Regenerative Farm Spotlight

Regenerative Farm Spotlight:

Table Bluff and Alexandre Family Farms are flipping conventional farming perspectives one patch of soil at a time.

by Katie Rodriguez, Cooperation Humboldt


Pumpkin the pig at Table Bluff Farm / photo credit: Katie Rodriguez

Take a minute to imagine what healthy soil might look like – a teeming mecca of microorganisms and insects working together to process and cultivate important nutrients that help plants thrive. Think of it as akin to a rainforest underground, a complex ecosystem that’s integral to turning carbon (the villain of global warming) into a superpower fuel. Looking at the soil as an ecosystem that should be allowed the time, space and nutrients to function without being disrupted is at the core of what we know today as regenerative agriculture.

You may have heard this term before; it’s been touted as a carbon sink, the next “climate solution under our feet.” Regenerative agriculture fundamentally shifts our perspective from conventional farming methods to Indigenous farming methods – emphasizing that instead of thinking only of crop yields, we must also consider the condition and needs of the soil, and more broadly, the relationship between humankind and the diverse ecosystems at play.

In practice, regenerative agriculture requires looking at a farm holistically. This involves utilizing things like cover crops to assist in suppressing weeds and soil diseases as well as fixing nitrogen and sequestering carbon; and integrating livestock by strategically moving them to graze and yes, poop (fertilize). It requires thoughtful time – observing how plants, animals, and insects can cohabitate with one another in a beneficial way, and encouraging that process. It also challenges a farming practice widely accepted for generations – routine plowing. No-till management with minimal disruption is key to allowing healthy soils to work their magic.

The benefits of regenerative agriculture – other than fertile soil – are many: no pesticide use, no supplemental fertilizers, little to no machinery and therefore, reduced machinery costs, no GMOs and increased carbon absorbed from our saturated atmospheres.

But can this be done on both a small and large scale? And what does that look like?


Hannah and Nic of Table Bluff Farm / photo credit: Katie Rodriguez


“There’s this idea that you need to have a lot of land to succeed [in farming] but that’s just not true” says Hannah Eisloeffel, owner of Table Bluff Farm.

Table Bluff Farm currently sits on about 2 acres nestled between the Eel River, the Pacific Ocean and the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge in the town of Loleta. Today, the microfarm is managed and run entirely by Hannah and her partner Nic Pronsolino, and produces a variety of mixed vegetables, flowers, eggs, broilers, and heritage hogs.

They’ve come a long way in a short time, having only recently purchased the land in 2017. Back then, it was an overgrown horse pasture filled with blackberry brambles, ponderosa pine trees and acidified soil. Hannah and Nic have been busy – pouring their heart and resources into rehabilitating the land and turning it into the lush farmland it is today; now providing for a growing list of CSA members and other locals.

Hannah’s vision and mantra have been salient: prioritize the health of the soil and the health of the local community. From the farm’s conception, the mission has been rooted in following regenerative agriculture principles – both for restoring the necessary balance in nature, and to provide equitable access to their goods.

“We believe that to practice regenerative agriculture you also have to be regenerative for your community and the economy,” says Hannah. “Everyone has a right to good food. We want to make it easy for people to eat healthily and affordably.” And Hannah and Nic have done just that – providing their products for a low cost, and a true cost. Instead of requiring a large up-front cost for a year of CSA produce, they have a pay-as-you-go system: $20 per week for a box of seasonal veggies (or $25 with delivery included).

Their emphasis on practicing smaller-scale regenerative farming has garnered the support of organizations like the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) and the nonprofit Kiss the Ground. Grants from these organizations have been instrumental to enacting projects like creating high tunnels to assist with weather management, installing drip irrigation and planting perennials such as redwood trees, monkey flowers, pink honeysuckle, six different species of berries and more. The presence of perennials is a huge component in capturing carbon because they are never harvested or disturbed, and they help protect other plants from wind.

Table Bluff Farm is the smallest farm to receive a grant from the Kiss the Ground Foundation, a nonprofit that supports farmers transitioning to a regenerative agriculture model. The reason? Replicability – enforcing the notion that following regenerative principles can happen on both small and large scales, and Table Bluff Farm was an excellent example of what that can look like.

Hannah’s story is an inspiring one for many reasons, but perhaps one of the most notable ones may be that as a first-generation farmer, she began her farming experience just five years ago in 2016. “I never dreamed that I would become a farmer, even though I can tell now from my whole life I had all these proclivities. I just never really thought that was an option for me.”

A 2008 environmental studies graduate from UC Santa Cruz, she’d used school to cultivate her knowledge and passion to pursue environmentally minded work, while maintaining a deep desire to get her hands dirty and learn more about what goes into creating a farm. After meeting her partner Nic, who shared some of his extensive farming background knowledge with Hannah, coupled with completing Darren J. Doherty’s Regrarian certificate program through Kiss the Ground’s Farmland Program, she took the leap of enacting her vision of creating Table Bluff Farm.

For more about Table Bluff Farm, visit, or keep up to speed on Instagram at @table_bluff_farm.


Alexandre Family Farm cows are moved from pasture to pasture to graze on tall, healthy grass. The residual plant biomass decomposes, and helps keep carbon in the soil as particulate organic matter. / photo credit: Katie Rodriguez


For the Alexandre Family, dairy farming is in their DNA.

Blake and Stephanie Alexandre, both fourth-generation farmers, met while in school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Both of them, determined to carry on their family’s traditions, began searching for land to create a dairy farm of their own. Although their hearts were set on Ferndale, California, where Blake originally grew up, fate had a different plan. They landed in Crescent City about 29 ago, wowed by the landscape and falling more in love with the area the longer they stayed.

