California’s North Coast Wine Industry: How “Sustainable” Is It? By Shepherd Bliss
Sonoma County Winegrowers bought an expensive, full-page, color ad, using tax dollars [this is disputed here - Barry] , in the July 12 daily Santa Rosa Press Democrat and in various weeklies, such as the North Bay Bohemian and Sonoma West. The ad ignited a firestorm of protest with angry letters to editors and online comments from the community storming local publications that ran the ad.
As someone who practices, writes about, and teaches college students at Sonoma State and Dominican Universities about what “sustainable” really means, the ad offends me. It is blatant propaganda of false advertising to hoodwink readers.
Winegrowers received a $377,282 federal grant in 2014 for their “branding campaign.” That followed a state grant that brought their total to $756,000,
What’s New and Exciting About Sonoma West Hospital
By Jonathan Greenberg For WaccoBB.net
May 25, 2015
Ray Hino, the warm-spirited, highly accomplished new CEO of the soon-to-open Sonoma West Medical Center (SWMC), seems to relish his new role as tour guide. Every Saturday for the past few months, Hino, with his signature welcoming smile, light blue suit, and tie, has graciously guided area residents through the innovative steps and spaces that will make Sonoma County’s only “no-wait emergency room” possible.
The tour begins in the renovated emergency room area. Visitors are told of the unconventional transformation of a hospital waiting room into a staging area
Sonoma County has been known as part of the natural Redwood Empire. Wine industry lobbyists re-branded it as the commercial “Wine Country.” Its economy has been so colonized by outside investors, who extract water and resources from the environment and export them, that another re-branding would be appropriate. A more accurate description would be that Sonoma County is now part
Wine Maker Paul Hobbs Herbicide Spraying Upsets
Parents and Neighbors at Apple Blossom School Meeting
By Shepherd Bliss
Apple Blossom School has a nice ring to it, as does the Orchard View School at its side. The nearby Tree House Hollow pre-school, with children as young as two and three years old, continues this agrarian theme. These names evoke a pleasant scene of trees with students, teachers, and staff relaxing outside during recesses, as in old-fashioned one-room schools.
The winding rural Watetrough Road in the countryside around small town Sebastopol in Sonoma County, Northern California, leads to these rural schools, which have over 500 students. Sebastopol was known for decades as the home of the tasty Gravenstein apple. YUM! YUM!
The Twin Hills Union School District Board of Trustees last meeting of the academic year occurred May 14,
In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded “Wine Country,” activists from four North Coast California counties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino counties.
Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and
Big Wine Fails to Dry Farm
During California’s Drought
By Shepherd Bliss
Gov. Jerry Brown at Iron Horse Vineyards on Earth Day 2015
California Governor Jerry Brown spent this year’s Earth Day at the elite Iron Horse Winery in the Sebastopol countryside. I operate a small berry and apple farm nearby and teach sustainable agriculture, mainly to college students. It was a great photo opportunity and promotion for the winery, known for donations to former President Bill Clinton and other politicians, from which it receives benefits.
By Shepherd Bliss Photos: Greg Kestrel WaccoBB.net One windy mid-April Saturday, rural folk from four Northern California counties began arriving at a community center at the magical juncture where the life-giving Russian River empties into the majestic Pacific Ocean. Though the small, unincorporated village of Jenner is a popular recreational destination, especially for kayaking, we had not come merely for pleasure.
Our mission was to preserve agrarian lifestyles from further colonization by conventional, industrial vineyards and wineries into diverse rural habitats. Large corporate wineries--owned mainly by outside investors--were the main target.
By the sea and river waters, we spoke about water and California’s worsening drought. Some reported that wells had gone dry after large wineries dug as much as 1000 feet into the ground to
Water or Wine? California’s Drought & Water Competition
By Shepherd Bliss WaccoBB.net
“California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use” reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. “Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought,” the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order—California’s first time restricting water use.
A 25% reduction of water use over the next year is required of
Sour Grapes in ‘Wine Country’— Intense Challenges to Wineries Erupt By Shepherd Bliss
Site for the proposed Dairyman Winery - Photo by BIM
Sonoma County’s premium wine industry in the San Francisco North Bay has become a magnet that attracts developers from around the country, across oceans, and nearby. They move heavy industrial operations into rural areas and expand them to become event centers and commercial bottling operations.
Sebastopol's Dog Park and My Dog By Shepherd Bliss
Having read articles complaining about dogs, which I shamefully must admit having done, I want to appreciate Sebastopol’s Dog Park as a good place for those four-leggeds and their two-legged human companions. We can gather, socialize, play, frolic, share stories, teach and kid each other, as well as spark communication and build community among these two unique, different species.
Various sub-cultures exist in small town Sebastopol and its West County rural countryside. Given political, life-style, ethnic, gender, class, generational, and other differences, humans do not always get along well. “Sebastopol’s Dog Park is like the old community water well, where differences are suspended.
On June 14, 2011, Sebastopol's Planning Commission voted 4-2 to reject the proposed CVS Project. No findings were submitted to the City Council to explain the bases for this lopsided vote.
In a digital recording of that meeting, the vote's aftermath was chaotic. A Planning Commissioner can be heard pleading for the PC Chair to recognize the need for the Commission to provide "comments" for transmission to the City Council.
