What Would Love Do?

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

March 12 was the first day that the collective unease of the coronavirus was on everyone’s mind. I arrived at the Heart Based Leadership workshop and was greeted by a Be Love sign, which made me smile. This daylong intensive workshop for women on personal growth and development wasn’t cancelled. About 25 women were gathered and most of us were strangers. The first hour of the morning was spent eating roasted pecans, farm treats and drinking coffee with raw milk. At first we were a bit uncomfortable as nobody new how to greet each other. The arm bump wasn’t popular yet and we were still allowed to be closer than 6 feet apart. At this point the question was, do we shake hands? Settling down in this farm home was relatively easy as it was extraordinarily beautiful, like out of a storybook, with comforting cream-colored walls, windows overlooking the farm, olive trees, and the scent of fresh baked coconut cookies.

Heart-based leadership on the surface seems light-hearted — rainbows and unicorns. These workshops always end up being much deeper than expected. Terces from Be Love Farm and Chrissy from Eco-Chic were the facilitators. They created a safe, comfortable place for us all to be. They reminded us of the importance of taking care of ourselves but also inviting us to get curious and do what is unfamiliar. The day was filled with deep questions.

Where do you not experience abundance in your life? Where are you stuck in your life? This was the first set of questions asked of the group. Tears filled the room from the women sharing their personal stories. Some cried because of their experiences and others out of compassion. The space and those stories were so sacred that I stopped taking notes and just held space for these women and myself.

We all seemed to share the caregiver archetype and it was mentioned that we experience being overextended when we give from our own resources. What are the specific things that you do to renew your resources? Chrissy shared that she read the 5 AM Club book by Robin Sharma and practices this morning routine. Every day she wakes up at 5 am and spends 20 minutes in prayer, 20 minutes exercising and 20 minutes learning. My first reaction was to judge the club as something that a shallow morning show would promote and I was repelled by the thought. I became more interested when I learned that 5 am is a time when our minds are their most serene and that it is a time when the deep and quiet energy of our hearts are able to softly emerge and also a time when we are receptive to hearing it. One question the group asked Chrissy: Does it matter if it is at 5 am? There are different views on this. Robin Sharma believes it should be 5 am. I read a bit more online and 5-8 am is when there is the least amount of interruptions. The main point is to set time aside to renew for the day ahead. This can be a time to get clear on your vision for your life and then begin investing in that dream prior to it being a reality. This can be a time to listen and hear the calling that is already within. Now is a crucial time to begin our day getting grounded because we are all being called now to live as our highest self.

Much of what I learned that day is coming into practice now while getting adjusted to this new reality we are all living in. Terces spoke about how we judge each other; this is a human trait that we all share. I think about how I am judging the toilet paper hoarders. Fight, flight, freeze is the fear response that most of us are familiar with. The people that are hoarding toilet paper I think of as fighters. Its funny, I haven’t spoken to a toilet paper hoarder yet. When in fear, I freeze and judge. Which brings me back to the next question of the workshop: How do we shift our view about people struggling? When I think deeply about this I realize that they are just in fear. They are expressing fear. I express fear differently, not in a better way. Does it bring out the best in others to greet people’s fear with judgment and self-righteousness? So how do we reframe the experience of the TP hoarders with conscious language? Honestly I don’t know. Yet I know when my boys were little and they were afraid the only thing I felt was compassion and my response was to comfort.

People need to feel safe to be able to share. “I am here for you” is enough. We can listen and be present for each other.

Terces discussed listening skills that help people solve their own problems:

  • Listen
  • Repeat what they said back to them
  • Then get curious and ask them questions like “How do you feel? What do you plan to do about that?” Sometimes we get attached to our diagnosis, to our problem, to our label rather than how we experience the problem. When you ask someone how they are feeling, it helps them move from their head into their heart.

Listen to people and ask more questions rather than making statements. Ask about feeling. Ask about what they love about their life. Listening is the highest form of loving; listen more. Then thank them for sharing. Just listen and empower with conscious language. Call out love in each other. When someone is struggling and in process, speak to who people are becoming by calling forth their highest self and living in the highest expectations of others.