And so they remained. The Alexandre Family Farm today has expanded from 560 acres to 4,500+ acres, with over a hundred employees (including all five of Blake and Stephanie’s children), 4,200 cows, 35,000 hens and an organic alfalfa hay farm for animal feed. They sell their organic products – milk, cream, yogurt, beef, eggs, chicken and pork – all across the United States; and over the years they’ve worked to become a certified humane, organic, non-GMO, and regenerative farm.

For Stephanie and the Alexandre Family, what all of these titles boil down to is: nutrition. Good nutrition goes beyond platitudes or labels, it’s a necessary building block to life that has played a pivotal role in how the Alexandres live their lives and operate their farms. In their minds, you can only have good food if it comes from healthy animals and healthy soil. Prioritizing nutrition for themselves and their buyers translates to ensuring the best nutrition for their cattle, chickens, pastures, and environment.

When Stephanie and Blake first bought their land, they befriended an agronomist that taught them all about how to measure organic matter in the soil. It was akin to what they learned in school, that “if you want healthy plants, you really have to have a great soil biology happening and growing that organic matter,” Stephanie says.

And so they held true to that mantra. As they grew their farm, they spent the time and resources to understand what was happening underground, observing how it affects their pastures. They saw that their pastures with a higher percentage of organic matter led to greener fields for longer amounts of time – even with less irrigation or during colder weather.

They found that moving their animals around not only made for happier, healthier cows and chickens; it also created more organic matter in the soil – and so they began implementing rotational grazing as part of their farming practices to support the best soil biology and maximize grass pasture growth.

Twice a week, mobile chicken coops are moved to different parts of the farm as part of the Alexandre Family Farm’s rotational grazing strategy. / photo credit: Katie Rodriguez

“When the term regenerative got thrown around” shares Stephanie, “we were like ‘Well, that’s what we do. That’s what we’ve been doing for years, we’ve just been learning how to do it right’.”

Because of their efforts to improve ecosystem health, which includes the soil, animals, land, water and air, they are the first and only dairy to be verified by the Savory Institute, a global nonprofit enterprise that conducts research on soil health, biodiversity and ecosystem function. Additionally, they were one of 21 farms (and the only dairy farm) to be selected for the global Regenerative Organic Alliance pilot program, and one of only ten farms to receive designation as Regenerative Organic Certified at their 100% grassfed dairy in Eureka.

“We just want to be a light in the community,” shares Stephanie. “We didn’t do this to drive better cars or build a bigger house. We just wanted to tell the story of where great food should come from.”

To learn more about Alexandre Family Farm, visit or on Instagram @alexandrefamilyfarm.

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Katie Rodriguez (she/her) is a freelance writer and photographer based in Arcata. Much of her work focuses on scientific, cultural and natural elements, with the goal of illuminating the ways in which we can better care for our planet.
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The Climate Solution Right Under Our Feet

The Climate Solution Right Under Our Feet

The ideas behind regenerative farming are simple and ancient.

by Michaela Haas; Reprinted with permission from Yes! Magazine


The way to stop climate change might be buried in 300 square feet of earth in the Venice neighborhood of Los ­Angeles, amid kale and potatoes. A half-dozen city youth are digging through the raised bed on a quiet side street, planting tomato seedlings between peach and lime trees. Nineteen-year-old ­Calvin sweats as he works the rake. There’s a lot at stake here. The formerly homeless youngsters are tentatively exploring farming through a community outreach program started by a California nonprofit called Kiss the Ground. More importantly, they are tending to the future of our planet.

“Soil just might save us,” filmmaker Josh Tickell says, “but we are going to have to save it first.” He wrote that in his 2017 book, also called Kiss the Ground, after becoming deeply invested in the potential of soil to reverse climate change. (The nonprofit supports the book and Tickell’s upcoming documentary about it, though he has no role with the organization.) He has experienced both soil and climate change intimately. He started to work on farms more than two decades ago for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and in 2017 he and his family had to leave their home in Ojai, fleeing devastating wildfires.

Even as most of the world works to reduce emissions, new studies confirm that it will be impossible to stop climate change without changing agriculture. Soil degradation is slowly turning a third of the world into desert. At this rate, fertile soil will be depleted in 60 years.

What exactly does soil have to do with climate change? In the atmosphere, too much carbon overheats the climate. But in the ground, carbon is useful.
Loss of topsoil releases carbon into the air. Modern petroleum-fueled agriculture, beginning around 1930, has released 50 to 70 percent of soil’s carbon into the atmosphere. In a report last year, the U.N. warned that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed to hit a level not seen for more than 3 million years.

“The irony is that bringing carbon into the soil solves multiple global problems,” Tickell says in Kiss the Ground. “It reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it increases the fertility of the soil, it helps farmers grow more, and it allows the oceans to release the CO2 that threatens to acidify the phytoplankton that produce so much of the oxygen we breathe.”

And there’s a simple way to get it into the ground. Instead of complicated bioengineering projects that attempt to trap carbon underground, initiatives such as Kiss the Ground’s propose that the best machines for binding the carbon in the ground already exist: plants.

“They break the CO2 from the atmosphere down into its components and sequester the carbon in the soil,” explains Don Smith, the organization’s research director. Modern agriculture that is focused on industrial efficiencies and profits disturbs this natural process, mainly through tilling, monocultures, and overuse of synthetic chemicals. “But methods such as composting, perennial plants, and biodiversity help regenerate the soil.”

The idea behind regenerative farming is simple and ancient: The mother soil, which nurtures the harvest, in turn has to be nurtured and protected.

“The [plants] use sunlight as energy, pull the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, turn it into carbon fuel, and that’s how they grow,” explains The Soil Will Save Us author Kristin Ohlson in Tickell’s documentary. “They send 40 percent of that carbon fuel down to their roots, and that’s one of the ways carbon gets fixed in soil.”

Researchers for the French government estimate that the Earth can sequester 6 gigatons of CO2 in the soil yearly through planting the right kind of crops, thus compensating for the 4.3 gigatons of CO2 humanity emits into the atmosphere every year.

