-party certification for compliance with SB 1383. If your business generates food waste, visit

The Local Worm Guy offers residential curbside and business food-waste pickup service in Trinidad, Westhaven, McKinleyville, Fieldbrook, Blue Lake, Arcata, and Eureka. Visit

Home Composting 101

Your home composting setup can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For a household with outdoor space, we recommend a simple upright bin with a locking lid. Lay 1/2” hardware cloth down underneath to prevent critters from invading your bin. Apartment dwellers might consider one of many styles of indoor composters, including but not limited to worm composters.

What should you put in your bin? You need to add materials that are rich in both nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen rich materials include food scraps (no meat, bones, or grease), grass, coffee grounds and seaweed. Carbon rich materials include paper, cardboard, dry leaves, sawdust, wood chips, aged hay/straw, egg cartons, paper towels, and tissues.
Each time you add kitchen scraps (or any other nitrogen rich materials) to your compost bin, add an equal or slightly greater volume of carbon rich material on top. (Covering those scraps with newspaper, sawdust, etc. will also help prevent fruit fly problems.)

Compost likes to stay moist, but not soggy. You want it to be about as wet as a damp kitchen sponge. This means that you will need to add water periodically.

You’ll get a faster conversion to usable compost if you turn your pile regularly.

Compost is finished and ready to use when it looks like dark, crumbly topsoil, it has a pleasant, earthy odor and the original organic materials are mostly no longer recognizable.

Local Meets Institutional

Cal Poly Humboldt prioritizes Local Food Vendors.
by Kimiko McNeill, Cooperation Humboldt

While many university dining programs are often filled with heavily processed foods that have traveled from thousands of miles away to support corporate chains like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Starbucks, and more – some universities across the country have begun to shift toward providing more nutritious, plant-based food options for students.

Along these lines, Humboldt Dining, Cal Poly Humboldt’s dining provider, stands in a place of leadership as it continues to bring more locally owned food vendors, local produce and locally crafted retail products onto the Cal Poly Humboldt campus. According to campus Executive Chef, Mariano Lalica, “While other universities have committed to buying more local produce and meats, Humboldt Dining is one of the only food service providers offering as many local food vendors as we do.”

It’s a refreshing change to enter Humboldt Dining’s different dining locations and see products from well-known local businesses. Lalica says that students are excited to see offerings on campus from local restaurants that they enjoy in the community.

In Cal Poly Humboldt’s J Dining Hall, 25% of the produce comes from local farmers and producers, including local dairy from Humboldt Creamery and produce from local farms including micro-farm Palmer Farms in Fortuna. The J-Grill, located inside the dining hall, features locally raised grass-fed beef.

The Depot features restaurants including Los Bagels, Wildflower Cafe, Hey Juan Burritos, Obento, Kinetic Koffee, and Wild Blue Sushi.

In College Creek Marketplace you can find local restaurant A Taste of Bim as well as many local retail products such as snacks from HumYum and Kind Jerky and tasty treats and pastries from The Grind Cafe.

Bigfoot Burgers proudly pours local Lost Coast Brewery beers and Humboldt Brewery ciders served alongside locally raised grass-fed beef burgers.

Humboldt Dining Catering, in addition to many locally sourced ingredients, features Trinity River Vineyards wines and Muddy Waters Coffee.

All across the Cal Poly Humboldt campus you can find local food options provided by local Humboldt County businesses.

What fueled Humboldt Dining’s shift to supporting more local businesses? James Richards, Resident District Manager, says, “It is simply the right thing to do. We need to support local businesses and it relates to one of our key dining philosophies: ‘Buy Local.’ It means less reliance on big chains, local foods just taste better, the food didn’t spend two days on a truck…if there is food growing around us, then that’s the food that we want to buy.”

There have been challenges with shifting to local vendors to supply the dining needs of so many students. The dining hall prepares thousands of meals per week, and this can make it difficult for produce to be sourced from a single farm or even multiple local farms. Humboldt Dining’s goal is to buy as much food as possible from within a 250 mile radius; however, half of that range falls in the Pacific Ocean, which makes it difficult to source enough fresh produce year-round.

Despite these limitations, the shift made by Humboldt Dining will have huge positive repercussions for the local community and can help fuel a shift that is necessary for the sustainability of our food systems.

Richards and Lalica are hopeful that other universities will find inspiration and learn from what Humboldt Dining at Cal Poly Humboldt has done to promote local purchasing. Richards would advise other institutions interested in expanding their local purchasing, “Go to the farmer’s market, go to local fairs, shop local, hit the small shops and build relationships. It’s more difficult and you have to be willing to work harder…but when you have the right team of people who have the same dream, it honestly feels less like work and more like you’re doing the right thing for everyone.”

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Kimiko McNeill (she/her) is a healer and caregiver working as an occupational therapist doing physical rehabilitation in an outpatient clinic. She also helps to anchor Cooperation Humboldt’s food team.