The next set of questions was around betrayal and victim stories. The first step is to recognize that we felt betrayed because we cared about them. Then communicate the feelings that you have for that person instead of condemning them for the betrayal. Forgiveness is to give as before. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are working on forgiving: Who are you blaming in your life? Where are you a victim? What could you take responsibility for in that situation? Terces challenged us to retell our stories with conscious language that helps us evolve, to write our stories without victimizing anyone. She invited us to see all our sad stories as a gift and to look for the lesson within. Then there are times when we are the one that needs forgiving. Heart-based leaders apologize first and often. Shift the environment, adjust the tool of acknowledgement and call out the best in someone. When you acknowledge devotion in a person, devotion shows up. Devotion can be replaced with any word: love, respect, kindness, generosity …

You have a Voice. What are you not saying? What are you afraid to say? Tell your truth and face your fears, and live a transparent life. Be bold and make requests of people and ask for help without attachment. Make a request and be OK with no. We need to look at our environment and ask ourselves what is needed to bring our unique expression of love to this world.

We can make powerful choices on the thoughts we choose to think and the simple choices that we make. Terces brought out two jars of water and she challenged us to spend a day and when we have a negative thought about ourselves to stop and put a pinch of salt into one jar — to let the thought dissolve and not let it attach, to not feed it. In another jar of water, put a pinch of glitter in the jar every time you have a positive thought. We observed the beauty of the jar with glitter as opposed to the cloudy salt water. When we have cravings and make choices in our lives a simple question to ask is: Does it serve you? Choose what you want that serves you vs. what you crave. What choices would you make if you knew you were fully loved? Live in that truth.

Servant Leadership is a philosophy where the goal as a leader is to serve. One way to serve others is to ask questions. Check in with the people that you are leading and ask: What is one thing I can help you with this week? How am I doing? What are you missing that would make you feel safe?
In addition to asking questions, Terces highlighted the importance of making generous assumptions:

3 Generous Assumptions as a Leader:

  1. I may not have trained this person well
  2. I may not have given them the tools needed
  3. They may discover a better way

The main goal is to provide tools to people to empower them so they self-manage.

Really this workshop was about how to live a heart-based life and in a deep way we are all leaders. With all of this time alone I am getting the opportunity to practice these tools on myself. When I go out into the world and feel the fear all around, my tendency is to judge. Instead I have been practicing radical kindness by making choices that are larger than me. In the past I would look at my phone or pick up a People magazine while waiting in line at the grocery store, now I pray for inspiration and then I talk with the people around me and ask questions. I look for where I have abundance and then pass it on. I am breathing life into that person and calling forth my highest self.

Being more generous and radically kind moves you towards the person that you really are.

One of the simple takeaways for me was to take a deep breath, slow down and ask: What would love do?

Save The Butterflies and The Bees — Our Favorite Pollinators Are in Jeopardy

Sustainable Solano works to bring organic solutions that take a whole-systems approach to how we interact with the environment. That means encouraging the use of techniques that work with and support natural systems, which includes supporting those beneficial insects people love to attract to their gardens. These insects serve many roles, including pollinating plants and eating harmful insects. We wanted to share this blog post from Cristina Goulart of GHD, who works with us on the Urban Water Conservation Committee, to highlight the importance of protecting our beneficial insects through the choices we make — including making the conscious decision to handle weeds or pests in our gardens through methods other than chemicals that have systemic effects on pollinators. The UWCC is monthly meeting of Solano County Water Agency and city staff with the purpose of coordinating regional conservation programs throughout the county.

This article below was originally published by the Russian River Watershed Alliance. Some of the resources listed are for Sonoma County, but can serve as a helpful guide here in Solano.

The Monarch Butterfly

One morning last summer, as I watched a pair of butterflies flying from bloom to bloom on a butterfly bush, I realized I hadn’t seen a Monarch Butterfly in years.  I did some research and learned some distressing news.