How realistic is this? Whendee Silver, lead researcher for the Marin Carbon Project and an ecosystem ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has calculated that if as little as 5 percent of California’s rangelands were coated with a thin layer of compost, the resulting carbon sequestration would offset the annual greenhouse emissions of 6 million cars.

Photo credit: Katie Rodriguez

In the Santa Ynez Valley, the Ted Chamberlin Ranch became the first ranch in Southern California to implement a large-scale carbon farming plan. A quarter-inch layer of compost applied two years ago increased the grazing land’s capacity to hold water, and grass production increased 24 percent. These kinds of results give ranchers and farmers economic incentive to help sequester carbon.

In fact, ranchers all over the country who shift to carbon farming find impressive results. Decades ago, in Bismarck, North Dakota, Gabe Brown had almost lost his ranch after several years of drought. He was able to turn it profitable again by working with natural systems, such as abandoning tilling, which disrupts soil. “We have now eliminated the use of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides. We use minimal herbicide and are striving to eliminate it,” the Brown’s ranch website states. “We do not use GMOs or glyphosate. Our ever-evolving grazing strategy allows most of our pastures a recovery period of over 360 days.” Brown is considered one of the pioneers of regenerative farming, and his farm is a flourishing model.

“These strategies have allowed the health of the soil, the mineral and water cycles to greatly improve. In other words, the natural resources have benefited. This results in increased production, profit, and a higher quality of life for us. We are moving toward sustainability for not only ours, but future generations as well,” the website states.

And the sequestration solution is not just for agriculture. A new study in the journal Science Advances found that better management of forests, grasslands, and soils in the United States could remedy as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“Done correctly,” Tickell says in his book, “the numbers suggest we could sequester most if not all of the CO2 that has been emitted by humanity thus far. … It would not absolve us of having to end the use of coal and petroleum-based fuels … but by using the restorative power of nature, it might give us a chance at a future that keeps a majority of Earth’s ecosystems intact.”

Some experts believe the effect may be more marginal, pointing out that global warming is leading to more wildfires, and more wildfires lead to more carbon in the atmosphere. And the pressure of feeding growing populations can lead to more deforestation, more chemicals, more acres of natural land being converted for industrial farming. Outcomes will depend not only on how many farmers and states get on board, but on consumption patterns: how people eat, drink, and shop.

For this reason, Kiss the Ground regularly holds “soil advocate” trainings both at its Venice offices and online, gatherings of people who want to learn more about the connection between soil and climate. Given the potential for carbon sequestration in agriculture, there is a lot of discussion about food choices.

One of the group’s practical guides starts with “Know your food source.” Some of the information is common sense: Eat what’s in season, whole foods instead of processed foods, grow your own, and compost. And some advice is controversial: “If 50 percent of the world’s population ate 2,500 calories per day and reduced meat consumption overall, then an estimated 26.7 gigatons of emissions could be avoided from dietary change alone.”

People taking the training are often surprised to find out that sustainable ecological farming—and healthy soil—actually thrives when cattle graze the land. Matthew and Terces Engelhart, founders of the popular vegan chain Café Gratitude and parents of Kiss the Ground co-founder Ryland ­Engelhart, keep chickens and cattle on their farm in Northern California, dubbed the Be Love Farm. After 40 years as vegetarians, they decided to eat the meat from their own farm. The ­Engelharts’ switch caused an outcry among the vegan community; they even received death threats.

Tickell and other Kiss the Ground advocates say the issue is less a question of whether to eat meat, but what kind. “Fewer still know that conventionally farmed food requires 3 pounds of toxic chemicals per American per year. And even fewer know that the process of growing organic produce requires the deaths of vast numbers of animals. Our choice for the future of food therefore is not vegan versus paleo versus omnivore versus vegetarian,” Tickell writes in his book. “Rather, we must choose between a food system that honors and respects the lives of flora, fauna, planet, and people versus a system that demoralizes, dehumanizes, and destroys our biological commons.”

For Tickell and so many others, it’s a down-to-earth solution.

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Michaela Haas is a solutions journalist and the author of Bouncing Forward: The Art & Science of Cultivating Resilience (Atria).
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The Do’s & Don’ts of Food Preservation

The Do’s & Don’ts of Food Preservation

Safely preserve your harvest bounty to enjoy for months to come.

by Dorina Espinoza, Humboldt/Del Norte UC Master Food Preservers


Whether you find yourself with an abundance of home grown produce, or you score a large quantity from your favorite local farmer, chances are high that as you deepen your connection to locally grown food, you will find yourself wanting to learn to preserve some of what you grow or purchase for later use.

There are several methods you can employ to preserve food, including canning, freezing, drying (dehydrating), and fermenting. No matter which you choose, safety must be your top priority. These guidelines from the Humboldt/Del Norte Master Food Preservers will help ensure that your preserved foods are safe and delicious.


Tested Recipes – Are you still hanging on to that recipe from your mom or grandmother? Sure, you made it through alive but the practice is likely not safe. Please only use tested recipes – your loved ones will be grateful! And when you find safe and tested recipes, follow the recipe exactly as written and resist the temptation to tweak! You can find tested recipes and safe food preservation information on these sites:

Low-Acid Foods – You must use a pressure canner (not a boiling water canner) for low-acid foods like vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, and mixtures that contain these foods.

A pressure canner cooks foods at high temperatures (240-250° F) to destroy microorganisms that cause botulism. One cannot smell, taste or see botulism so please don’t take the risk.

Label Food – Always write the name and date of preserving your delectables.


Jar Seal – Fill the jar to the level stated in the recipe. If the jar has too little or too much product, you may not get a good lid seal. Once filled, wipe the rim and threads of your jar with a clean moist towel to ensure a good seal. Place the lid on the jar and screw the band until you reach slightest resistance, then tighten the screw band another 1 to 1½ inches.