Large organizations with significant purchasing power wield immense power to strengthen local food systems. Here’s how.

There has been a national trend toward increasing food options grown and raised by small farmers and local food producers in institutions like universities, grade schools, and hospitals.

This indicates a shift in institutional priorities away from simply minimizing costs (at the expense of student and patient health) and toward realizing the immense positive impacts on public health and local economies that could be made possible through the purchasing policies of these large institutions.

In rural regions like the North Coast, there are always challenges to meeting the large demand that institutions like Cal Poly Humboldt have. This is one of the main goals of North Coast Growers’ Association’s (NCGA’s) food hub: to build up our inadequate local food infrastructure and create systems for the ordering, aggregation, and distribution of local food so that the high quality, local food our farmers produce can easily move from field to dining hall tray to fork.

The creation of a regional food hub is timely, and now more important than ever. With no entity or centralized system in place to empower large institutions to access more food from local farmers and food producers, our community is losing out on an amazing opportunity.

Bringing NCGA’s vision for a regional food hub to fruition will help redirect the large food budgets of institutions like Cal Poly Humboldt and many others away from food from outside of the region, and toward more healthful and ecologically friendly local options that support area farmers and small businesses.

The benefits of a local food hub are tremendous – improving community health, strengthening our local economy, building resilience, and giving the students, patients, and clients of our area’s large institutions the opportunity to connect more deeply to Humboldt’s community through the food they eat.

Building Climate Change Resiliency in Yurok Homelands: Fire & Food

Article written by Taylor Thompson (they/them, Cherokee), Food Sovereignty Program Manager, Yurok Tribe Environmental Department –

Article edited and artwork provided by Louisa McCovey (she/her, Yurok/Hupa/Karuk), Director, Yurok Tribe Environmental Department –

Yurok people have maintained balance in the world through environmental stewardship in their homeland along the lower Klamath River and Pacific Coast, including parts of both Del Norte and Humboldt counties since Noohl Hee-Kon (time immemorial). The Yurok Indian Reservation only contains a fraction of the tribe’s ancestral territory, encompassing approximately 55,890 acres of land one mile on each side of the lower 46 miles of the Klamath River from just above Weitchpec and the confluence of the Trinity River to the mouth of the river as flows into the Pacific Ocean near Requa. The coastal edge of Yurok Ancestral Territory spans from the Little River drainage basin at its southern border, including Trinidad and Orick, to Damnation Creek in the north and makes up approximately 7% of California’s coastline. The inland territory extends along the Klamath River through the Bluff Creek drainage basin, includes a portion of the Trinity River, and sections of the Redwood National and State Park and the Six Rivers National Forest.

Yurok People are known as great fishermen, eelers, hunters, basket weavers, canoe makers, storytellers, singers, dancers, healers, and medicine people. They have always relied on a multitude of subsistence food offerings from the Klamath River, Pacific Coast, and inland areas. Some examples include ney-puy (salmon), kaa-ka (sturgeon), kwor-ror (candlefish), pee-ee (mussels), chey-gel’ (seaweed), woo-mehl (acorns), puuek (deer), mey-weehl (elk), ley-chehl (berries), and wey-yok-seep (teas).

Among the many pressures on traditional food systems since the arrival of European Americans, global climate change is an ever-increasing threat and form of ongoing genocide and ecocide. The Yurok Tribe is disproportionately impacted by the effects of global climate change, with droughts and catastrophic wildfires increasing in frequency, duration, and areas impacted, rising water temperatures, and factors that encourage the proliferation of invasive species and subsistence species extinction. The Yurok Tribe has long prioritized mitigating the impacts of global climate change and has taken a multi-faceted approach towards climate resiliency.

In the years 2014-2018, the Yurok Tribe created the Yurok Tribe Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Water & Aquatic Resources to identify existing vulnerabilities and provide insight for future planning, including an Aquatic Harvest Calendar that illustrates the harvest times for several traditional foods sourced from the river and coast. The Yurok Tribe Environmental Department’s Food Sovereignty Program is building on the existing Aquatic Harvest Calendar to create a Traditional Foods Calendar that incorporates harvest times for land-based foods, such as tan oak acorns, tan oak mushrooms, huckleberries, hazelnuts and many others. The establishment of this baseline data will allow the Tribe to track the impacts of climate change on traditional food sources over time. It is anticipated that shifting harvest times will have a profound cultural impact throughout the community and cause disjointed food availability for humans and other species that rely on them.

An example of direct action that the Yurok Tribe is taking to combat the impacts of global climate change is its long-standing advocacy for the reintroduction of cultural and prescribed burns. Yurok people have managed the forests with cultural fires since Noohl Hee-Kon. The Yurok Tribe’s efforts to facilitate burns, in partnership with many other agencies such as the Cultural Fire Management Council, CalFire, the US Forest Service, and other tribes, combine Yurok traditional ecological knowledge and western science methodology to demonstrate the positive impacts that fire has in mitigating the impacts of global climate change and building climate resilience. The Yurok Tribe Environmental Department is conducting a study on a parcel within the Reservation to quantify the effect of fire on the amount of wildfire fuel present, the pervasiveness of invasive plant species, the quality and quantity of traditional foods, soil quality, and water quality before and after the implementation of a cultural burn.