In January of 2019, the Xerces Society’s yearly census of the western monarch revealed that the numbers of Western Monarchs were down a dramatic 86% from just one year before. Scientists studying the Western Monarch predict that if we don’t take drastic measures now, the species has a 72% chance of going extinct in less than 20 years.

Monarchs are migratory wonders of nature, migrating up to 3,000 miles to their wintering grounds. Their miraculous migration occurs over generations, one generation communicating to the next the route it must take.  Like all butterflies, they are pollinators, drinking nectar from one flower, and depositing its pollen on the next.

Honeybees

The honeybee pollinates about one-third of our food crops. Honeybees have also been in decline for years with the current population of honeybees estimated at less than half what it was in the 1940s. In 2006, scientists discovered what they call Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when a colony’s worker bee population suddenly disappears. Hives cannot survive without their worker bees, so eventually, the entire hive dies.

The Causes

For Monarch butterflies, loss of habitat is a key cause for its population decline. For both the Monarchs and honeybees, the use of pesticides is another key factor.

Pesticides in the neonicotinoid (a systemic agricultural insecticide resembling nicotine) category are thought to be a culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder. Studies have shown that in non-lethal doses, neonicotinoids cause navigation disruption and memory loss in bees, even in low concentrations. These pesticides are found in our food sources and in our home gardens. A demoralizing study conducted in 2014 found that 50% of nursery plants tested in the U.S. and Canada contained residue of neonicotinoids in concentrations as high as 748 parts per billion (ppb). A dose of 193 ppb can kill a honeybee. A dose of 30 ppb can cause impairments to a bee’s ability to forage and navigate. Plants and seeds purchased to attract butterflies and bees can harm these pollinators if they have been treated with neonicotinoids.

Although some nursery chains have since reduced the numbers of plants on their shelves treated with neonicotinoids, plants containing neonicotinoid residue are still sold in retail nurseries. Typically, they do not come with a warning label.

A Call to Action – Help save the Monarchs and the bees. 

Go Organic!

Don’t use pesticides in your gardens. Pesticides include herbicides to kill weeds, insecticides to kill insects and fungicides as well. Most pesticides are non-specific and kill a broad range of species in addition to the pest. Insecticides kill beneficial insects in addition to those that eat our crops. Beneficial insects include those that pollinate our crops, such as bees and butterflies, and predatory insects that eat the plant eating bugs, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Pesticides kill bees and butterflies as well as “bad” bugs.

Purchase neonicotinoid-free plants and seeds. In Sonoma County we have several nurseries that sell organic and neonicotinoid-free landscape plants and seeds. Please ask your nurseries if they can assure you that the plants and seeds they sell you are not treated with neonicotinoids. If they can’t, head over to a locally-owned, sustainability-minded nursery. Also, the RRWA program ‘Our Water, Our World’ (OWOW) helps residents manage their home and garden pests in a way that helps protect our watershed. More information on OWOW can be found at www.rrwatershed.org/project/our-water-our-world.

Build it and They Will Come

Create a Monarch Butterfly Waystation!

Monarch waystations must include the native milkweed plant because this is the only plant where Monarchs will lay their eggs and the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat. In our region, the best time to plant milkweed seeds is from November to early spring.  A waystation must also include nectar plants on which the adult Monarchs can feed. Examples are the butterfly bush, salvias, and Ceonothus.

Monarch Waystations also attract bees! Bees feed on nectar-bearing plants, just as butterflies do.

For more information about creating a Monarch Waystation, please go to:  www.monarchwatch.org/waystations

Proper Disposal of Pesticides

When you do go organic, remember to dispose of your unused pesticides through Sonoma County hazardous waste drop off locations. Please go to the following link for more information or call Eco-Desk 707-565-DESK (3375).

www.zerowastesonoma.gov

Bioneers Experience Both Personal and Profound

By Gabriela Estrada and Kassie Munro, Program Managers

Gabriela Estrada (left) and Kassie Munro (center) at Bioneers. Photo by Santa Cruz Permaculture

Though there are many conferences out there, few present a balance between seemingly opposing concepts: the old and the new, the indigenous and the futuristic, science and spirit, and even fewer invite us to look deep back to the past and far into the future. Bioneers does just that. While shifting one’s focus to all of these different directions can make one’s head spin, in the end it becomes clear that considering all of these viewpoints is necessary to create the world we want to live in tomorrow. After all, to be pioneers of a better future, we must also be historians of our planet’s storied past.

Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Founded in 1990 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by social entrepreneurs Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, Bioneers acts as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.

This 30-year-old event showcases a variety of speakers including authors, artists, scientists, Native American leaders and activists, and youth activists all ready and inspired to create a new world that works for everyone. They aim to create a “revolution from the heart of mother nature.” The conference was a combination of music, youth leadership, art, activism, social justice, environmental education, women leadership, ecological medicine and environmental conservation.

The conference began early on Friday morning with a drumming set and a performance by Climbing PoeTree, which immediately marked the tone of the next three days — a celebration for mother earth. It was difficult to choose only one workshop for each of the allotted time periods. How does one possibly choose between a conversation with Stuart Muir Wilson about Permaculture & Ecological Social Justice, an earth connection herb walk, a panel titled The Ground Beneath Our Hearts, among so many others? As we had an opportunity to connect with other attendees, it became clear that we were not alone in this dilemma, battling the constant fear of missing out on something important in another workshop. To the best of our ability we very purposefully divided up the workshops that were of most interest to not only us, but to the organization and the work we do at Sustainable Solano.

Fortunately the Bioneers organizers had guiding themes for each day which helped us to focus in on key messages and walk away from each day with tangible insights.

Here are some reflections on our favorite speakers from each day:

Day 1: Grief, Love and Power of Independent Media

Kassie: Terry Tempest Williams gave an enlightening talk about erosion to start the morning, not only as a powerful force in nature but as an alarming reality in America today. She urged us not to turn away from the devastating erosion we are witnessing to our democracy, science, compassion and trust — but to think of it as a force of evolution and creation rather than destruction and undoing, as we see it happen in nature when the elements create some of our most treasured natural wonders through forces of erosion, like the Grand Canyon. She instilled a mood of hope for what the future could look like, which is so important to keep alive in challenging times.

Gabriela: My favorite speaker of the day was Jerry Tello, who reminded us that stories are powerful reminders of the things we forget about ourselves, and that the work we do is healing — as such we need to remember the sacredness of us and that when those who hurt us heal, we heal. After his talk, not one eye was left dry. His incredible ability as a storyteller reminded us that we need to be grounded in the work we do because it is so much bigger than ourselves.

Day 2: Climate Justice and Resilience

Kassie: Saturday had a number of standout speakers for me. As a fan of both Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and Paul Hawken (author of Drawdown), it was exciting to hear them speak in person and embody their action-oriented, revolutionary, yet practical, vision for the future of our country and how to get there. I was also surprisingly moved by Valarie Kaur and her Revolutionary Love approach to transformation, likening the revolution needed in our world to that of childbirth and urging us to view labor as a form of love. All of these speakers reminded me that there is a path forward to a world that works for everyone and to stay dedicated to working toward that vision.

Gabriela: On Saturday I was captivated by a panel talk on Building Resilience in a Climate Changing World. The panel spoke about projects and strategies that have been deployed in our coastal, rural and urban communities in an effort to increase resiliency in those communities. They invited us to think about reversing climate change, not stabilizing it, and to make the climate change crisis message reliable to create collaborative solutions.

Day 3: Regeneration

Kassie: On the last day of the conference, I was thrilled to see Demond Drummer as one of the final keynote speakers. Demond is the co-founder of New Consensus, a nonprofit that helped drive the creation of the Green New Deal by supplying research and policy proposals to the deal’s political advocates. After two days of discussion centered on all of the systems-level changes that are needed in our country, it was extremely inspiring to hear from someone who is driving this work at the highest level. It can be so daunting and overwhelming at times to dive deep into all the challenges we are facing as a nation and as a planet, so to learn about his work advancing these ideas and values toward national-level action was a wonderful message to end the conference on. While we may not be able to change everything we would like to, that should not deter us from driving forward the things we can.