Jar Lifting – Move the jars in and out of the canner with a jar lifter and in an upright position. Never tilt the jars as that could cause food to touch the lid and break the seal.

Processing Time – Set the timer for processing only after the water starts boiling. You may lower the heat but keep at a full boil. If the water stops boiling during processing, turn the heat on its highest setting, bring the water back to a vigorous boil, and re-start the timer using the total original processing time.

Storing Jars – If any jars fail to seal, refrigerate and enjoy quickly. Store sealed jars in a cool place out of direct sunlight or fluctuating temperatures and without ring bands. If a jar did not completely seal, the lid will lift off the jar rim during storage and you will know not to consume the food from that jar. Enjoy properly sealed preserves within one year.


Preparing Food – Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly prior to freezing. Before freezing, vegetables should be blanched, quickly cooled in an ice bath, and drained thoroughly.

Containers for Freezing – Plastic freezer bags are great for dry-packed foods with little or no liquid. Rigid plastic sealable containers are good for all types of foods including liquids. Canning jars are suitable for cold temperatures but do not use regular jars as they break easily at freezer temperatures. When freezing liquids, allow space for liquid expansion.

Freezer Temperature – Frozen foods are best kept at 0° F. Consider buying a freezer thermometer to place in the freezer where it’s easy to read.

Food Temperatures – To ensure the safety of your food, do not allow food to stay in the temperature danger zone (40°F-140°F) for more than two hours. This is true in preparing foods to freeze and thawing foods to eat.

Thawing Frozen Foods – Foods that contain fish, meat, eggs or other high protein ingredients should be thawed in the refrigerator or microwave.


Food Selection – Pick fresh and fully ripened food at peak quality and flavor. Thoroughly wash and drain. Discard food that has decay, bruises or mold.

Methods – Dehydrators are reliable in controlling temperature and air circulation. Conventional ovens can be used with the door propped open to provide circulation (convection ovens allow air to circulate with the door closed). All ovens should maintain a temperature of 130-150° F for drying non-meat foods.

Drying Fruit – Pretreating fruit with an acidic solution (ascorbic or citric acid) helps destroy harmful bacteria.

Drying Vegetables – Almost all vegetables (except peppers, onions, and mushrooms) should be blanched before drying. Add citric acid (¼ tsp. per quart of water) to destroy harmful bacteria.

Conditioning – Conditioning helps even out the moisture among all food pieces. Place dried food in a large, tightly closed container. Stir or shake the container each day for 2-4 days then check the food to make sure it is dry enough for storage – not sticky or tacky. If too moist, return to dryer for several more hours.


Please reach out to the Humboldt/Del Norte Master Food Preservers if you have any questions. Call 707-445-7351 or visit our website at for preservation information including videos, recipes and classes.


Local. Seasonal. Affordable.

Local. Seasonal. Affordable.

To eat local foods in season and on a budget, get cozy with your stock pot.

by Kiya Villareal, North Coast Co-op

Stock pot recipes are an easy way to cook ahead for a busy week. They also allow you to buy seasonally, keeping recipes simple and affordable.

The base for stock pot recipes is broth. Homemade broth can be vegetable based, bone broth or any combination of the two. Making your own broth is a fantastic way to squeeze more value from your meats and/or veggies while reducing food waste.

Below you’ll find stock pot recipe suggestions for cooking filling soups year-round based on what you’re likely to find available from local farms (or your own garden) at various times of year. For large batches feel free to double the recipe to store for later (freeze or refrigerate).

These are basic recipes meant to serve as a starting point. If you like, experiment with adding your favorite spices, seasonings, and other ingredients.

You can broaden your seasonal palette by preserving some ingredients for use during the dark days of winter. The soup pictured at left features home grown runner beans that were dried after harvest and stored for winter use. (Learn about preservation on page 56.)



SPRING: Pea & Parsnip Soup

1-3 tbsp of oil
1/2 onion or 1 small shallot, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
2-3 parsnips, scrubbed and diced
1-2 carrots, diced
4 cups broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shucked snow peas or whole pea pods
Sauteed arugula, fresh pea shoots, or fresh microgreens (optional)
Croutons (optional)
Chopped roasted pork belly (optional)

Add oil and onion to stock pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add celery, parsnips, and carrots and stir for a few more minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes or until veggies are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If you prefer a creamier consistency, blend with an immersion or traditional blender.

Add snow peas and cook on low for another 5-10 minutes.

Top with arugula, croutons, and/or roasted pork belly if desired.



SUMMER: Southwest Soup

1-3 tbsp of oil
1 onion, diced
Oregano (from the garden or dried)
1-2 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
3 cloves of garlic
4 cups broth
Cooked chicken and/or black beans
1 lb crushed tomatoes
1-3 corn cobs, husked, kernels cut off
2 summer squash (your choice – zucchini, crookneck, etc.), sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro (optional)
Lime zest and/or juice (optional)

Add oil and onion to stock pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, oregano, chili powder, garlic and chicken and/or black beans.

Stir in crushed tomatoes and corn. Simmer on low until corn is cooked – 5 to 10 minutes.

Add summer squash and cook for a few minutes for still-firm squash or longer if you prefer a softer texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or lime zest/juice if desired.



AUTUMN: Potato Soup

1-3 tbsp of oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
4 cups broth
2 medium-large potatoes, diced
1 small (or 1/2 large) pumpkin or butternut squash
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Local cream (optional)
Thinly sliced (raw or pan-fried) spinach, kale, or mustard greens (optional)

First, prepare your chosen variety of hearty squash by slicing it in in half, scooping out seeds and cooking at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Blend or dice cooked squash before making soup.

Add oil and onion to stock pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and stir, then add broth and diced potatoes. Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.

Slowly add cooked squash (try to avoid plops/splashes) and continue to cook over medium low heat for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Top with cheese, cream, and/or sliced greens if desired.



