By Marlen Otten, Board Secretary, Sustainable Solano
A new movement is emerging throughout the Bay Area where women are connecting to collaborate and embrace their visions for a sustainable and regenerative future for all. Conversations arise about the concepts of abundance, sustainability and what it means to be “regenerative”.
To explore these concepts more deeply, Alexis Koefoed of Soul Food Farm had envisioned for a long time to host a special event at her Soul Food Farm on the outskirts of Vacaville. On Saturday, September 22, 2018, this vision became a reality when women and men gathered at her farm for the first-ever “Women of Abundance: Women Entrepreneurs in the Regenerative Culture, Economy, and Community” event.
The key theme of this gathering was the exploration of the meaning of “regenerative”. It was proposed that “regenerative” is defined as a “living, evolving and naturally functioning environment where abundance and resilience are recurring outcomes of its underlying health”. This idea is closely linked to wide-ranging economic factors throughout our communities in Solano County and the Bay Area. To create regenerative local economies, awareness and education help strengthen the relationship with local food producers and consumers towards an ecologically balanced system. “Regeneration” is also the central theme of the work at Sustainable Solano. Our interest in and commitment to regeneration is at the heart of what we do as we continue to work on our vision for an environmentally and economically sustainable and socially just local food system in our county.
At this unique gathering, a panel of six successful Bay Area women entrepreneurs and farmers was led in discussion by Erin Walkenshaw, who is part of a new movement of spirited women in the Bay Area who are breaking new ground in the world of farming. The panel included Kelly D. Carlisle of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, in Oakland, Elisabeth Prueitt, co-founder of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, Nicolette Hahn Niman of Niman Ranch in Bolinas, Rebecca Burgess, Executive Director of Fibershed and Chair of the Board for Carbon Cycle Institute, Helena Sylvester, co-owner and lady farmer at Happy Acre Farm and Jessica Prentice, co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, the nation’s first Community Supported kitchen.
The panel of women leaders shared in one word about the stage where they are at currently, which ranged from transitioning to transformation, surrendering and doing less, highlighting how there is an ebb and flow in life while maintaining a sense of abundance. The participants explored their individual meaning of abundance and their vision for a regenerative agriculture – how to build and shape the traits that give women the strength and empowerment to lift themselves up to continue their work.
The panelists also revealed lessons women can use to reaffirm the support they have historically shared with one another to become successful and what they would do when things get tough, including the need to be in communication with each other. They examined the abundance model versus the competition model, the role of money and power as well as the meaning of equality versus fairness, or the lack thereof, in today’s society. All agreed the need for policies that would support healthy soils as part of a healthy ecology.
This conversation about regeneration and abundance was topped off with culinary delights by local Solano County producers. Attendees we able to explore the goodness of local olive oil and farm eggs, honey by Pleasants Valley Honey Co., fragrant lavender products by Girl on the Hill and they were able to enjoy local oven-baked pizza by Bella Fiamma and local organic cream by Documentary and portrait photographer Paige Green of Petaluma shared her inspiring exhibition of panelist portraits under the big olive tree, where attendees shared inspiring paper notes with their interpretation of the meaning of abundance.
We are grateful for Alexis Koefoed’s vision and taking the initiative to make this inspiring event happen. Events like this bring together the hearts and minds within the community and empower participants to take part in the creation of a sustainable and regenerative future we strive for, and we look forward to the next event.
Richard Fisher, of the Vallejo for the Future Commission, reflects on the state of the world and talks about our shared vision for our Resilient Neighborhoods project we plan to pilot in Vallejo next year.
Biomimicry, as Richard describes it, is the practice of emulating biological forms, processes, and systems to address human challenges. He is particularly keen on applying this innovation to enable cities to function like ecosystems. For example, parts of cities—including buildings, streets, parks, industry, community programs, etc.—can be induced to perform ecological functions that serve the larger whole. This includes filtering water, cycling nutrients, cleaning the air, fostering biodiversity, storing water, building healthy soil, and regulating local temperatures like local native ecosystems.
Companies have begun to understand the economic value of the services that ecosystems provide—“how much would it cost a company to purify water, like a watershed would, for free?” Puma and other future-facing companies are conducting environmental profit and loss (EP&L) reports on the impacts of doing business. The environmental loss is readily understood—Puma is measuring exactly how much clean water, a gift from the watershed, it uses or pollutes to create a shoe. Richard is working on how to enhance the environmental profit side of the equation—“How much clean water can a product, company or city create for its watershed?”