For Yurok people restoring fire to the landscape is a crucial step toward returning to a place of balance in the world. Alone, fire will not reverse global climate change and its devastating impacts, but it will help protect the forests of Yurok ancestral territory, the species within it, and the Yurok way of life that relies on them. Planning for the future while acting now is the only way forward to restore ecological balance.

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Taylor Thompson (they/them; Cherokee) is the Food Sovereignty Program Manager of the Yurok Tribe Environmental Department.
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Photographer Louisa McCovey (she/her; Yurok/Hupa/Karuk) is the Director of the Yurok Tribe Environmental Department.

CSAs: Good for Growers, Good for Eaters

If you want to actively participate in our local food system, consider engaging with Community Supported Agriculture.
by Megan Kenney, North Coast Growers’ Association

The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, which began in the 1960s, has gained momentum recently as we recognize its potential for remedying the problems inherent in our national and global food systems. The concept of a CSA is simple: pay now for food later.

According to the USDA, “Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.”

In the mid-1960s a Black horticulturist and professor at Tuskegee University, Booker T. Whatley, first introduced the concept of a CSA model to America. His “Clientele Membership Club” asked members to pay a fee during the winter to support the farm throughout the lean months in exchange for the privilege to pick their own food throughout the growing season. This transition away from a capitalistic approach to agriculture was simultaneously being explored by Teruo Ichiraku in Japan and in Germany by a group who formed the Gemeinnützige Landbau-Forschungsgesellschaft land trust. This land trust collected loans from community members for farmers, who would in turn repay that loan in food. Swiss biodynamic farmer, Jan Vander Tuin coined the phrase Community Supported Agriculture for this type of loan, which is the most common form of CSA offered today.

There are many benefits to joining a CSA:

  • Getting to know the farmers who grow your food,
  • Empowerment to eat more seasonally,
  • Opportunities to try new foods,
  • Spending less time shopping, and
  • Meaningfully engaging in a more sustainable local food system.

While it may be easy to head to the grocery store to buy tomatoes in the winter or Brussels sprouts in the summer, this shopping habit is not sustainable for our planet; besides the long journey that non-local food takes from farm to processor to distributor to store to you, many GMOs are employed to allow produce to withstand the long storage time needed to provide certain crops (like tomatoes and strawberries) year-round.

There are several models of CSA practiced locally:

  • Traditional CSA – pay in advance for weekly boxes throughout the summer (some farms also offer a limited selection during other seasons),
  • Free-choice CSA, – shop at a farmstand and choose what you need,
  • Multi-farm CSA – produce is aggregated from a variety of farmers,
  • There are even CSAs for meat, grains, flowers, and herbal products.

Some CSAs require payment in full at the start of the season, while others allow you to make payments over time. Some farms offer ‘half shares’ to provide an option for single folks and couples who may not use as much produce as a large family. Talk to your farmer about their EBT payment options.

For a complete list of local CSA options, including which programs accept EBT benefits, please see page 75.

EBT & Farmers’ Markets

Humboldt County is home to numerous microclimates, from warm and dry high deserts to cool and foggy coasts and all the river valleys and pasture lands in between. Our region generates a huge variety of locally grown and raised foods and plant starts that are sold at our farmers’ markets and which can be purchased using EBT.

The North Coast Growers’ Association (NCGA) operates 10 certified farmers’ markets throughout Humboldt County, so you’re never far from one of these markets. Humboldt’s first farmers’ market was opened in Arcata in 1978. Today, the Arcata Plaza Farmers’ Market is the longest continually operating certified farmers’ market in the state! Each of NCGA’s farmers’ markets accepts EBT and offers a Market Match.

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is what the state of California calls its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly the food stamp program.

Market Match will double up to the first $10 in EBT spending at the farmers’ market.

How does it work?

EBT customers can visit any Market Info booth and ask the market manager to swipe their card for whatever amount they’d like to withdraw. They will receive that many EBT tokens to spend with vendors at the market PLUS up to $10 worth of additional Market Match tokens. All of these tokens can be spent on fresh fruits and veggies as well as plant starts for your garden. EBT specific tokens can also be spent on any other grocery item including meat, cheese, eggs, bread, hot sauce, honey, and more.

To see if you qualify for CalFresh, you can begin your application online at – it only takes about 10 minutes! Alternately, all staff at NCGA’s farmers’ markets are trained to assist with CalFresh applications. You can visit the Market Info booth at any market and staff can pre-screen you for eligibility and help start your application on site.
Visit for more information about EBT benefits and NCGA farmers’ markets.