WINTER: Broccoli Leek Soup

1-3 tbsp of oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 large leeks, thinly sliced (rinse in a colander after slicing to remove dirt)
4 cups broth
1/2 head of large cauliflower, chopped
2 medium broccoli crowns (stems too), chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

You can roast the cauliflower and broccoli first for a deeper flavor, or use raw.

Add oil and onion to stock pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sliced leeks and stir constantly until they become translucent. Add chopped cauliflower, broccoli and broth and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as-is or if you prefer a creamier consistency, blend with an immersion or traditional blender.

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Kiya Villarreal supports herself working at the North Coast Co-op. She is not an expert chef but is committed to accessible and affordable home cooking that is nutrient dense and approachable.
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Collect the scraps from your vegetables (onion peels/ends, carrot peels/tops, sweet pepper cores/stems, fresh herbs, etc.) and store until you’re ready to make broth (keeping a container in the freezer for storage works well). Simmer scraps in a large pot of water for 45-60 minutes, allow to cool, and use or freeze.


Roast a chicken and remove all meat. In a stock pot add the carcass and veggie scraps (garlic, onion tops, carrot pieces, parsley sprigs etc.) and fill with water. Simmer for 6-12 hours or in a crockpot 12-24 hours. Strain through a fine strainer, pour into jars and cool completely before refrigerating.

Gardening for Bees and Butterflies

Gardening for Bees and Butterflies

How to create a garden that welcomes beneficial pollinators.

by Sharon Parker | illustrations by Sharon Parker


To enjoy butterflies and bees in your surroundings, you need to do more than plant the flowers and other plants that they like. You must also adopt practices that foster a healthy ecosystem for all the critters—the native bees and beetles; the tiny crawlers in the soil; the birds. If you attract butterflies and bees with flowers, only to kill them with your yardwork, you could be doing more harm than good.


Healthy soil leads to healthy plants, which means you won’t be so likely to be tempted to reach for the pesticides. Also, underground lies an important habitat for many beneficial critters, including some pollinators.

Return nutrients to the soil with compost. Home compost can include vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and tea leaves (more info).


Tilling and turning the soil breaks up large particles and destroys air pockets, leading to soil compaction, and disturbs the worms, ground-nesting bees, and assorted other organisms that are needed for healthy soil. Apply compost and organic fertilizer to the surface – there’s no need to dig it in; soil-dwelling organisms will mix it in for you.

Shallow hoeing and scratching the surface is fine, it’s the deep digging and mechanical tilling that does the harm.

Mulch naturally—but not too much. A natural organic mulch, like leaves, shredded wood, or grass clippings, is great for discouraging weeds and preventing soil from drying out; it also keeps dirt from splashing on leaves, which can help prevent the spread of soil-borne pathogens.

However, too much mulch, especially when combined with an impenetrable weed barrier, obstructs solitary bees, who emerge from the ground in the spring and deposit their eggs in tiny underground tunnels in early summer. Let your mulch be a little thin in spots, and leave some bare soil here and there.

Solitary bees are important pollinators, and harmless; they rarely (if ever) sting, and their stingers are much smaller than those of bigger bees.
Butterflies also need access to bare soil, as many of them gather minerals from mud. Consider keeping a shallow dish with dirt in it on the ground somewhere, like near a bird bath or flower pots, where you can wet it from time to time.


Let the breezes waft through your garden to speed evaporation and discourage mold and mildew, which thrive in damp, still conditions. Find out which way the prevailing summer winds blow in your area, and try to arrange your plantings with that in mind, so they are open to those summer breezes.


If a plant isn’t getting enough sun, it will tend to grow weak and spindly, and will lean rather than stand up straight. Weakened plants are more prone to getting diseases and attracting problem insects. If your flowers are leaning and appear to have weak stems, or if they get mildew or leaf spots, they may need to be moved to a spot where they get more sun—six hours or more in most cases.

The timing of sunlight can be just as important as the quantity. Leaves that are shaded in the morning remain damp well into the day, often until the sun shines on them. Put any plants that are susceptible to foliar diseases where they’ll get morning sun. Many roses, for example, can thrive on as little as four hours of sun if they get most of it in the morning.


A healthy garden is going to have a few weeds and plants with spots and holes in them. Rather than striving for a perfect garden, seek balance instead.

When the weeds begin to overwhelm you, especially during the hottest days of summer, selectively cut down or pull the tallest weeds that are crowding vulnerable plants (see “air circulation,” above), and otherwise just edge the garden by creating a shallow ditch with a straight shovel or old-style edger. You’ll find that it looks much nicer with tidy edges.

Don’t worry about the weeds in your lawn. Many common lawn weeds, like clover, violets, and dandelions, are food for butterflies and bees—the nectar and pollen for adult insects, and the leaves for caterpillars. Some taller flowering weeds could be allowed to grow in a little cluster in a discreet corner of your yard. Think of it as a garden for the fairies.

A garden with a variety of pollinator-friendly flowers and practices will attract other beneficial creatures as well, some of which will prey on the problem insects and keep them from taking over. Helpful predators include some that you may find a bit frightening until you get to know them—like wasps, ground beetles, centipedes, and spiders.


In fall, limit your garden cleanup to the removal of diseased or disease-prone plants, and leave the leaves that fall on gardens and around trees and shrubs. Let erect plant stems and seed heads stand until spring, when new growth starts. The seeds are winter food for the birds, and some of the stems may have a butterfly chrysalis attached to them, looking so inconspicuous that you are likely to mistake it for a curled leaf. Hollow stems could also be home to solitary native bees: some lay their eggs in the ground, others use hollow stems and twigs, or holes in old rotting wood.