Richard explains, “By challenging cities to meet or exceed the ecological performance of local native ecosystems, cities can become generous contributors of conditions that foster a safer, healthier and more resilient world. Not only do our local native ecosystems provide metrics for resilience, they also provide a model for how to get there. In addition to ecological performance, a city can set social performance standards based on community values like those of Vallejo’s recent General Plan Update Guiding Principles. Strategies for addressing these social aspirations can be sourced from native ecosystems as well as nature is teeming with models of anything from coordinating housing, to cycling resources, to cultivating community.”
With these social and ecological performance standards, cities can evaluate decisions based on the extent to which they positively or negatively affect progress toward their social and environmental goals. This degree of transparency would empower communities with tools to hold decision-makers accountable and gives them the information they need to push for policies that align with community values. Perhaps most exciting is that achieving ecological performance can provide a means for achieving social performance and vice versa.
As an example, Richard ties the two together by asking, “How can filtering water, sequestering carbon, supporting biodiversity, etc. create meaningful jobs, increase access to healthy food, and lift people out of poverty?”
With this type of thinking, meeting these aspirational goals in Vallejo provides a pathway for social innovation, new jobs, and more social engagement. These benefits can also help promote more sustainable culture, lift people out of poverty, and enhance the community’s quality of life as a whole. Richard is currently working with Sustainable Solano on a resilient neighborhood project to pilot these concepts.
This work in biomimicry is closely related to Greenbelt Alliance’s work to create sustainable and resilient communities—“Cities that are conducive to life,” as Richard would say. Through biomimicry, he asks “How can we leverage the genius of native ecosystems to inspire socio-ecological standards in our city?”
As Greenbelt Alliance promotes sustainable infill development throughout the Bay Area, we can frame the creation of our cities and towns through this biomimicry-inspired lens. By turning them into sustainable ecosystems, we can help our cities and towns meet the demands of more individuals. Doing so also helps prevent the need to sprawl outward into suburban and rural areas where the lands simply aren’t equipped with the resources to create a thriving urban ecosystem.
Turning Potential into Action
From Richard’s perspective, one of Vallejo’s main challenges is that it has limited resources to address community needs. It is a city that is trying to stay afloat after bankruptcy with a backlog of basic services waiting to be met. Adding to the scarcity of resources is the lack of external funding for community non-profits—Solano County has by far the lowest per capita giving in the Bay Area, at about $3. Too often, this lack of resources results in Vallejo missing out on opportunities and applying band-aid solutions rather than solving problems at the roots.
Richard elaborates, “Vallejo has the capacity within it to solve its challenges but needs bold leadership to nurture a culture of possibility and resource innovation. Look at how ecosystems deal with scarce resources. By drawing upon biological inspiration for cycling nutrients in closed loops and cultivating cooperative relationships, we can identify more effective ways to leverage Vallejo’s existing talents and resources.
I am currently working with multiple organizations on initiatives to foster greater connectivity between community needs and assets. One of the community assets I believe is underutilized are Vallejo’s anchor institutions—the medical and educational institutions that are the largest employers in the city. The employment, purchasing, and investment power of these institutions, along with those of the city government, as potential assets that can be utilized multi-functionally to more effectively meet community needs.
I am currently organizing a summit to bring community leaders together to constellate community needs with these assets. The goal is to leverage the capacity of anchor institutions for local training, hiring, investment, and procurement to catalyze policies and programs that achieve shared community performance values. While adopting an Anchor Mission represents a huge lever for changing the way Vallejo thinks about its resources, I believe that tapping into human capital on a small scale can also have major impacts.”
The people of Vallejo are caring, friendly, and hold a lot of pride for their city. In Richard’s view, Vallejo’s residents should be empowered to use their talents and passions to improve their home. This belief led him to start a microgranting potluck dedicated to celebrating and empowering community projects in Vallejo.
Taking Stock of Vallejo SOUP
Richard’s love for his city is perhaps most visible in an event he brought to the city earlier this year, Vallejo SOUP. Originally held in Detroit, Michigan in 2010, SOUP events invite community members to gather together and crowdfund support for local projects, all while eating “soup,” which attendees bring for a large potluck community dinner. Recognizing his neighbors’ passionate desire to better their city, Fisher was confident Vallejo SOUP would be a success. But the results immediately exceeded his expectations.