Gabriela: Sunday’s workshops focused on cultivating a culture of regeneration, from hearing Casey Camp-Horinek (councilwoman of the Ponka Tribe of Oklahoma) about the story of interconnectedness to a panel about Bridging Divides: Co-creating a Culture of Belonging. What stood out to me about this workshop was the new model that the panel speakers proposed: To move forward we need to create a model that would bridge the many divisions and polarizations that divide us. We need to create a culture of belonging.

It’s difficult to express in writing how powerful and moving these speakers were, so luckily you can find some of the keynotes here if you would like to listen for yourself.

Attending Bioneers for the both us was a tiring and intense experience, yet a very interesting one. The conference offered a space to learn from each other — from seeing art inspired by the environmental movements we are a part of to connecting with like-minded individuals from all over the country and the world.

The enormity of the conference and diversity of the topics covered felt a bit overwhelming at first, but in retrospect underscores a unique element of the conference — no two people will have had the same experience. You can feel this energy everywhere at Bioneers: that we are all here together yet every individual is living their own personal experience and that is what makes this complex world so dynamic and beautiful.

Tangible and Valuable: Permaculture Design Course Shapes Program Work

By Gabriela Estrada and Kassie Munro, Program Managers

The OAEC Permaculture Design Course cohort that included Sustainable Solano Program Managers Gabriela Estrada and Kassie Munro

During Sustainable Solano’s restorative summer break, we traveled to Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a research, demonstration, education, advocacy and community-organizing center in West Sonoma County, where they develop strategies for regional-scale community resilience and the restoration of biological and cultural diversity. For two weeks, we joined 30 other people in an intensive Permaculture Design Certificate program – frequently referred to as the PDC.

While Permaculture Design Courses follow a standardized curriculum to ensure that those who get their PDC receive comprehensive training in all of the critical systems design components, each program has a unique approach to how they immerse students in the permaculture experience, which for us meant living in yurts on the 80-acre OAEC property as part of their intentional community for the duration of the program.

Upon arrival on the first day, we all sat in a circle and were asked why we decided to attend the PDC training. What quickly became evident was that a lot of our fellow PDC-ers wanted to learn about permaculture design not only to create beautiful gardens, but to heal the earth and the people on it. As the days progressed this became more evident. Cohort members came from all walks of life and from all over the world! We had Mimi from Taiwan and our yurt-mate Mounir from Dubai. Their goal was to create a space of sustainability and social cohesion in their properties back home. Their generous attitudes were not unique among our cohort.

The course itself was both incredibly rigorous in its training, and yet at times also felt remarkably like summer camp. Nestled in the lush Duck Bill Creek watershed of Western Sonoma County, the property boasts a number of incredible gardens, restored forest and grasslands, an irrigation pond (which doubles as a swimming hole), and countless trails to get lost on. Communal vegetarian meals cooked in the shared kitchen with ingredients from the gardens were shared three times a day.

While living on-site, the property became so much more than a demonstration classroom, and the experience became so much more than simply an education. With course topics covering everything from cob building and composting to botany and global water systems, the training is incredibly holistic. We even had an afternoon dedicated to learning the art of fire-making. The social permaculture teachings truly came to life in the communal living experience where we had the chance to feel and live a different way based on designing social structures to favor beneficial patterns of human behavior and attempting to create conditions that favor nurturing and empowering relationships with each other.