As for the leaves, just rake the ones that fall on the lawn over to nearby shrubs and gardens. Fallen leaves may contain the eggs, pupae, larvae or chrysalises of butterflies; if you burn them, shred them, or bag them, the critters will not survive. Butterflies lay their eggs on or near the plants that the caterpillars will need to eat, so the more you keep fallen leaves near their source, the better.

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Sharon Parker is an artist, crafter, grandmother, urban gardener, and nature nerd who blogs at
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Why welcome pollinators to your garden?
  • Bees around the world have been mysteriously dying and disappearing for decades. Bees play a critical role in the world’s food system, and their declining population poses a big threat to global food security. Gardening in ways that support pollinators is a great way to provide habitat for important species.
  • Pollinator-friendly practices provide a big boost to fruit and vegetable yields because when bees visit blooming plants, they transfer pollen from flower to flower so plants can grow delicious fruit. Some fruits and vegetables can’t produce a crop unless pollinated by an insect. For other plants, pollination increases their bounty.
  • Gardens designed to attract pollinators are incredibly diverse, and incorporating biodiversity is one of the best ways to manage pests in your yard. The birds, bugs, and bats that your garden attracts will eat problem bugs while the assortment of plant life will ensure that no single pest takes over.

How One School Garden Grew During a Pandemic

How One School Garden Grew During a Pandemic

by Erin Peterson, Peninsula Union School


We have all had to learn new ways to live this past year. It’s been a year of great change, reflection, growth, and loss. From these changes, however, we have learned new ways of being that will forever change us and how we relate to the world around us. Many have discovered a new love of the outdoors, including gardening. In our little school garden at Pacific Union School in Arcata, this time of isolation and change has forced us to grow in ways that we had never imagined possible. While we all miss being physically together, and the damaging effects of this pandemic are not equally distributed, we are proud of how we have risen as a community to meet this challenge.

As the world shut down and our school closed along with it, we immediately began to search for ways to continue to serve our community. The first step we took was to rethink our physical garden space, transforming it from a “learning lab” into a food production space to help feed our community. Working closely with kitchen staff, we delivered farm shares to families who receive free and low cost school lunches (51% of our school population qualifies). We plan to continue this valuable program as we return to growing in the Spring of 2021 and beyond.

As time went on and it became clear that distance learning was our new normal, we established a robust online garden curriculum that included weekly garden videos featuring tours of the garden, cooking lessons, stories, songs, pictures, art, and home activities using recycled and easy to find supplies. We also fulfilled a long time goal of using our program as a county-wide model by sharing these videos through the Humboldt County Office of Education. After-school programs across the county, which usually include gardening in their hands-on learning, have used our garden videos to encourage students to get outside and get their hands dirty.

As the weather cooled and the pandemic strained local food banks, we created a program called Sandwich Sundays. In Arcata there is no community food offered between Friday and Monday, and we realized our garden could help. Using produce from the garden along with other supplies donated by community members, we make 90-100 sandwiches each week to hand out to local residents living without housing and proper nutrition. Even during the winter months, with help from our community, we have been able to provide critical food distribution to our community (we still have lettuce and some onions from the garden to include!).

As Pacific Union returns to school, however that may look, the ideas of food instability, food justice, and sharing produce will continue to be central to our garden curriculum. As we navigate 2021 our objective will remain, as always, to teach our students to be responsible stewards of our planet, lovers of the outdoors, and strong community members. Especially during this crisis, nature provides a welcome solace and connection to things that are familiar. We will do everything we can to ensure that our garden continues to shine as a bright light, possibly brighter and more vital than ever, for our students, our teachers and our whole community.

The garden is a grant-funded program at Pacific Union School, a public grade school in Arcata. Watch our garden videos on YouTube @Farmer Erin Peterson.

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Erin Peterson was born and raised in Humboldt County in a family of avid gardeners. She has been the farmer at Pacific Union School for the past four years.
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Edible & Healing Plants in Your Own Backyard

Edible & Healing Plants in Your Own Backyard

Many plants commonly considered weeds are nutritious & medicinal.

by Kate Lancaster | illustrations by Brenna Quinlan


Before I learned about their medicinal qualities, there were many plants I believed were undesirable weeds that I certainly wouldn’t have eaten. My relationship with plants has changed; instead of waging war on weeds, I’m now grateful they grow in my yard and I enjoy learning about them.

Many plants that grow wild are edible and/or have medicinal properties. These are four of my favorites. (The nutrient information I’ve included comes from the book Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford. As with any new food or supplement, test cautiously to see how your body responds.)


DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)

Every part of this plant is useful. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, C, E, and B- complex and provide iron, protein, and trace minerals. Young leaves (best harvested in the Spring) add spice and valuable nutrients to any salad or can be cooked like spinach. The roots can be chopped, dried and used in teas.

There are many lookalikes, so here are a few tips to identify dandelions. The lion-tooth shaped leaves emerge from the center of the plant and are not fuzzy or spiny. Individual flowers emerge from the center of the plant and are on a single leafless stalk that is purple at the base and oozes a milky-white sap when you break it. Dandelions have long taproots that draw nutrients from the soil.


PLANTAIN (Plantago major and lanceolata)

We have both broad and narrow-leafed species of plantain in this area. The leaves are edible – Tilford likens it to Swiss chard and says it is high in Vitamin C, A, and K. The flowers are not noteworthy, but the seeds are a wonderful source of fiber and are a laxative. This plant is called the “band-aid” plant. A poultice (pick a leaf and chew it until it is pulverized or blend with a little water) placed on any wound is soothing and reduces inflammation. I applied a plantain poultice when I had a bee sting and the swelling and pain was much diminished.


SELF-HEAL or HEAL-ALL (Prunella vulgaris)

Self-heal is another I used to pull up, but it has become one of my favorites. I’d change the name from Prunella Vulgaris to something that reflects how sweet this plant is. The more I learn about it, the more excited I am to have it growing in my yard. The whole plant is edible (best when young) and can be eaten either raw or cooked. It is high in vitamin B12, D, E and provides magnesium, copper, selenium and zinc.