Richard expected a crowd of around 30 for Vallejo SOUP’s first gathering back in April. Instead, he was thrilled to see 65 people show up, more than doubling his expectations. Over the course of the evening, the attendees watched as four project groups each presented a proposal to improve Vallejo. The crowd was treated to proposals on mental health, youth theater, homelessness, and a city bike plan.
“Vallejo’s greatest strength is its people, who care deeply about making their city a better place.”—Richard Fisher
During the evening, the generous and enthusiastic crowd donated $1,500, which was awarded to the four project groups as prize money. After this initial success, Fisher hopes to organize another event every few months. That way, he can keep nurturing residents’ interest in local activism and community participation.
Richard’s efforts are an excellent example of how just one resident can drastically improve his community by strengthening the social fabric to create greater resilience. One individual’s actions can be a catalyst for much-needed social change, especially when backed by other inspired community members. Greenbelt Alliance’s Development Endorsement Program functions similarly, but on an organizational level. It is a way to promote community health and environmental sustainability within cities and to inspire more smart growth by leading with individual examples.Richard’s sustainability-focused efforts also remind us to look to nature for solutions to our modern problems.
Richard Fisher is a Vallejo local applying the principles of biomimicry to community building. Richard’s background in engineering and education in biomimicry trained him to think at the systems level—to see how all of the interrelated and interconnected components of a city, like Vallejo, can be leveraged to create a cohesive sense of place and a thriving city. He has spent the last two years studying unique ecosystems—from the Canadian Rockies to the rainforests of Costa Rica—with an interdisciplinary team, seeking innovative solutions to the social challenges of our time.
If you or someone you know is doing exciting and innovative smart growth or conservation work, email Solano County Regional Representative, Amy Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solano Land Trust (SLT) is interested in your thoughts about the landscape that comprises the county. SLT is just over 30 years old and wants to hear from you to inform their work going forward to meet your needs and desires for Solano County’s future. This short, 15-minute survey asks questions about “natural areas”- publicly accessible land that is mostly in its natural form. Natural areas may include picnic areas, trails, parking areas and basic restrooms but do not have mowed grass or sports facilities. Crop lands are not considered natural areas, however many natural areas are grazed by livestock (cattle or sheep).
Use this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VCZ6XX7 or visit www.solanolandtrust.org to participate in the survey to share your thoughts with Solano Land Trust.
All survey participants will be entered into a drawing for two free tickets to SLT’s signature “Sunday Supper” event on October 7th or a an exclusive hike and lunch for four at Rockville Trails Preserve. Survey closes on Wednesday, October 3rd.
[Read SF Chronicle full article here]
“The accelerated destruction of the sacred headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru alone will disrupt the entire Earth’s distribution of rain.”
As leaders of the Sapara people, part of the confederation of 11 indigenous nations of the Ecuadoran Amazon living in harmony with nature in the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth, we have made the long trek to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco for reasons that may surprise Americans and other natives of highly developed countries.
Most citizens know by now that climate change has gone beyond the threat of disrupting the delicate balance and interconnection among the nearly 4 million species of plants and animals in the Amazon (one-third of all species on Earth).
Most know that the ecology of the vast Amazon rain forest is being jeopardized by flagrant, irresponsible, and visionless drilling, logging, mining, and the slash-and-burn clearing of thousands of acres of pristine forest each day. Imagine the overwhelming sight if every tree and bush between San Francisco and San Mateo were leveled today. And then between San Mateo and Palo Alto tomorrow. And then on to Cupertino the day after. Some know that illegal and immoral disrespect for both our land and culture moves entire indigenous nations closer to extinction, along with the ancient knowledge base that our remaining elders possess.
That is our reality, but we did not come to California to ask to be saved.
The real reason we have made the 30-hour journey by foot and canoe, small propeller plane, and bus, and then international flight from our capital, Quito, to San Francisco is to deliver an urgent message to the chiefs of industry, the policymakers, and to citizens who are caught in the trance of short-term consumption: The hectic pursuit of material gain is not sustainable.
The accelerated destruction of the sacred headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru alone, a 60-million-acre area more than half the size of California, will disrupt the entire Earth’s distribution of rain. Two and a half acres of our forest contains more species of trees than are found in the entire United States. The rivers within the clouds above our forests are larger and mightier than the Amazon River itself. They drive the planetary weather system and replenish the Earth’s cycle of fresh water. Which means the fresh water that comes out of your faucet — and the long hot showers you enjoy each morning in America or Europe or Asia — are in jeopardy.
We are here to plead with you to see that our survival is yours too.