The course culminated in a group design project, which for us focused on a nearby 7-acre plot of land that had recently been acquired by the Cultural Conservancy. Indigenous wisdom and learning the heritage of our host land was a focal point of the training. This came in many forms: first a small presentation by The Cultural Conservancy, then a trip to the actual site in the city of Graton, which is Southern Pomo Coast Miwok Territory. During this site visit, we all took notes, pictures and asked members of the Cultural Conservancy what they envisioned for the space to better understand their hopes and aspirations for the place. As a group, we were grateful that we were allowed to participate in a project that aims to create an inter-tribal bio-cultural heritage farm and indigenous education center. Together in a team of five, we created designs that represented all the different topics we were taught, and then on the last day presented it to the Cultural Conservancy.

It was a true honor to be a part of a tangible and valuable regenerative restoration project during our course. Belonging to an organization such as Sustainable Solano, whose core principals are permaculture-based, it has been very valuable to obtain Permaculture Design Certification. As program managers, this certification will allow us to infuse permaculture design principles and guiding ethics more deeply into our work, allowing us to continue shaping programs that approach sustainability through the lenses of social, environmental and economic equity.

New “Resilient Neighborhoods” Program Launches in 2019!

By Kassie Munro

Representatives from Sustainable Solano, Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance met with PG&E at the JFK Library in Vallejo on December 21st to celebrate the launch of the Resilient Neighborhoods Program

We can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our 20th anniversary than with the announcement of a new program that will help to expand our work in improving social, economic and environmental justice in Solano County: Resilient Neighborhoods.

What is “Resilience”?
You may have noticed the term “resilience” popping up more and more in the environmental community, and increasingly in mainstream conversations.  The Community & Regional Resilience Network defines community resilience as “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.” In short, resilience is about surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge. It’s easy to understand why this topic is garnering so much attention today, as we face the reality of our changing climate – from droughts to heat waves, to the devastating fires that have ravaged our state.  There is an urgent need to strengthen our cities’ capacity to adapt to these stressors, and we see this as an inspiring opportunity to develop a new holistic sustainability program that aims to help our cities better serve the needs of our residents today and into the future.

 

The Resilient Neighborhoods Program
The Resilient Neighborhoods program will drive the restoration of regenerative ecosystem services in our urban landscape to improve the social and environmental resilience of our communities.  This program introduces a concept of shared solutions and collective actions to the community, in which a few nearby houses cooperate to install and enjoy various sustainability elements. Utilizing low-cost, low-tech measures, these clusters of homes will transform into a Resilience Hub. Informed by leading edge sciences, including biomimicry (which you can read more about here) and permaculture, we will facilitate the installation of sustainable solutions that can help transform our built environment from a resource sink, into a functioning producer of ecosystem services. This program has the potential to demonstrate that, block by block, neighborhoods can produce clean air, maintain clean water, create healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce heat, and support biodiversity. These environmental benefits have a cascading effect into health and wellness and economic prosperity. In addition, when implemented in a cooperative model of shared services, they provide the framework for social benefits like disaster preparedness and community support networks.

The Resilient Neighborhoods program will be a collaborative effort with community partners, from city leadership to like-minded organizations, and, most importantly, the residents.  This work is about empowering our citizens to take an active role in the stewardship of their local environment.  By providing education, skill building, and much-needed resources, we hope to foster local champions that will help expand grass-roots movements and create more resilient cities across our county.

 

The Vallejo Pilot
The inaugural phase of this program will be launched this year in Vallejo, made possible by generous funding from PG&E and support from our partners at the Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance. Over the next twelve months we will complete two demonstration installations, each consisting of a small cluster of three to five residences in traditionally disadvantaged communities in need of revitalization. Each pilot Resilience Hub will receive a suite of sustainability measures tailored to its unique composition, addressing both the individual homes and surrounding communal areas.

Example measures that will be utilized to create these Resilience Hubs include: 

  • Laundry to landscape greywater systems
  • Roofwater diversion & capture
  • Bioswales
  • Tree planting
  • Shade structures
  • Edible landscaping
  • Adopting “cool” building colors
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Solar power
  • Water efficiency measures
  • Disaster preparedness

By linking our Resilience Hubs with nearby community organizations we can also encourage engagement and collaboration within the larger neighborhood.  Incorporating the same sustainability measures applied to the residences, these “Resilience Centers” will have the potential to serve as an oasis of shade and moisture during heat waves, offer a community garden space, facilitate disaster response and preparedness, and act as a central point for organizing neighborhood resources and communication.