Self-heal has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A poultice of leaves helps wounds heal and the leaves and flowers make a slightly sweet tea that soothes sore throats and reduces respiratory infections.



This plant deserves both our respect and appreciation. The stems and leaves have stinging hairs that cause a burning and numbing rash. I have read that the sting helps reduce arthritis pain, but I personally don’t relish the sting. Harvest carefully with thick gloves, wearing long sleeves and pants. Despite these cautions, nettle is a very beneficial plant. It’s high in iron, calcium, potassium, manganese and vitamins A, C, and D.

Nettle is best harvested when the leaves are young and tender (as the plant ages it becomes tough and the burning particles can irritate your urinary tract if eaten). You can cook and use nettle like spinach in lasagna and soups or stews or substitute nettle for basil in pesto. The leaves can also be dried to prepare as a refreshing and nourishing tea.

Each of these plants has many more uses than I mentioned here. There is much to learn as you explore edible and medicinal plants in your backyard and beyond. The directory sections ‘Education: Growing Food’ (page 80) and ‘Medicinal Herbs’ (page 115) list additional local resources.

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Kate Lancaster (she/her) recently retired from HSU as an accounting and sustainable business professor. Her passions are small-scale permaculture gardening, learning about medicinal plants, and walking with her dogs in the Redwoods.
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Foraging Ethics

Learning about forageable foods is a wonderful way to eat healthily and source locally. However, there are a few things to consider. It’s important to forage away from roads to avoid pesticides or insecticides and to ask permission before you forage on tribal lands or private land. Be aware of the impact you have on the plants and the area where they grow.

Ecologist and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer offers these thoughtful guidelines on how to forage and harvest in a sustainable and responsible way. She refers to this as the “Honorable Harvest.”

  • Never take the first; never take the last.
  • Ask permission of the plant. Introduce yourself, let them know what you would like to do. Ask if they have enough to share.
  • Listen for the answer. Listen pragmatically and intuitively.
  • Minimize harm. Don’t use a shovel if it’s not necessary; learn what part of the plant is used.
  • Take only what you need, only what is given to you. Leave some for others and for the future.
  • Use everything you take.
  • Express your gratitude. The Earth does not belong to us and what we receive from the Earth is a gift.
  • Share what you’ve taken. This reflects a culture of sharing and resilience.
  • Reciprocate the gift. That can mean a spiritual gift (a song, prayer, etc.) or a material gift (weeding, pruning, etc.)

Gardening with Small Spaces & Tight Budgets

Gardening with Small Spaces & Tight Budgets

Don’t let limited space or a minimal budget stop you from enjoying the benefits of growing some of your own food.

by Tamara McFarland, Cooperation Humboldt

The United States has a problem with distribution of resources. We have the highest rate of income inequality of all the G7 nations (United States, the U.K., France, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Canada). And the gap between richer and poorer families – whether measured by income or wealth – continues to widen.

This inequality results in those who have trouble meeting many of their basic needs having a hard time accessing the tools and resources they need to eat good food. Low-income individuals are less likely to have the physical space, financial resources, and time to garden than their wealthier neighbors.

It’s critical that we not only acknowledge this reality, but also that we work on both fronts – by attacking the root causes of poverty through policy change in addition to providing resources to meet folks’ immediate needs.

This article explores some tactics to meet those immediate food needs, even with limited resources.


It’s far more frugal to start your veggies from seeds rather than pay for starts. Begin with clean, well-drained containers (you can often find free used six-packs at nurseries) and a good quality seed starting mix or potting soil. Follow the instructions on the seed packet and water gently and often (aim for evenly moist – not soggy but not dry).


Select crops that maximize your available space. For example, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower require a lot of space per plant and will only provide one harvest. You’ll be better served by selecting plants that offer high yields in small spaces, like radishes, lettuce, greens, carrots, garlic, onions, and spinach.

Choosing fast-growing crops also maximizes your yield; these include arugula, bok choy, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, and spinach. Use succession planting – staggering plantings in the same area throughout the season. Each time a crop is finished, harvest it and plant something new in its place.


Many crops can thrive in containers. You’ll need to pay close attention to their moisture levels (since soil in containers will dry out faster than soil in the ground) and nutritional needs (because plants deplete nutrients at a quicker rate in containers).

Be sure to add plenty of organic compost by top-dressing soil and spraying with compost tea regularly. Free sources of soil nutrients include homemade compost (more info), worm compost (possible to do indoors), homemade compost tea, and rabbit, goat or chicken poop.

Rotate crops by not planting the same type of plant in the same pots each year. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants, and healthy plants provide better nutrition and can resist pest and disease.

Get creative about what kinds of containers you use. Free containers include used plastic pots (available at some nurseries), 5-gallon buckets (check with grocery stores or bakeries; be sure to add drainage holes), and salvaged items from wheelbarrows to bathtubs.

Don’t forget about hanging planters! If you have a fence, balcony railing, or roof overhang – hang planters.


Grow anything you can upward instead of outward. Many crops benefit from being trained vertically, including peas, squash, beans, and more. You can also employ vertical planters – either purchased tiered planters or built from reclaimed materials like pallets.

If you have a fence or other vertical structure available, grow a climbing vine. Kiwis do well here.


You can grow many herbs indoors on a sunny windowsill, including basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme, and ginger. Try your hand at microgreens or sprouts – they are easy and quick to grow and have a high nutritional content.


If you have at least a small amount of outdoor space available, make the most of it by replacing as much ornamental landscaping as possible with edible plants. Research attractive options such as Chilean guava for a hedge that also provides fruit. Some varieties of blueberry provide lovely fall foliage in addition to their summer fruits. Converting even a 10’ square of grass into garden can provide an abundance of vegetables.