As guardians of the Amazon for thousands of years, we know intuitively when danger is near. Our belief system is based on what our ancestors observed in the natural world. Predating Western civilization, our ancestors identified the energies and powers in all living things as spirits. As you may go to church or temple or mosques to connect with your deity, we grow up listening to the messages that come from our symphony of trees and plants, the oldest and most original species still living on Earth.
We observe the transformation of animal life, the habits of our birds, the migration of our insects, the power in our waterfalls, and the voices from our caves. Our spiritual tools for knowing are antecedents to western philosophy and scientific enquiry, and the core curricula of epistemology.
Our culture does not know the dream of the individual, the single person. We have never lived with the dream of the self-made man. We only know a world of symbiotic coexistence, one universe, and shared perpetual interconnectivity. And that is what we wish to share, considering the destruction of the headwaters of the Amazon and the “aerial rivers” of vapor will affect both the residents of your Fisherman’s Wharf and our Sapara community of Naku.
We are the parents of a beautiful 11-month-old boy named Tsamaraw, which means “neutral energy” in our Sapara language, which itself is nearing extinction. Tsamaraw’s future is intricately connected with the lives your babies also can expect. We come to San Francisco as an act of love for all the babies.
We bring an alert. We know how Americans have such gratitude and pride in their first responders when danger and disaster strikes. Think of us as the first responders who arrive before an impending catastrophe.
We come to add the indigenous voice to the plethora of voices that need to be heard, the politicians, the economists, the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the Pachamama Alliance members, and even the skeptics.
Our country has a painful history of industrial pollution with toxic waste of oil extraction entering our water table, provoking the rise of cancer, and contaminating the plants we use for food and for medicine, many of which contain the very source of medicines that international pharmaceutical companies have used to manufacture profitable and life-saving treatments and cures. And most of that oil from our Amazon is exported to refineries in California also polluting your communities. But we don’t come to blame or to point fingers.
We’ll be in San Francisco to listen to all the others. We’ll listen to the corporations and mining and oil companies, the loggers and the climate deniers, but please listen to the message we bring from the heart of the planet’s hydrological system.
On behalf of the 1,000 remaining Sapara, the 16,000 Achuar, and the 150,000 other indigenous people in the sacred headwaters of the Amazon, we will be in San Francisco to embrace all living souls, to share a life-affirming message direct from our collective heart, and to invite you to exit from a trance of reckless development and consumption. That trance forgets that the world we pass on to our son, Tsamaraw, and to your children, and theirs, embodies the future that we would want to be remembered for, one that is guided by Nature from which we come and to which we belong.
We are in San Francisco to help you change the dream of the modern world.
Manari Ushigua, a shaman, is a leader of the Sapara Nation. Belen Paez, his life partner, directs the Pachamama Alliance in Ecuador and co-ordinates the Amazon Sacred Headwaters initiative.
As part of a large, multi-stake Solano Local Food system project, Cultivate Community Food Co-op, in cooperation with other county organizations, will be working on a pilot project through September 21st with local farmers and chefs to offer participating co-op owners weekly home delivery of local, sustainably-grown produce and locally prepared meals. There will be no charge for home delivery for this pilot, though participants will need to pay for any food purchased.
The purpose of this effort is to collect data in regards to the costs of labor, equipment and time that is needed to develop and implement a local food network that supports Solano County consumers, farmers, and chefs. The results obtained will be used to better understand the opportunities and challenges that exist to achieve the goal of building the community and economy while improving access to healthy, sustainably grown food.
Cultivate Community Food Co-op (CCFC) will be Solano County’s first community-owned, natural grocery store providing high-quality, locally-sourced, culturally-relevant, ethically- produced and affordable products.
Click here for information about how to become a member.
The Vallejo Watershed Alliance welcomes Chris Rose from the Solano Resource Conservation District (RCD) to help lead its next restoration project in Vallejo. Since their last successful partnership to restore habitat in the Blue Rock Springs Creek Corridor, the RCD has secured a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to plant native vegetation around Lake Dalwigk.
Chris will present an overview of the planned restoration work at this year’s annual planning meeting and will discuss how best the Alliance can join in this important work. Following the presentation, calendar activities for the next twelve months will be discussed.
Members of the public are invited to come for the presentation only or stay for the entire meeting. Free refreshments and parking.
The meeting will take place on Saturday, August 18, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Dan Foley Cultural Center (Vista Room) located at 1499 North Camino Alto, Vallejo. To RSVP, call 707.652.7812 or email Info@VallejoWatershedAlliance.org.