All installations will serve as free educational workshops, open to the community at large. The work will be completed entirely by the community, for the community. The completed pilot Resilience Hubs will also serve as public educational platforms for years to come.

We have formed a skilled Advisory Board comprised of local experts and passionate partners to help us carry out this pilot program in Vallejo.  The Board will provide guidance as we continue to hone our vision, aid in selecting locations and participants, and support efforts to build our capacity for expansion.

We will begin holding collaborative planning discussions with Vallejo residents in early February, and look forward to working with our neighbors to create meaningful change in the community. 

Onward and Upward
These installations will demonstrate the social, environmental, and economic impact possible through small-scale collective action, and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to show proof of concept for this approach to community resilience, which we hope to expand across Solano County.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager, Kassie Munro at kassie@sustainablesolano.org.

Biodynamic Agriculture Symposium Reflection

By Stann Whipple

 Image courtesy of Biodynamic Association

With the Conference title of “Rediscovering the Heart in Agriculture” it was exciting and reassuring to see attendees from many different parts of the United States and even from other countries. From bare feet and boots to beards and hats with sport coats and shawl wrapped individuals; our diversity was celebrated every minute we met as representatives of the people who love and care for the earth–its soil, climate, food and cultural practices.

From the onset of the first open session, and throughout the conference, our thoughts and feelings were guided to remember the thousands of years and millions of people who had lived and cared for the environment we were now sitting on and cultivating. The Red Lion Hotel on Jantzen Island, for example, was once an active fishing ground for the salmon which sustained the lives of the Native Americans who thrived for generations on the ground where we now sat listening, and thinking about how to better care for the earth. We became very aware of how much we had to learn by listening to each other.

Mealtimes and breaks were fertile ground for stimulating and informative discussions amongst diverse and curious ‘strangers’ who were open to becoming better aware of each others views and experiences. Connections were made, friendships renewed or initiated, and contact details were exchanged with abundant smiles and an ‘I hope to see you again soon’. One had to trust fate, and that we were meeting with the people we needed to meet, during the information sessions and meal times. Being in the presence of over 400 people was energizing in itself.

My focus as member of the Sustainable Solano Board was to glean as many ‘nuggets’ from the food and economic sessions as I could fit in. The Thursday before the start of the main conference there were two session dedicated to this theme. Those present shared the many sides of bringing food from the soil to the table. Topics discussed ranged from the multiple factors affecting these processes to the struggles to overcome obstacles to ‘marketing’ produce. Small groups formed to identify specific issues and general conditions needing further discussion.

In the afternoon we heard from three different food producers and had the chance to question, observe and reflect on the successes and challenges they face. It became clearly that what is now providing ‘food for the world’s people’ is unsustainable at best and potentially disastrous for cultures and ecosystems. These sessions left us feeling more informed and with newly formulated questions, concerns, and a renewed resolve to work together for a better and more integrated sustainable food system.

Over all, the Conference brought a richly diverse group of speakers to the main sessions. This was done deliberately, an attempt to broaden and deepen the conversation between those who tend to the fertility of the earth’s eco-systems and those who benefit from them. We heard from amazing and inspiring individuals and groups who were working on rehabilitating distressed natural and social environments. A central thread ran through their stories–people matter and the choices we make matter. They insisted that if the climate of our planet, the animals and the plants are to thrive in the years ahead, we must change our choices. This conference definitely held us all accountable for that and provided relevant information on how to realign our thinking and choice making for a better food system and social/environmental justice for ALL.

I am indeed grateful to the Bio-Dynamic Agriculture Conference team who put the conference together and had the vision to bring us together. We will probably never truly know the scope of the impact of this event had, or the lives it will touch in the years ahead. But one thing is for sure, actions speak louder than words, so let’s get active!

To learn more about the conference visit: https://www.biodynamics.com/ .