Consider gardening in a shared space such as a community garden, where land is set aside to grow food for individuals and their communities. Some have individual plots available, while others serve primarily as learning centers about growing, seed saving, permaculture and sustainable farm practices. (See page 84 for a directory of local community gardens.)


Growing Annual Crops

Growing Annual Crops

Learn what thrives in our coastal climate.

by Tamara McFarland, Cooperation Humboldt


Annual plants are those that grow for a season and then die in the winter. You must replant them every year.

Perennials are plants that grow year-round or come back every year. You only plant them once.

When most people think of vegetable gardening, they imagine annual crops like greens, beans, corn, and squash. While we also find tremendous value in perennial food plants, there’s no doubt that annual veggies have a big role to play in most gardens. But which should you choose for the best chance of success in the greater Humboldt Bay region? Here are some of our top picks.


Greens are every cool climate gardener’s best friend. Endless varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, bok choy and more can easily be grown here, possibly even year-round depending on your site.


Easy to grow either from seeds or starts, snap peas, snow peas, and shelling peas can be grown in three seasons in our climate (all but winter). Most can be eaten pods and all, at any stage of development.


Many herbs thrive in our area – cilantro, parsley, dill, and basil if you have a hot spot – just to name a few. And there’s really no substitute for the flavor that comes from using fresh herbs in your cooking. They can also be dried to use year-round (or to make seasoned salts).


Also known as cruciferous vegetables, this family of plants includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and turnips. These vegetables contain substances that may protect against cancer, and they grow quite well in our bioregion. Slugs can be a problem, so use beer traps or another method like ‘Sluggo’ that is organic approved and pet-safe. Cabbage loopers are another common pest; regular applications of Monterey B.t. should help.


Squash comes in two categories – summer squash (zucchini, for example) has softer skin and must be eaten fresh (or preserved by pickling, freezing, etc.); whereas winter squash (butternut, delicata, and others) has a hard skin that allows it to be stored for months under proper conditions, helping to provide a food source through winter.


These beautiful beans are large and colorful at harvest, and before then they provide beautiful flowers that pollinators adore. They can be eaten at all stages of development. Learn to dry and store them and you can eat them for months to come. If conditions in your garden are favorable, runner beans may perennialize (come back year after year).


Tasty and nutritious, carrots are popular for all ages, and you’ll be amazed by how much more intense their flavor is when freshly picked. They are fun to harvest and easy to store until you need them (just leave them in the ground until then).


While not technically an annual (they will usually produce for several years), we must mention strawberries. Easy to grow and a hit for all ages, you’ll never regret growing them. If you ever have extra, they freeze well and make wonderful jam.


Annual Growing Guide for Coastal Northern California

This chart is for use in the cooler coastal areas of Humboldt & Del Norte counties. Warmer conditions inland would change these recommendations somewhat. We recommend the book ‘The Humboldt Kitchen Gardener’ by Eddie Tanner for more information, including an inland growing chart. For many crops, if you wish to enjoy them continuously, you’ll need to plant more than once (known as succession planting, as noted below). ‘GH’ means that the plant can be grown at the indicated time in a greenhouse.

Top 10 Fruits of Humboldt Bay

Top 10 Fruits of Humboldt Bay

Choose wisely and enjoy for years to come.

by Sean Armstrong & Tamara McFarland


No gardener wants to waste precious time, money or garden space on a fruit tree that fails to produce. You can avoid the unique heartbreak that results from planting a tree or shrub that is destined to fail in our unique coastal climate by choosing a variety from this list, which features top picks from Sean Armstrong, editor of the community-sourced booklet ‘Fruits of the Humboldt Bay.’

Hard copies of this booklet can sometimes be found at local independent booksellers. It is also available as a free download here.


(Acca sellowiana) A sweet and complicated white fleshed nectarine with red skin, Arctic Queen is known to fruit prolifically in Arcata. Other ‘Arctic’ varieties including Glo, Jay, Rose, and Star are related low-chill varieties and also likely successes.



(Prunus domestica) Beauty is a local standard – a dependable, sweet and juicy plum. Methley is another proven sweet success. Both are more productive in cool, rainy climates than the more widely adapted Santa Rosa variety.



(Malus domestica) Fruits early and flowers on the late side, thus avoiding the rainy shoulders of our dry summer. Fruits are attractive as well as juicy, bright, complex, sweet and aromatic. You may want to thin the 2” fruits some years to prevent branch breakage.



(Malus domestica) The pink-to-magenta sweet-tart flesh tastes of raspberries and is best fresh but makes an incredibly beautiful sauce. This extraordinary local heirloom was bred by Albert Etter near modern-day Ettersville in SoHum.



(Acca sellowiana) This Brazilian native fruits after 10-15 years, but you can enjoy its sweet flower petals while you wait. Successful examples are growing at CCAT on HSU’s campus and the Potowot Community Garden.



(Pyrus pyrifolia) This yellow fleshed variety of Asian Pear is sweet, juicy, and medium-large if thinned early in the season to allow the remaining pears to grow larger. Leave them on the tree until they are swollen and yellowed for best flavor.



(Myrtus ugni molinae) Berries are ripe when they lighten from red to pink. The taste is pleasantly piney and guava-ey. Evergreen, attractive, and easy to propagate while also providing some of the last fruits of the fall.



(Acca sellowiana) Blake, Hayward and Vincent varieties have been shown to do well. Kiwis grow vines big enough to swallow a house and must be pruned to keep them under control. They are a sexed plant, so a male and a female are necessary for fruit.



(Rubus parviflorus) Thimbleberry is a native raspberry that will grow to 8+’ in dappled shade. It has tart, brightly flavorful berries.



(Brassica oleracea ramosa) Okay, so it’s not a fruit, but trust us – you need to grow this kale. Perennial (meaning it grows year-round, year after year), tough, productive and delicious.