Ten-Day Village Building Convergence Rocks Small Town Sebastopol
By Shepherd Bliss
(Photos: Marty Roberts)
Participants in the ambitious ten-day First Annual Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (VBC) painted murals on streets in this small Northern California town and filled the Grange Hall, the Permaculture Skills Center, and other sites from September 12 to 21.
On the final day, a colorful, active parade marched from the weekly farmers’ market in the downtown plaza through a newly-painted street with murals of salmon, dogs, coyote tracks, a Spirit Bird, and other wildlife. Over 400 people, including many children, participated in that painting. One theme of the march was climate protection, coinciding with the People’s Climate March (PCM) in New York City and elsewhere around the planet on Sept. 21.
VBCs originated in Portland, Oregon, instigated by the group City Repair,
In Sebastopol, CA, organizers of the first ever Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (a working group of Transiiton Sebastopol), a 10-day Placemaking (public art, permaculture, and natural building) festival modeled after the success of City Repair in Portland, OR. Village Building Convergence organizers have been collaborating with the Sebastopol mayor and City Council to identify and work toward shared goals, including creating a more cohesive and walkable downtown; supporting existing City projects and local non-profits, including the development of a public food forest; and community engagement. In the story below, Transition Sebastopol member Shepherd Bliss shares the excitement around the Village Building Convergence that was generated at a recent Sebastopol City Council meeting, underscoring the incredible potential
By Shepherd Bliss with photos by Scott Hess
A loud, crashing sound startles my young farm-hand Emily Danler awake in the dark of the night. She camps out in order to start picking berries at sun-up. My dog, inside, barks. I sleep through it all. Looking down the boysenberry field to the bottom of Kokopelli Farm that morning, tears come to my eyes.
The tall, old black oak had split right down the middle of its deep, wide trunk. Though on my neighbor’s farm, it anchored my farm. It now lay slit down its center, broken, crashing across the fence. It evoked fear of my own death. Being old myself, 70 this year, I lamented the loss of another old creature.
Remembering Michael Kyes, Sebastopol's Most Courageous Leader
By Jonathan Greenberg For WaccoBB.net May 26, 2014
It was with great sadness than I learned of the death Michael Kyes yesterday morning, On this Memorial Day, I feel Michael's passing not just as a personal loss of an engaging friend, but also, as a loss to Sebastopol, of our community's most courageous political leader.
First elected to City Council in 2010, then serving as mayor in
Behind Palm Drive Hospital’s Closing Part II: The Shutdown Playbook
By Jonathan Greenberg
How A Bondholder-Friendly Shutdown Playbook Secretly Sunk Palm Drive Hospital
The decision last month by Palm Drive’s Board of Directors to reject the doctor-led Foundation Plan that would have kept the hospital open was the moment of truth in the contentious struggle to retain a life-saving emergency room open in West Sonoma County.
Palm Drive’s Lawyers Say That
The Public Does Not Want to
Re-Open the Emergency Room
By Jonathan Greenberg WaccoBB.net
It was nearly noon on Friday, May 16, when Tom Harlan, Palm Drive Hospital’s beleaguered CEO, rushed past me in the hall outside the federal bankruptcy courtroom in Santa Rosa looking like a man who had just seen a
Tom Harlan, Palm Drive CEO
ghost. Two attorneys being paid about $500 an hour by the Hospital to
A Second Chance—25 Years Later By Shepherd Bliss with Assumpta Ortiz
A “Second Chance,” after 25 years of absence and silence, was recently offered Shepherd by Assumpta. Her email arrived from Europe to his farm. We met in Barcelona in l988 and have had no contact during the last quarter of a century. I answered her email within 15 minutes of its sending, without thinking, but with a deep feeling of connection.
“Where are you staying?” this cinnamon-shaded woman inquired in Spanish, after I presented at an international conference. I used to speak Spanish well, but not for about 15 years, because of war trauma in Chile during the early l970s. “You could stay at my home,” she invited.
Foster and Kimberly Gamble are the producers of the well known New Age movie “Thrive.” On Thursday, March 6 they gave a presentation at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the hills south of Petaluma. I decided to attend although I had long been a strong critic of the movie’s libertarian vision of what a thriving world would be like. Like so many ideologies, libertarianism promises infinitely more than it can deliver. I had been assured by the gathering’s organizer that I would have an opportunity to ask questions and enter into dialogue, and it seemed a worthwhile thing to do. I even took a copy of my new book Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture War and the Return of the Divine Feminine, to give to the Gambles.
It turned out there was no chance to enter into dialogue (I got to ask one question, answered
Dancing with Death at Death Cafes by Shepherd Bliss
“I have an appointment with death this evening,” I explained, smiling to friends upon leaving them. Their startled faces revealed feelings such as fear and a lack of understanding.
While living in Mexico, their Day of the Dead became my favorite holiday. I especially liked celebrating it in traditional villages, like Tepotzlan. The whole town seemed to go to the cemetery that night. Morbid? Not really, more like fun--feeding and dancing with one’s ancestors, remembering them in gratitude, teaching children to accept death and not be so afraid of it. But I was not on my way to a Day of the Dead celebration this time; I was going to a Death Cafe.
My teacher Scott Nearing lived to be 100 years old. He farmed berries, which is partly why I have farmed berries for over twenty years. After publishing dozens of books and building dozens of